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Defining Operational Logics

  • Author(s): Mateas, M
  • Wardrip-Fruin, NG
  • et al.

Much analysis of games focuses, understandably, on their mechanics and the resulting audience experiences. Similarly, many genres of games are understood at the level of mechanics. But there is also the persistent sense that a deeper level of analysis would be useful, and a number of proposals have been made that attempt to look toward a level that undergirds mechanics. This paper focuses on a particular approach of this sort—operational logics—first proposed by Noah Wardrip-Fruin (2005) and since then discussed by authors such as Michael Mateas (2006) and Ian Bogost (2007). Operational logics connect fundamental abstract operations, which determine the state evolution of a system, with how they are understood at a human level. In this paper we expand on the concept of operational logics, offering a more detailed and rigorous discussion than provided in earlier accounts, setting the stage for more effective future use of logics as an analytical tool. In particular, we clarify that an operational logic defines an authoring (representational) strategy, supported by abstract processes or lower-level logics, for specifying the behaviors a system must exhibit in order to be understood as representing a specified domain to a specified audience. We provide detailed discussion of graphical and resource management logics, as well as explaining problems with certain earlier expansions of the term (e.g., to file handling and interactive fiction’s riddles).

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