The game designer Eric Zimmerman just published a “Manifesto for the Ludic Century,” and several folks were invited to write responses to it, including me.

You should click through and read both of those links because this post won’t make any sense if you don’t. When you do, you’ll notice that Heather Chaplin commented “I don’t know exactly what he’s talking about” in response to my response. But! She also only excerpted about a third of it, so, I thought I’d post the whole thing here:

When you think about it, it’s curious to pen a manifesto for a ludic century to come in the twenty-first century, when the manifesto itself was such a staple of twentieth-century thought. The term was certainly in use before then, but the modern manifesto as a written prescription that makes manifest certain principles really starts with the political manifestos of Marx, Engels, Bellegarrigue, and others in the mid-19th century. The artistic manifestos of Symbolism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and others followed this lead, proclaiming clear, direct, and unyielding principles for creative practice. So, perhaps there is one fundamental challenge for the Manifesto for a Ludic Century: would a truly ludic century be a century of manifestos? Of declaring simple principles rather than embracing systems? Or, is the Ludic Manifesto meant to be the last manifesto, the manifesto to end manifestos, replacing simple answers with the complexity of “information at play?”

published September 11, 2013


  1. Ethan Gach

    Has language, written or oral, ever not had priority when it comes the articulation of principles, arguments, and speculation?

    Whatever new paradigm was being urged or prophesized, was it ever announced or debated through something other than language (alpha-numeric symbol structures)?

    What art movement for instance ever felt confident enough in the subject of their energies not to have to articulate what was going on to everyone else through speeches and essays?

  2. HiSocial

    Hi Ian,

    No doubt games are important, but to say “The 21st Century Will Be Defined By Games” is a blatant exaggeration IMHO

  3. Shane

    Games will define the 21st century because? Because they’re associated with some vague ideas about play in culture and systems analysis?

    Define is a strong word. One might think the 21st century will be defined by the problems of a crowded and warming planet, or the economic disruption caused by information technology. Defined by games? Again, why? Because they’re “systemy” and facilitate play?

    Furthermore, the idea that games will allow us to solve the 21st century’s problems (climate change comes to mind) seems like a stretch either of reason or the definition of “game” itself. There are already disciplines and methodologies that deal with the exploration of systems. These aren’t games.

    The above isn’t intended to be an airtight philosophical critique but an expression of reasonable skepticism. Some of the manifesto reads like another paean to spending your life in front of an Xbox or designing games. That’s all well and good, but I have my doubts that the world’s problems will be solved that way.

  4. Shane

    To round my thoughts out:

    This all stinks of the very strong Western cultural tendency to universalize value systems, and reduce and essentialize existence and nature. That games involve systems says less about games tapping into some sort of truth about the world and more about our tendency to systemize everything.

    I’m suspicious anytime I see projects that attempt to replace the actuality of something in its entirety with a our best definition or understanding.

    How about: Games are useful for some things and not so useful for others. They can also serve as a valuable metaphor and model. They will play a role in the 21st century…

    Instead, we get: Everything is already a game or becoming a game and games will define the world we live in.

  5. Zane Chesivoir

    The author of the article Ian Bogost writes his own response to Eric Zimmermanâ??s manifesto for a ludic century. Bogost asks the question â??would a truly lucid century be a century of manifestos?â? Or â??is the Ludic Manifesto meant to be the last manifesto?â? My response to Bogostâ??s question is that â??the Ludic Manifesto would be the manifesto to all manifestos.â? To provide my claim, I will cite evidence from Zimmermanâ??s manifesto. The Ludic Manifesto would be the manifesto to end all manifestos because the Ludic Century has helped humans unlock their full potential by changing the ways humans work, communicate, research and learn, socialize and romance, conduct our finance and help us communicate with governments. The best thing about the Ludic Century is that games, without us realizing it, are helping us become more educated. Games help us become more educated because according to The Ludic Manifesto, â??games are a literacy,â? â??gaming literacy can address our problems,â? and â??in the Ludic Century everyone will be a game designer.â? Games are a literacy because literacy is about creating and understanding meaning, allowing people to create and understand. Gaming literacy addresses our problems because gaming literacy helps us gain skills of playfulness, innovation, and transdisciplinary thinking. The Information Age has helped many people develop unique ways of thinking. The Information Age has made vast resources of information attainable and the Ludic Century might result in unlocking the potential of all citizens by helping humanity analyze, redesign, and transform the problems of society. The Ludic Century also helps people become game designers by using techniques such as retro-engineering to find new ways to play games. The Ludic Manifesto would be the manifesto to end all manifestos because in the Ludic Century, the majority of the people will learn through technology and the Internet to address societal problems and resolve societyâ??s problems.