Aims of the research project

Ludification and the Emergence of Playful Culture (LUDIC): 2014-2018

The LUDIC consortium is led by professor Frans Mäyrä from the University of Tampere, and the research is interdisciplinary collaboration carried out by teams led by professor Mäyrä, professor Raine Koskimaa (University of Jyväskylä) and professor Jaakko Suominen (University of Turku, Pori unit).

Objectives of Research

The social and cultural, humanities and social sciences rooted research suffer from a widening disciplinary gap in the field of game studies and play research. This project will aim at constructing a more comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding playfulness, play and games, that synthesizes the work done in game studies during the last fifteen years, but which also ties into the longer histories of research carried out in play studies, ethology, psychology, philosophy and social sciences.

The research work will be using and testing this framework to make sense of playing and gaming not just in and connected to game products, but also in seemingly non-ludic online environments, in public space and in alternative gaming cultures that do not have ties with commercial gaming products.

Furthermore, this research will make contributions to the scholarship by contextualizing the discourses around “gamification”, “ludic society”, “ludic age”, and “culture of gamers” in their proper historical setting, analysing their relevance, importance, and uncovering their meaning.

There are three key working hypotheses at the start of this research project. Firstly, “The Ludic Age/Society” hypothesis: game play is starting to emerge as an important, or even as the dominant, mode of participation and creativity in multiple areas of life and culture: in commercial game products, in the entertaining and ‘serious’ game play behaviours, in marketing and in education there are persistent trends to provide engaging experiences for “active audiences”. Understanding of games and play helps to understand recent developments in other fields, such as the rise of participation in art and theatre, and the playfulness and collaboration of internet cultures.

Secondly, the research will address the so-called “Ludic Mindset” hypothesis: this includes the conception that the experience of taking the active, problem-solving oriented attitude from early childhood, immersed in games and other interactive media, has an effect on how particularly the younger generations are expecting processes, services and practices to operate in work, school as well as in everyday social life. This hypothesis relates also to the concept of “playful money”: the idea that economics in the ludic society will also be influenced by games and the playful mindset. The essence of money is that it can playfully transform to different kinds of economic, social and cultural currencies and communicate the become playthings in ongoing social interactions. This kind of development can also be identified in phenomena like the stock market operations, and in the ongoing fusion and interplay between gambling and social media gaming.

Thirdly, we will examine the “Gamification Hypothesis”: this relates to the view (promoted particularly by business consultants, but increasingly also by educational experts, game service designers and marketing people) that adopting game-like elements in non-entertainment products and services will enhance user engagement, learning, wellbeing, business profits or other desired outcomes. Rather than empirically testing the effects of gamified systems, our approach is focused on the examination of the underlying ideology, where we can detect and analyse how the discourses of utility and pleasure mix and combine in new ways in the pursuits of gamification.

These hypotheses need to be put under careful, critical examination: what evidence do we have about our culture and society undergoing such a process of ludification, and what are the (positive or negative) consequences that we can identify in multiple areas of life for adopting, or serving the playful mindset? The research will examine these hypotheses from the combined perspective provided by humanistic, social scientific and design research oriented approaches.

The research project will test the above hypotheses and provide key contributions to how we can critically understand and evaluate the ludification of culture and society. The research work will be divided into three work packages, which will focus on (1) playfulness in game cultures, in (2) ludification in contemporary society in general, and, (3) more specifically in the various processes of cultural institutionalization of gaming and game studies.

Research team

The research consortium brings together the leading centres of game studies in Finland, and its researchers multiple areas of expertise complement each other, enabling multi-perspectival and multi-method collaborative approaches to games and play in culture and society.

Frans Mäyrä, PhD, Professor, University of Tampere. Professor Mäyrä has worked in the field of digital culture from the early 1990s, and is the head of one of the leading game research centres, The University of Tampere Game Research Lab. Having his original background in the humanities, Professor Mäyrä has headed more than forty interdisciplinary research projects into games, play and game cultures, which have received funding from European Union, Academy of Finland, Tekes, companies and multiple other sources. He has over 120 scholarly publications, with topics ranging from theory and methodology of game studies to multidisciplinary collaboration, role-playing, identity, science fiction, fantasy and theories of self and textuality.

Olli Sotamaa, PhD, Docent, Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Director, University of Tampere. Sotamaa’s postdoctoral project Cultures of Game Industry: The Case of Finland is funded by the Academy of Finland (until 2015). Sotamaa has published in and edited special issues for several scholarly journals including Convergence, Fibreculture, First Monday, Games & Culture, Game Studies, International Journal of Arts and Technology, and Simulation & Gaming. His publications cover user-generated content, player cultures, game industry analysis and player-centred design and research methods. Sotamaa’s current research interests include co-production, creative labour and Finnish game industry.

Jaakko Stenros, MSoc.Sc., Assistant Professor, University of Tampere. Stenros is a game scholar with a background in sociology. He has focused on role-playing games, pervasive games and online play, charting their structures, the practices of players and the play cultures that emerge. He has published over 40 academic publications, including four edited books. He has participated in five research projects funded by Academy of Finland, TEKES and European Union. He has received two personal grants from Finnish Cultural Foundation. The work he has conducted on role-playing games with Markus Montola has been awarded Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming and Ropecon Lifetime Achievement Award Kultainen lohikäärme.

