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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 board game design, 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.

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Jul 26, 2020

Emma and Gil invite award-winning game designer, teacher, and not-scholar Sharang Biswas to the show to discuss verbs in games. What actions do we actually perform when we play a game, what actions do they represent, and how does that impact the game experience?

You can find Sharang on Twitter or on the web. Here is his itch.io store.

CONTENT WARNING: This episode contains references to sex and sexuality.

Show Notes

2h31m: Sharang teaches at The International Center of Photography (Bard College), and at Fordham University.
3m05s: We had Dr. Mary Flanagan on the show for Ludology 226 - Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo
3m26s: Playcrafting is an organization that holds game design events, mainly for digital games, in New York City, San Francisco, and Boston.
5m04s: Anna Anthropy is an influential game designer, and current designer-in-residence at DePaul College in Chicago.
5m15s: Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games.
10m08s: Android: Netrunner
11m33s: We discussed ludonarrative dissonance, especially in board games, in Ludology 190 - Diabolus in Ludica.
12m05s: The uselessness of 1:1 scale maps came up in our conversation with Volko Ruhnke for Ludology 178 - COIN-Operated.
12m29s: If you haven't heard us discuss at length what a "game" is, check out Ludology 151 - High Definition.
12m35s: More information about the word autotelic, which is extremely useful when discussing games and play.
13m35s: Frank Lanz is a game designer and director of the NYU Game Center.
16m35s: Great Western Trail, Food Chain Magnate
17m10s: Ryan and Geoff discussed the magic circle with game designer and professor Eric Zimmerman in Ludology 79 - The Magic Circle.
17m29s: You can find more about Honey & Hot Wax, edited by Sharang and Lucian Kahn, here.
18m25s: The phrase "turtles all the way down" is one of Gil's favorites.
20m54s: Hungry Hungry Hippos, Mouse Trap, Pretty Pretty Princess, Electronic Dream Phone
21m30s: MegaCity Oceania
21m54s: Mountains of Madness
23m10s: Pandemic Legacy: Season One
24m11s: Sharang's game with Max Seidman, Mad Science Foundation
26m35s: The RPG Sign.
28m10s: More information about the larp Sarabande.
29m42s: Geoff and Gil discussed "soft incentives" in Ludology 185 - Soft Boiled.
30m38s: Jiangshi, an RPG about Chinese immigrants juggling running a haunted restaurant, by Banana Chan and Sen-Foong Lim. We had Banana on the show a few weeks ago, for Ludology 228 - The Roles We Play.
31m10s: Some of the discussion about "Press F To Pay Respects" in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
31m31s: Untitled Goose Game
35m53s: Sharang compares Chaos in the Old World to Assault of the Giants. Chaos was designed by the incomparable Eric Lang, who we had on the show for Ludology 175 - Auld Lang Design.
37m13s: Sagrada
38m19s: DC Comics Deck-Building Game
40m00s: John Cage's 4'33", which instructs the performer to play no notes for the duration of the piece.
40m27s: Positive examples of ludonarrative dissonance: Typing of the Dead, Unspeakable Words
40m58s: Brenda Romero's well-known art game Train.
41m16s: Sharang's game Feast, inspired by Felix Gonzalez-Torres' original art piece Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.).
41m45s: The RPG With Great Power… 
42m31s: Team Fun's interview with Sharang, featuring the phrase "Jump, Decapitate, Kill."
43m44s: Journalist, larp designer, and game writer Lizzie Stark.
45m00s: The 2001 video game Black & White.
45m17s: French literary critic Roland Barthes proposed the idea of the Death of the Author in a 1967 essay, suggesting that critics don't need to understand an author to contextualize their work.
45m24s: The Effing Foundation for Sex Positivity.
47m16s: Thumb Wars (or thumb wrestling)
51m45s: The games A Guide to Casting Phantoms In The Revolution, and Can You Hear Me? 
52m34s: Sharang's game Several Miles from Heaven.
53m36s: The Jenga-implementing RPGs Dread and Star Crossed, and the apocalyptic RPG Ten Candles.
54m45s: Metatopia is a game designer convention based in the northeastern US that specializes in tests of board games, TTRPG, and larp.
56m41s: Sharang's solo food-based RPG Verdure.
57m52s: We had Jenn Sandercock on in Ludology 210 - The Way to a Gamer's Heart to discuss her edible games. 
58m41s: The 200-word RPG Stardust.
1h00m00s: The bizarre Hellcouch (taking the idea of the "couch co-op to the next level), amd Mattie Brice's empathy machine.
1h00m45s: Marina Abramović's seminal performance art piece Rhythm 0, in which she allowed visitors to do whatever they wanted to her body for 6 hours. Visitors were gentle at first, but became more cruel as the piece went on, several times aiming a loaded gun in her head. The most powerful part of the performance emerged at the end; once the 6 hours ended, Abramović stood up and approached the audience, who promptly left, unable to face her as a person who had regained her bodily autonomy.
1h06m08s: Alex Roberts' Pop! is part of Sharang's project Honey and Hot Wax, co-edited by Lucian Kahn.
1h06m37s: Emma's degree is in Product Design.
1h08m45s: Sharang has written a couple of articles for Killscreen.
1h10m38s: Wingspan. We had the pleasure of chatting with designer Elizabeth Hargrave for Ludology 203 - Winging It.
1h12m15s: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was a horrifying tragedy in which 146 sweatshop workers in New York City were killed by a fire. The workers were locked into their working space, so they could not exit on foot; many leapt to their deaths. The fire resulted in legislation that improved factory safety standards and strengthened union powers. 
1h14m42s: Clio Yun-Su Davis' RPG Pass the Sugar Please was run by theater company Intramersive.
1h16m44s: Sharang is referencing Kat Jones' game Glitzy Nails.
1h17m43s: The RPG Flatpack
1h19m34s: The productivity games Habitica, SuperBetter, Chore Wars, and Zombies Run.
1h20m58s: Sharang's game A Shroud for the Seneschal.