Game studies, or ludology, is the study of games, the act of playing them, and the players and cultures surrounding them. It is a discipline of cultural studies that deals with all types of games throughout history. This field of research utilizes the tactics of, at least, anthropology, sociology and psychology, while examining aspects of the design of the game, the players in the game, and finally, the role the game plays in its society or culture. Game studies is oftentimes confused with the study of video games, but this is only one area of focus; in reality game studies encompasses all types of gaming, including sports, board games, etc.
Before video games, game studies often only included anthropological work, studying the games of past societies. However, once video games were introduced and became mainstream, game studies were updated to perform sociological and psychological observations; to observe the effects of gaming on an individual, his or her interactions with society, and the way it could impact the world around us.
There are three main approaches to game studies: the social science approach asks itself how games affect people and uses tools such as surveys and controlled lab experiments. The humanities approach asks itself what meanings are expressed through games, and uses tools such as ethnography and patient observation. The industrial and engineering approach applies mostly to video games and less to games in general, and examines things such as computer graphics, artificial intelligence, and networking. Like other media disciplines, such as television and film studies, game studies often involves textual analysis and audience theory.
It wasn’t until Irving Finkel organized a colloquium in 1990 that grew into the International Board Game Studies Association, Gonzalo Frasca popularized the term ludology (from the Latin word for game, ludus) in 1999, the publication of the first issues of academic journals like Board Game Studies in 1998 and Game Studies in 2001, and the creation of the Digital Games Research Association in 2003, that scholars began to get the sense that the study of games could (and should) be considered a field in its own right. As a young field, it gathers scholars from different disciplines that had been broadly studying games, such as psychology, anthropology, economy, education, and sociology. The earliest known use of the term "ludology" occurred in 1982, in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's “Does Being Human Matter – On Some Interpretive Problems of Comparative Ludology.”