Theory Wars: An Argument Against Arguments in the so-called Ludology/Narratology Debate


This paper offers an alternative to the agonistic debate presented by Gonzalo Frasca in “Ludologists Love Stories Too,” in Level Up, DiGRA 2003 Conference Proceedings (Frasca, 2003). While Frasca’s position is that the ludology/narratology debate is spurious and fraught with misunderstandings, his paper simultaneously succeeds in deepening the gap by further polarizing the alleged two sides of a debate that, in Frasca’s words, “never took place.” Furthermore, the paper adds to the misunderstandings by further mis-labeling, mis-quoting and decontextualizing some of the points made by others. In this paper, I argue that there is little value in polarizing scholars into two “camps,” even if one is doing so in an attempt to bridge the gap. As some of the scholars quoted by Frasca (some of whom I will refer to here) have pointed out, the argument is neither interesting nor productive. It begins to sound more like a theological argument than a deep form of discourse—somewhat like saying “communists love capitalism too.” The very act of bestowing the suffix “-ist” is a kind of spell-casting exercise that only serves to reinforce the so-called false polarity that Frasca attempts to critique. And in fact, I am certain that a number of scholars who have been been grouped into the referenced camps—myself among them—would prefer not to be classified in either camp, but be allowed to move freely across the spectrum if ideas that lie between play and narrative without being forced to take a “position” on either end.