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Espen J Aaseth

February 24th, 2007


Espen J. Aarseth (born 1965) is a major figure in the emerging field of video game studies. He is one of the most prominent figures among what are called the “ludologists,” a group of thinkers characterized by their insistence on treating video games not as a form of narrative or as a text, but instead simply as games, with the dynamics of play and interaction being the most important and fundamental part of the games.

The ludologists are contrasted by the so-called “narrativists” such as Janet Murray and Henry Jenkins.

In another opinion, the dualism ludology-narratology is quite artificial. Ludology does not exclude the so-called “narratology”. See Gonzalo Frasca’s article “Ludologists love stories, too: notes from a debate that never took place”.

Aarseth’s works include groundbreaking Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Johns Hopkins UP 1997) book, which was originally his doctoral thesis. The book introduces the concept of ergodic literature, which is a text that requires non-trivial effort to be traversed. The book also contains a well-known (pre-ludological) theory, “typology of cybertext” which allows ergodic texts to be classified by their functional qualities. (In Aarseth’s later work with Solveig Smedstad & Lise SunnanÃ¥ this typology of cybertext transforms into “a multi-dimensional typology of games”, published in the book Level Up conference proceedings 2003 (eds. Copier & Raessens, Utrecht University & Digra)).

Aarseth was born in Bergen, Norway, and completed his doctorate at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Bergen. He co-founded the Department of Humanistic Informatics at the University of Bergen, and worked there until 2003, at which time he was a full professor. He is currently Principal Researcher at the Center of Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen

Read Espen’s “The Field of Humanistic Informatics and its Relation to the Humanities”

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