Tutorialize the conversation: speaking to non-gamers about games

I love talking about video games and games in general with my fellow gamers.  We have shared experience that make it easy for us to connect and discuss the structure, strengths, and weaknesses of the games we play.  However, I find it equally enjoyable to explain games and gaming culture to the uninitiated; people who rarely play games or who do play with toys such as a yo-yo, or puzzles such as sudoku but don’t consider those to be games.

It is actually a more interesting exercise in the expression of game studies to find common ground with someone who doesn’t understand how games fit into culture and society. In this regard, we as ludologists (people who studies games), must focus on providing the information our audiences require in order to help the conversation move forward.

In much the same way tutorials must be designed to introduce mechanics to the player in a manner which allows them to identify its utility, its capacity for player expression, and its fun. We too must shape our messages so that non-gamers can find the reference point that resonates with them, allows them to explore their own desires and enjoyment of play, and helps them recognize that games are not such a foreign concept.

In recent decades video games and video gamers have become the face of games as a form of entertainment.  We as a culture have almost forgotten about the long and lasting history of games within society as cultural expressions going back millennia via analogue games (board games or games with physical components).  This has fragmented the concept of games and made it difficult to explain that all kinds of games are still games, and that there exists in ludology, a method of critiquing and analyzing them based on established game design principles.

We must continue to move the dialogue forward through thought-provoking conversations that make ludology an inclusive study which welcomes discussion, and matures beyond the exclusive rhetoric of gaming’s past. In its infancy, video gaming culture was focused on defending itself as a legitimate form of entertainment with value and meaning in the gamers’ lives.

Now, however, we have the opportunity to promote it through examples of its positive impact on gamers and society, thus we must always remember the importance of informing and educating people outside of the gaming world about the power and richness of experience that games can provide.


Have you come to this blog as a gamer or non-gamer? Do you feel that video games can be a worthwhile hobby?  If you are a non-gamer, what do you find most difficult to understand about gaming culture and the enjoyment of games? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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