“I’m Here Because I’m Bored”: Getting at the Nature of Ludic Computation

Curator's Note

With all the critical and popular attention computer games are getting these days (and deservedly so), it’s almost hard to believe how long the medium has been inborn to the software that makes personal computers go. For example, it has been over fifteen years since Microsoft first started bundling Minesweeper with its Windows operating systems, systems that because of their ubiquity have deeply influenced the nature of digital communication. That’s part of the beauty of Minesweeper: The Movie: it succinctly yet playfully recalls the longstanding relationship between computer-assisted computation, communication, and play. Folks have been gaming on electronic computers since the early 1950s, and on mechanical computers well before that. Indeed, there seems to be something about computers of all kinds—not just personal computers—that educes a ludic spirit. So what is this “something”? Well, as far as personal computers are concerned, I can’t help but think of their connection to the workplace. When businesses of all kinds began to depend on PCs—and employees were required to use them—putting Minesweeper on the hard drive might have looked like a sharp employee relations move: “Yes, we know this is a boring job that you have to do with this machine, but at least there’s a game you can play. You wouldn’t have that luxury if you were using an industrial stamper, now would you. See how lucky you are to be both bored and entertained at the same time?” Lucky indeed.

Comments

Kathleen Fitzpatrick's picture

Thanks for this, Judd -- I'm

Thanks for this, Judd — I’m a little behind the curve in responding today, but wanted to say how much I enjoyed this. One thing that this reminded me of is the argument made about the shortcomings inherent in approaching the study of computer games from a narrative-based perspective: that there is no “story” in a game like Tetris. This video suggests at one and the same time the ludicrousness of the attempt to find a narrative in such abstracted game-play and the compulsive desire to look for, or impose, narrative there. Game over, indeed…

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