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As I have been researching play, there is a term or really a word and concept that has been hard to ignore. Ludic. It comes up a lot in papers and articles about play. It comes from the Latin for play and is defined as;
Showing spontaneous and undirected playfulness.
Let me set the scene. You are in a system that follows the path outlined below.
- You start with a tutorial. It sets the context for what you are doing as well as giving you the basic skills you need to start.
- You are given a set of tasks to complete and goals to achieve.
- Next you start grinding, completing the simpler tasks as you develop your skills and learn more about the system.
- As your level of skill increases, new challenges become available and new goals are set. These may require you to learn new skills and increase your abilities.
- Along the way there are surprises and unexpected events. You will meet new people, some will be friends and you will need to work together with them to a bribe certain goals and some won’t!
- All the while you will be collecting experience and currency as you complete new challenges.
I’ll come back to that. Ludic turns up in various forms when academics speak about play. Here are a few examples.
- Ludos: this is the original Latin for play
- Ludeme: this is a concept that Raph Koster speaks about. In their simplest form a ludeme is a unit of play.
- Prelusory goals: goals set by the game.
- Lusory means: rules set by the game.
- Lusory attitude: a playful mindset. An understanding that you are entering play.
The last three are from Bernard Suits definition of a game from his seminal book The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia.
“To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude].”
It is the last on, lusory attitude that I want to draw attention to. If we look at my little system description at the start, what am I describing? If you said a game, have 5 points. If you said work – have 5 points! The difference is how you approach it, the context. If you approach it with your “work” head on – then it looks like the first few days, then weeks then months of a job. If you approach it with a playful, lusory attitude, it looks much more like the first few minutes, hours and days of a game. This leads to an interesting idea. Play and games are as much about attitude and mindset as they are context and setting! If you approach work with the right attitude, it can become more game like.