The academic study of games, particularly video games.
The college students glued to video game consoles today are as likely to be scholars as slackers. More than 100 colleges and universities in North America — up from less than a dozen five years ago — now offer some form of "video game studies," ranging from hard-core computer science to prepare students for game-making careers to critiques of games as cultural artifacts. ...
Meanwhile, on the lit-crit front, some scholars have come up with a fancy name for their discipline: ludology, from the Latin ludus (game). Topics range from game philology to the study of virtual economies in EverQuest.
—David Kushner, "Xbox U," Technology Review, March 1, 2006
The article explores the inherent tension between the conception of video games as a unified new media form, and the current fragmented genre-based approach that explicitly or implicitly concatenates video games with prior media forms. This tension reflects the current debate, within the fledgling discipline of Game Studies, between those who advocate narrative as the primary tool for understanding video games, "narratologists," and those that oppose this notion, "ludologists." In reference to this tension, the article argues that video game genres be examined in order to assess what kind of assumptions stem from the uncritical acceptance of genre as a descriptive category. Through a critical examination of the key game genres, this article will demonstrate how the clearly defined genre boundaries collapse to reveal structural similarities between the genres that exist within the current genre system, defined within the context of visual aesthetic or narrative structure. The inability of the current genre descriptions to locate and highlight these particular features suggests that to privilege the categories of the visual and narrative is a failure to understand the medium. The article concludes by suggesting that the tension between "ludology" and "narratology" can be more constructively engaged by conceptualizing video games as operating in the interplay between these two taxonomies of genre.
—Thomas H. Appleby, "Genre and game studies: Toward a critical approach to video game genres," Simulation & Gaming, March 1, 2006
The term narratology had to be invented to unify the works that scholars from different disciplines were doing about narrative. The research about games and play is in a similar situation: the topics have been broadly studied from different disciplines (for example, psychology, anthropology, economy and sociology).
However, these studies are generally independent, focusing on small characteristics and without looking for bigger patterns of understanding.
We will propose the term ludology (from ludus, the Latin word for "game"), to refer to the yet non-existent "discipline that studies game and play activities". Just like narratology, ludology should also be independent from the medium that supports the activity.
—Gonzalo Frasca, "Ludology Meets Narratology," Parnasso #3, 1999