dwlt.thinksOutLoud

What I Talk About When I Talk About Ludometrics

Occasionally, I’m asked where the name “Ludometrics” came from. No, really. I first coined it in 2005 (December if the domain record is to be believed), after I found out about something called “econometrics”. Wikipedia provides this definition of econometrics:

the quantitative analysis of actual economic phenomena based on the concurrent development of theory and observation, related by appropriate methods of inference

Thankfully, it also provides this one:

the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data

As an example, what I was thinking about was measuring things like how long Mario stayed in the air for when he jumped, and then comparing that with other games that didn’t “feel” as good. Turned out that Ben Cousins had already done some work along those lines. I subsequently used it for measuring difficulty curves and level progression, and saw some surprisingly consistent results. Perhaps I should fund some more research.

Anyway, when I was looking for a new company name, I kept trying to come up with something new, only to find I didn’t like it. I then went trawling through the domains I already owned and decided to go with Ludometrics. This is now confusing as when people hear the word ‘metrics’ these days, they instantly assume you’re providing some sort of analytics service.

[Semi-interesting aside: I registered the company on May 20, 2010. Turns out that May 20 is, in fact, World Metrology Day – a day specifically celebrating the measuring of things. Who knew?]

After I decided to go with it, I also remembered that “metre” is an important aspect of poetics. According to Dictionary.com:

the rhythmic arrangement of syllables in verse, usually according to the number and kind of feet in a line

That fits pretty well with the level progression aspect, particularly in terms of introducing elements and pacing play. I might describe Plants vs Zombies as having excellent metre, for example, were it not for the fact that statement is essentially useless until there’s language around describing pacing. Perhaps, borrowing from musical tempo, I would use Andante (walking pace)? Perhaps not.

But here’s the thing: metrics in any form are no substitute for product vision. Metre can inform structure, data can provide clues on where to go next, but neither should be the starting point. They’re tools we can use to inform what it is we’re meant to be doing.

But what we’re meant to be doing is bringing fun to the world.

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