Espen J AasethFebruary 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 Sunnanå 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