The Game of Inventing: Ludic Heuristics, Ontological Play, and Pleasurable Research

Jacob Steven Euteneuer


Everyone plays games, but very few of us have experience in creating games. Children are taught simple folk-games like Tag and The Floor is Lava but rarely graduate on into creating their own unique experiences through invented games. This proposal positions games as a culturally relevant medium that often suffers from players inability to understand the motivations and purpose behind a game’s creation. Drawing on examples from diverse fields such as visual design, leisure studies, human-computer interaction, and multimodal composition, this chapter examines the potential for the development of “ludic heuristics” which allow composers and rhetors to both create and analyze games and play through the process of inventing their own games. This heuristic breaks down games into three components: their materials, limits, and goals. An ontological understanding of the objects, affordances, and motivations for playing a game can then be used to analyze existing games with the ultimate goal of having students create their own serious or persuasive games. As scholars such as Rebekah Schultz Colby (2017) have noted, there is a push to use digital and board games in the classroom, though there is very little established in terms of actual implementation, best practice, and pedagogical foundation for the inclusion of games. This chapter analyzes the possibilities for developing new invention practices for creating games that go beyond cloning and imitation. While the field of rhetoric has a long history of using innovative methods applied to grammar (Christensen, 1963), reappropriation and remix (Palmeri, 2012), and style (Lanham, 2006), there is little research on the application of heuristics to develop play both as an end and as a means in composing multimodal texts. This chapter argues that a framework of materials, limits, and goals lead to the development of a ludic heuristic which can then be used to produce games which model systems, produce arguments, and express beliefs.


composition; rhetoric; game development; ontology of play

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