Jani Kinnunen, MSoc.Sc., Assistant Professor, University of Tampere. Kinnunen has a background in sociology and media culture studies. He has studied new forms of communities in online environments, social media and gaming cultures. He has participated in several research projects focused on gambling, gaming and playful social interaction in social networks. The projects have been funded by Academy of Finland, TEKES and gaming industry.

Juho Karvinen, MSoc.Sc., Doctoral Student, University of Tampere. Karvinen is working with his PhD thesis on play behaviour and problematic forms of play in contemporary society, while also implementing the Finnish Player Barometer study, which is a series of nationally representative surveys, producing up-to-date knowledge about non-digital and digital game play in Finland.

Jaakko Suominen, PhD, Professor of Digital Culture at University of Turku. With a focus on cultural history of media and information technologies, Professor Suominen has studied computers and popular media, internet, social media, digital games, with a focus on theoretical issues of digital culture. Suominen’s recent research work addresses digital games in the perspective of history culture and cultural heritage. He has lead several multi-disciplinary research projects, funded by Academy of Finland, Tekes, companies and municipal bodies and has over 100 scholarly publications.

Petri Saarikoski, PhD, Docent, University Lecturer Department of Digital Culture, University of Turku. Saarikoski teaches and studies the history of technology, game design, digital visualization and academic writing. He has previously studied and worked in the department of History, University of Turku. As a historian, Saarikoski has studied the history of computer hobbyism and home computer culture in Finland. His doctoral dissertation Koneen lumo (The Lure of the Machine) received the Best Doctoral Dissertation Award by the UTU Faculty of Humanities in 2004. Currently, he leads the project “The Era of home computers and heritage of hobbyists computer cultures”, funded by Kone foundation (2013-2014).

Riikka Turtiainen, PhD, University Teacher, Digital Culture, University of Turku. Her doctoral thesis (defended in 2012) illustrated the multiplicity of the uses of digital technologies and services including games in the context of media sport. She teaches research skills: research-based thinking, material collecting methods, research ethics and creative writing. She has been rewarded as the Researcher of the Year (2007) at the University Consortium of Pori. She has published multiple scholarly articles about digital media sports and online cultures.

Katriina Heljakka, Doctor of Arts, Postdoctoral Researcher, Digital Culture, University of Turku. Heljakka’s doctoral dissertation Principles of Adult Play(fullness) in Contemporary Toy Cultures (2013) explores the kidult toy user. Before commencing doctoral studies, Heljakka has worked as a game designer in the toy industry and completed Master’s degrees in economics, art history and visual culture. In her postdoctoral research Heljakka studies the cultures of play from the perspectives of transmedia storytelling, transgenerational play and the transformations of the (visual, material, digital and narrative) toy medium. Her focus is on playthings as products that blur the boundaries between the physical, the digital and the hybrid, both in terms of their design, marketing and playing patterns.

Usva Friman, MA, Doctoral Student, Digital Culture, University of Turku. Friman’s master’s thesis focused on the question of how female characters are represented in digital games and how those representations can be researched, as well as how the games construct a gendered player subject while providing gendered game characters. In her doctoral research she will examine Finnish female players of digital games, with a focus on their identity as gamers, gaming habits and especially on their position within the gaming communities and the socio-cultural mechanics which include and exclude gamers from gaming culture.

Raine Koskimaa, PhD, Professor of Contemporary Culture Studies, Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä. Professor Koskimaa conducts research in the fields of digital textuality, programmable media, and game studies. He has published widely around the issues of digital literature, game studies, and narratology. He is the co-founder and co-editor of the Cybertext Yearbook ( and a member of the Editorial Board for ACM Computers in Entertainment and the Review Board for Game Studies. Recently, he has participated in the research projects ELMCIP – Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice (2010-2013;, and Creation of Game Cultures – The Case of Finland (2009-2012).

Marko Siitonen, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher, University Lecturer, Department of Communication, University of Jyväskylä. Dr Siitonen has studied the dynamics of social interaction in player groups and communities in online multiplayer games from a variety of viewpoints, such as conflicts and leadership. He is currently heading a research project on Newsgames in the Nordic media landscape funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

Tanja Välisalo, MA, University Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities, University of Jyväskylä. Välisalo is teaching educational technologies and game studies, and is currently involved in research on playing virtual identities in media fandom, with special emphasis on television series’ fans playing out as characters of the series in virtual worlds. Additional activities such as role-playing and machinima production are also addressed by her research.
Jonne Arjoranta, M.Soc.Sci, Doctoral Student, University of Jyväskylä. Arjoranta has a background in philosophy and is interested in the philosophical dimensions of games. He has taught game studies and is in the process of finishing his PhD in studying how games produce meaning. He has published papers on games, role-play and play. After completing his PhD, Arjoranta will continue as a postdoc researcher in this project.

Tero Kerttula, MA, Doctoral Student, University of Jyväskylä. Kerttula has studied art education and digital culture. He is about to begin his PhD on game visuals in online game related videos.

The international partners of the research project include key researchers and teams who are instrumental in providing complementary expertise or mutually beneficial collaboration opportunities.

More information on research teams e.g. at:


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