Making Sense of Play in Video Games: Ludus, Paidia, and Possibility Spaces

Graham H. Jensen


This article synthesizes the work of video game theorists such as Gonzalo Frasca (2003), Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2003), Ian Bogost (2008), and Steven E. Jones (2008) in order to build on academic and interdisciplinary discussions of play and its effect on PC- or console-based video games.  Examples are used to elucidate the potentially problematic categories of “paidic” and “ludic” games, as well as to explore further the ways in which uninhibited play, “metagaming,” and the inevitable influence of socio-cultural factors gradually transform—and become codified within—the landscape of digital games. Finally, the article offers Mikhail Bakhtin’s notions of opposing “centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces as analytical tools according to which the connections between in-game activities and out-of-game social and cultural contexts can be usefully examined by future critics.


play; video games; paidia; ludus; possibility spaces; mikhail bakhtin; roger caillois

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