Ludic Interfaces Mathias Fuchs, Georg Russegger and Moisés Mañas Carbonell

According to this article the recent success of the wii controller and Microsoft kinect systems points towards Ludic interfaces being critical in transforming video game culture, (Fuchs, ect, 2013).


Ludic Interfaces vs Straight Interfaces


Before the Wii controller, many artisits explored the potential of man- machine, machine – man interactions. Some of these artists and their work include:

Jeffrey Shaw’s ‘The Legible City’ (1988),

Mary Flanagan’s ‘Giant Joystick’(2006),

Leif Rumbke’s ‘Wargame’ (2005)

Jess Kilby’s ‘Center of the Universe (2007)



All these examples feature unconventional interface concepts with playfulness as a main design aim.


Bellow are key features in the above art installations which make them different from traditional interfaces:


– playful

– rich in connotative power and surprise

– custom-built, aware of regional and historical context

– critical


Jeffrey Shaw’s ‘The Legible City’ (1988), uses a man on a bicycle to navigate through a digital 3D environment. In his work a modified bicycle is an input device and an interface between user and 3D environment (Fuchs ect, 2013).

This is different from traditional interfaces and introduces playfulness to the users body (Fuchs ect, 2013). Mary Flanagan’s gigantic joystick is considered ‘ludic’ not only because it is more playful than a traditional mouse or keyboard but also because it makes a critical statement about the male dominated gaming culture due to the joysticks phallic appearance.


Traditional interfaces are designed keeping the following objectives in mind:


– effective

– universally applicable

– predictable

– globally available

– unaffected by regional or historical context


The authors of the article bring up an interesting point about framing ludicity among these interactions. “Is it the game where playfulness resides? Is it the interface, or is it encapsulated within the player’s attitude?” (Fuchs ect, 2013). Interfaces always have ludic potential as they are points between two systems.


“Ludic interfaces appropriate what we find in computer games, artistic

experiments, interactive media, media conversion, social networks and modding

cultures. These new and innovative interfaces offer tools that are adaptive to

cultural specifics and cultural change, and are sensitive to gender-related,

age-related and ethnic specificities,” (Fuchs ect, 2013).




“The Center of the Universe” Jess Kilby


Is a Ludic Interface Installation, the art project consists of a RFID tarot table, hand painted black with letters and signs drawn on it and a set of white cards containing radio- frequency tags. Hidden information in the blank cards allows tarot read (a digital RFID reader,) to interpret information hidden from the human eye. The project displays the information being picked up by the cards in the form of videos, which display frightening futures. According to the article the game could have easily been a Flash simulation or be built for a 2D monitor, but without the material ludic aspect of the game, the game wouldn’t really work. It’s the artist dressed as a fortune teller, the special lighting and the materiality of the game that makes it successful, (Fuchs ect, 2013).


Similarly with the giat joystick its success has a lot to do with its ludic features, its materiality, haptic features and erotic connotations, (Fuchs ect, 2013). More commentary on this project


Ludic Potential vs Lusory Attitude


“A wooden stick can be a toy. A stone can be a toy. A

cunningly-designed toy can be a toy – or it can not be a toy. It depends on whether the object is used playfully or not, (Fuchs ect, 2013).”


A stone or stick don’t have an inherent property of being a playful toy, what makes them toys is their application context. The authors of the article go on to give the following example, if you place a handful of legos in front of a child in European bedroom in the 70’s it’s a toy. Take the same bricks and drop them in front of a bunch of kids in ancient Egypt it’s a toy. But if both bricks were presented to a curator in Tokyo one would be a toy and one would be something else (Fuchs ect, 2013).”


Salen and Zimmerman the authors of “Rules of Play: Fundementals of Game Design” suggest that the main drivers for playfulness is the players capacity for a lusory attitude. Insuggesting this they are saying that an object becomes a toy when users decide to play with it. The dilemma the author of the article presents is that if it is suggested that playfulness is owned the object we cant explain what makes sticks and stones toys, and if it is said that playfulness is determined by the player than everything could be a toy. The way out of this problem the author suggests is that culture defines ludicity. “Culture owns the property of playfulness, or that play is constituted within culture,” (Fuchs ect, 2013).


Interface is the message


The article describes games as a rich field of codes and setups, in order to understand the hidden potential of interfaces.


Game / (system of rules)

= A player +physical or virtual objects to play with + regional and historical context to be played in


Meaning in the game can be found in the rules, or the role the player adopts in the game. “Another approach to find meaning is to interpret the interface between man and machine as a crucial element in producing ludic experience and ludic meaning,” (Fuchs ect, 2013).


These approaches are called:

  • –  ludocentric 
 –  role-based 
 –  socio-historical 
-  interface-led.5

According to the article Ludic Interfaces focus on deconstructing rules and roles and socially historical settings. Game Art will always focus on interface, or lack of interactivity with interface provided focusing on these factors allows artists to criticize commercial interface design and suggest alternatives. Ludic and Zero Interfaces are used by artists to oppose HCI concepts, (Fuchs ect, 2013), and to bring playfulness in the process of man – machine.


Leaving the Magic Circle


“Lusory Attitude” can be increased by the interface to the game. For example a joystick glues the gamers hand to any space fighter action game, and steerwheels feels good to gamers playing a race car game. But on the other hand a rocket launcher device wouldn’t make sense for a Barbie game (Fuchs ect, 2013). The article continues to explain the interface also shows people the rules of how to play, a player would know what to do with a device with a steering wheel and accelerator. But interfaces can also be limiting in their interactions such as the steering wheel wouldn’t allow for up and down movement on the z axis. We are always being controlled by interface restraints, “straight interfaces contain implicit rules where we least excpect them.” In contrast Ludic Interfaces oppose these aspects of straight interfaces by opening up the field of interactions.


“The subversive potential of interfaces must be looked for in the ludic interface solutions that artists and interface hacktivists develop. The area that extends beyond efficiency management, predictability and globalisation is where interface cultures will emerge that hold the key to custom-built, critical and playful interface devices for the future,” (Fuchs ect, 2013).


What are the rules and roles of Museums?

What is the Lusory Attitude of Children?


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