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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.

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Feb 7, 2021

Emma and Gil chat with Sam Rosenthal and Stephen Bell of The Game Band, known for their bizarre cosmic horror sports sim Blaseball. We discuss the unique feedback loop between Blaseball's fans and its creators, the benefits of apophenia, and how baseball was uniquely suited for this treatment at this moment in history.

SHOW NOTES

7m00s: The score bug that Gil is referring to is the graphic that appears overlaid on most sports broadcast, showing the game's score and other vital stats. Gil also refers to external chest protectors that baseball umpires used to wear, an icon of baseball from decades past.

7m59s: The Blaseball wiki.

10m00s: The music that Stephen refers to is literal fan-made music. Fan canon says that the team the Seattle Garages are actually a rock band forced to play Blaseball. Fans have actually recorded and released these albums.

19m05s: Here's Cat Manning's excellent Blaseball primer. It's a good way to get a sense of the lore of the game.

22m11s: We chatted with game designer and wide receiver Adrienne Smith in Ludology 240 - Are You Receiving Me?

26m15s: Apophenia is the tendency to make connections between disconnected things. Game designers can use it to make meaningful experiences and memorable stories, but other people can use it for very bad things.

27m42s: Kayfabe is a wrestling term that denotes the acceptance of the fictionalization of staged events. In other words, a wrestling announcer working in kayfabe will treat a match as if it is a genuinely-contested sporting event with an uncertain outcome, not a scripted match in which all participants know the winner ahead of time.

Kayfabe is very much another example of a magic circle. You can hear Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm discuss the magic circle with game designer Eric Zimmerman in Ludology 79 - The Magic Circle.

29m34s: SIBR is the Society for Internet Blaseball Research. Their name is a reference to SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. (In real-world Major League Baseball, SABR is the organization that devised "sabermetrics," the advanced statistics that powered the Moneyball movement.)

SIBR has written several academic papers analyzing the effects various aspects of Blaseball.

32m54s: Taskmaster continues to be one of Gil's favorite shows.

35m44s: Uncharted is a series of video games about uncovering historical mysteries around the world, and killing a lot of bad guys in the process.

44m02s: More info on Twitch Plays Pokémon. Also, Our Place, a MUD.

48m17s: More info on the John Cage composition As Slow As Possible (Gil misstated the title as "As Long As Possible"). You can watch a video of one of the note changes here.

Also, Gil should have mentioned the 10,000 Year Clock, a Jeff Bezos-funded clock that is being built within a Texas mountain that will be designed to run 10,000 years without any human intervention. This is not the kind of scale humans are used to thinking in, which is what makes these projects so strange and intriguing.

53m04s: Welcome to Night Vale is highly recommended for anyone intrigued by the idea of comic cosmic horror. For example...

"The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset near the Ralph’s.

They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you."

55m51s: Baseball has several "unwritten rules" of decorum. One of them is that bunting to break up a no-hitter tends to be frowned upon. It happens every few years; in 2019, a minor-league team broke up a combined no-hitter in the 9th inning with a bunt, which resulted in a benches-clearing altercation. 

1h00m42s: Here is the Blaseball Discord server.

1h05m40s: Gil is referring to Marcel Duchamp's readymade sculpture Fountain (although there are rumblings that the piece was actually made by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven). Afterwards, Gil refers to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Chain of Command, in which a Cardassian tortures Jean-Luc Picard by inflicting pain if Picard does not claim he sees five lights when in fact there are only four in front of him (which itself is a reference from a scene in 1984).

1h06m57s: "The Commissioner Is Doing A Great Job" is a common Blaseball meme. The Coffee Cup was the most recent season of Blaseball before this recording, which was a knockout tournament of nontraditional Blaseball teams instead of a "traditional" season (whatever that means).

1h08m03s: Twitter links: The Game Band, Blaseball, Sam Rosenthal, and Stephen Bell. Here is Blaseball's Patreon.

1h10m16s: Guess which blaseball team Gil follows?