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Welcome to Ludology, an analytical discussion of the hows and whys of the world of board games. Rather than news and reviews, Ludology explores a variety of topics about games from a wider lens, as well as discuss game history, game design and game players.

We post a new Ludology episode every other week. In these episodes, hosts Emma Larkins and Gil Hova (sometimes with Professor Scott Rogers) deep-dive into a single topic within game design, often with a well-regarded guest from the game industry. We generally focus on tabletop game design (mainly board games and RPGs), but we often pull in experts from all forms of games, from video games to slot machines.

On weeks where there is no flagship Ludology episode, we will alternate between two smaller mini-sodes.

GameTek is a long-running feature from the Dice Tower podcast by Ludology co-founder Geoff Engelstein that explores the math and science behind games.  GameTek Classic episodes were once broadcast on The Dice Tower podcast, while other GameTek episodes were recorded specially for Ludology.

Biography of a Board Game is a series hosted by Scott Rogers that explores the history behind classic and modern board games. It was once on The Dice Tower, but has since moved full-time to Ludology.

We aim for most Ludology episodes to be timeless, so you are welcome to explore our entire catalog. Most of it should age quite well. The podcast was started in 2011 by Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm, with Mike Fitzgerald taking over for Ryan in 2015. Gil joined the show in 2017 when Mike stepped aside, and Emma joined in 2019 when Geoff ended his tenure as host.

Have your own thoughts about our topics? We encourage you to visit us at our guild on Boardgamegeek to get involved in a continuing discussion.

You can also email us at gil@ludology.net or emma@ludology.net.

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May 2, 2021

Emma and Gil welcome returning guest Eric Zimmerman, who last appeared on the show on Episode 79 to discuss the magic circle in gaming.

This time, Eric discusses his idea of the 21st century being a "ludic century," and what makes games especially important today. We also discuss how games' powers can be used for evil, if tabletop games can become more environmentally sustainable, and see if there can be an equivalent to farmers' markets or slow food in tabletop game.

SHOW NOTES

1m26s: Eric's previous tabletop games: Quantum, The Metagame (with Colleen Macklin and John Sharp). He also mentions Gamelab, Diner Dash, Sissyfight, Dear Reader, NYU Game Center (where Gil and Geoff are also adjuncts), and Rules of Play.

Eric also mentions his large-scale art installation games that he's done with his partner Nathalie Pozzi. Here are a few of them: Interference, Starry Heavens, and Waiting Rooms.

5m34s: Here is Eric's original Ludic Century essay/manifesto, published in 2013.

16m27s: More info about Bernie De Koven and his influential book The Well-Played Game.

18m13s: More info about the slimy practice of gerrymandering. Eric also mentions the board game El Grande.

21m45s: More info about systemic racism.

24m17s: More info about Ultimate, also known as Ultimate Frisbee.

25m53s: One thing to note here is that impartial referees in sports are a relatively recent development. In the mid-19th century, both baseball and association football (soccer) originally had each team bring their own umpire, who would attempt to agree on calls. Back then, umpires did not make calls proactively; players had to appeal to the umpire in order to get a decision. 

This changed as teams got more competitive and team-based umpires failed to be impartial. Both sports brought in a neutral referee who could resolve disputes between the umpires; baseball in 1857, soccer in 1881. Eventually, the team-based umpires were dropped entirely, with soccer keeping the single referee (though they eventually added two linesmen to help make calls) and baseball renaming the referee back to "umpire" and adding three additional umpires to handle calls at each base.

(Sources: Strike Four: The Evolution of Baseball, Richard Hershberger, and The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, David Goldblatt.)

30m52s: Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken.

36m34s: The influential behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner.

48m32s: Cheapass Games has made many of their older "envelope" games available as print-and-play downloads.

49m00s: The gone-and-gladly-forgotten CD longbox.

50m15s: The Zoomable game RATS: High Tea at Sea by Eric and Josh DeBonis. 

55m42s: More information about the environmental concerns around cryptocurrency.

1h03m10s: Slow Food is an organization related to the slow movement that pushes back against the fast pace of modern life.

1h09m35s: The game Gil mentions is Avatar Stalker, from the folks at Project Avatar. He also mentions The Nest, which was first mentioned on the show by Hayley Cooper of Strange Bird Immersive on Ludology 214 - Escape from Reality.

1h12m27s: Eric mentions the artists Alex Katz and Kara Walker.

1h15m55s: Eric’s website, the NYU Game Center, and Eric's partner Nathalie Pozzi.