Course: ENG 342 Videogame Studies
Semester: Winter 2012
Teacher/Guide: Dr. James Schirmer
Office: 320D French Hall
Hours: Tues/Thurs by appointment
Mailbox: 326 French Hall
Writing Center: 559 French Hall
Writing Center Phone: 810.766.6602 (call ahead to make an appointment)
Writing Center Website: http://www.umflint.edu/departments/writingcenter/
This course examines videogames, dense products of socioeconomic and technological forces, as viable cultural artifacts layered with multiple meanings. Through a variety of critical perspectives, we will explore videogames and their broader social contexts - how they are designed, who plays them and why, and how videogames can be more than entertainment. Such exploration is important and warranted due to the attention paid to the medium. The popularity of videogames as well as the median age of gamers means that we ignore videogames at our own peril. Arguably at the forefront of controversy now, videogames have usurped the roles once reserved for film and literature. It also makes sense, then, for a course studying videogames to be housed within a discipline of the humanities. This is because the examination of videogames as cultural artifacts is a practice that has much in common with (but is not limited to) critical, historical, rhetorical, and textual analysis. Understanding the context and history of a work as well as its potential meaning is what often happens in college-level humanities courses and that is what will also happen in ENG 342. This course represents a modest introduction to the field, providing opportunities to discuss videogames in ways that are complimentary and deserving of both the medium and the humanities.
Upon completion of this course, you will have:
- Read foundational and influential texts in videogame studies toward preparation for in-class presentations and online publications
- Developed an understanding of the breadth and depth of videogame studies
- Applied the theories and methods of videogame studies to the analysis and/or design of a videogame
- Prepared one or more videogame analyses and/or designs for peer/public reception
Bogost, Ian. How To Do Things With Videogames. [ORDER BY 1.24]
All other readings will be available online or provided via email.
The grading contract outlines many parameters for the course, but not all. Below is more information about the contributions required of all students:
Presence (online): To create and sustain further conversation this semester, all students are required to create and maintain Pen.io and Twitter accounts. At least one Pen.io page is due every week for the duration of the semester. One “tweet” per weekday is required for at least the first four weeks of the semester. Further details on Pen.io are available here. Further details on Twitter are available here.
Class Facilitation: Each student group is responsible for facilitating 60 minutes of class once during the semester. Student groups will meet with the instructor at least one week prior to their facilitation to discuss and finalize approaches. As course texts are instructor-provided, student groups are responsible for reading them at least one week prior to the scheduled facilitation. While the facilitation should begin with a group-led pecha kucha presentation, what follows that is for each student group to decide. Beyond the group presentation, the facilitation can take whatever format is comfortable for the presenting group (discussion questions, in-class activities, online activities, etc.).
Sequences: For particular course themes, there are some larger, longer assignments. These provide opportunities for not only greater attention and focus but also practice and preparation for the final project. Designed to stimulate further critical thought about videogames, the sequences are as follows:
Approaches to Videogame Studies (800-1200 words) - due Week 3
As a field, videogame studies is in a rapid evolution. While only a handful of scholars, researchers, and designers were thinking about the social, economic, and political meaning of videogames a few years ago, a multitude of approaches have since come to the fore. This proliferation has resulted in a lively, ongoing conversation about videogames in a growing array of academic journals. The following assignment provides an opportunity to explore this conversation and to read deeper a single article that you find compelling or engaging.
Play Aloud - due Week 8
This will be an entirely new experience for most students. You will spend about 10 minutes playing an unfamiliar NES game. While playing, you will “think aloud” every thought that goes through your head concerning the game, its design, and your playing of it. You will film this 10-minute sequence, using any kind of videocamera, smartphone, flipcam, webcam, etc. You will also watch this 10 minute clip, and annotate it, highlighting significant moments of confusion, negotiation, or understanding, as well as formal elements of the game that are revealed upon close inspection. The project is a rather open-ended investigation about process and discovery. You will generate a written analysis, but there is no concrete end-product envisioned here. Proceed in a deliberate manner, guided by the concepts encountered in our discussions and readings.
Videogame Studies Project (2000-2400 words) - due Week 14
The default final project for ENG 342 is a series of Pen.io pages of at least 2000 words offering a critical interpretation of a videogame or of some phenomenon central to the social significance of videogames. Outside research and using sources from established scholarly journals and/or books are required. Your analysis should consider formal and narrative elements of gameplay as well as the dynamic between them. Remember that form includes rules, interface, graphics, music, and sound effects, while narrative concerns evocative symbolism, cultural assumptions, explicit or implicit ideology, and so on. Beware, too, the game's procedural rhetoric.
On Technology Usage:
Because a great majority of thinking and writing about videogames is online, we will engage a range of computer tools and web-based applications. No prior skill is needed, however, only a willingness to engage and learn. I am more than willing to take extra time; all you need to do is ask.
The best way to reach me though is by email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You can also find me online via Twitter <twitter.com/betajames>. I am online almost every day. If you email or @ me and do not receive a response within 24 hours, please feel free to email or @ me again (as I might not have received your first message) and give me a reminder. I promise not to consider this harassment. If you are more comfortable with face-to-face communication, you are welcome to schedule an appointment Tuesday/Thursday. My office is 320D French Hall. Final Note:
Should any aspect of this class confuse/concern/trouble you, don't hesitate to contact me.