Introducing Lusory Attitude

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.

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2 thoughts on “Introducing Lusory Attitude”

  1. So how, exactly, do you approach boring and/or stressful work with a lusory attitude? I don’t enjoy therefore don’t play games that involve endless, tedious grinding; nor do I play games that involve 40 hours a week of customers screaming at you and which you can’t stop playing unless you want to end up homeless.

    • I agree. And I have been in that sort of job myself. Some of it has to come from you though. If you know that you have to do this to survive, then you need to create mechanisms that help you get through the day. A positive attitude is an essential, otherwise, you just fall into depression. Sadly the fact that you know you are forced to do this does not help. But then the alternative is even worse, so sometimes you need to just get on with it! How you approach it “playfully” is going to be down to you. In my case, I broke tasks down, created challenges, found side projects in my own time that kept me sane. Sadly many jobs are poorly designed where the employee is concerned, worried only about how to generate the most money for the top tiers, with employee churn a very very secondary thought.


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