I worked my way through both the post by (on) Liber Ludorum and the original post by Linda Codega, both of which I have linked. Codega’s post is on Gizmodo and by definition is more focused / influenced / to be read in as commentary on more commercial ventures. Whereas LL’s post moves further afield than that. I want to speak on the Gizmodo post first, and then circle back to the Liber Ludorum blog post.
System Design vs. Game Design
I liked what Linda Codega had to say in the paragraph under Unconventional Wisdom.
“…I want more games(emph. mine). I want games that are built up around a system, or a system that is specifically designed for a game, that supports the game from the ground up.”
I would go out on a limb here and say that is a lot of what we focus on in design here at Adept Play. System matters, clearly, but without purpose (game), systems are just a bunch of flashy lights. As an example, the Year Zero Engine is a system, but it finds a purpose when paired with Forbidden Lands or Mutant: Year Zero. Without those specific instances of purpose, a GM could still use the system and provide their own purpose through some amount of design work.
A better example of ‘game’ would be games like Sorcerer or Lacuna, Part 1. Neither game is meant to create a system for wider use and to be applicable to a broad array of idioms. They come with their purpose / game all in one package. And purpose is not setting, though setting could be part of it, providing fictional vocabulary and visual inspiration to support play.
Paida vs. Ludus
I have to admit the terms have a certain appeal, especially to a native English speaker. We tend to gravitate towards words and terms that highlight well known phenomena because it provides gravitas. Who would speak of Four Act Structure when they could wield the beauty that is Kishotenketsu in their lexicon? The problem here is that I do not think their initial concepts translate that well into RPG design terms. Maybe the better way to say it is, I think that it would be better to look at existing games in terms where they fall on the paida – ludus spectrum as opposed to redefining that spectrum to fit RPGs.
In my head, The Pool sits at the medium point where Paida fades and Ludus gains traction. I feel like that point, with whatever system you assign there, is the part of the spectrum when the author’s definition of system rests. Anything to the left of that, towards less well defined procedures, fits into more free-form play as defined by Callois in Man, Play, and Games. Everything to the right, is system to some degree paired with context and purpose. At the far end of this (or towards that end) would be a game like The One Ring, whose very specific instance of fantasy (Tolkein) is the entire purpose of that game.
An Ant Hill Worth Kicking
We do have language for some or most of what has been described above here at Adept Play, at least I think so. I understand the dichotomy of what both authors are looking for: boiled down, with any commercialization evaporated, they are seeking games where the purpose of play is well or at least somewhat defined. Less generic and more specific. But I think the idea or the possibility of discussing Paida and Ludus as their own contribution to the understanding of design is far more interesting. Especially if we can find recognizable vocabulary in our discussions to compare them with.