A definition

As I begin to leave my insular community and attempt to talk about lyric games with people in the academic sphere, they seem to be confused. And not for the reasons other game designers seem to be confused when I attempt to explain the concept to them. Academics don’t notice the lack of dice or game masters or other things which are vexing for a traditional designers.

Academics instead ask: Is this visual poetry? Is this ekphrasic poetry? How do you define game?

I’ll focus on those first two first, and provide a definition for lyric games in contrast. That last question, hoo boy! I suggest instead you read Games, Agency as Art by C. Thi Nguyen[1].

Ekphrasic poetry describes a real or theoretical object for the imagination of the reader, while visual poetry conveys information through the specific and often complicated layout of the text. Neither of those portrays lyric games, though some lyric games do borrow conventions from them both on an individual basis (like all artforms, it is made in conversation). Lyric games meanwhile are instructional texts more akin to Fluxus scores. They wish for the reader to imagine play, sure, but also demand physical action and emotional embodiment typical of actors in a play or athletes on a field.

Lyric games also have a different origin from the above poetry styles, coming instead from the primarily technical writing focused medium of “instructional game manuals.” What if a book which contained the rules to poker could sing?

[1] https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780190052089.001.0001/oso-9780190052089

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