The End of the Affair

I finished a three-hour binge of racing, clicked off my Playstation 2, and … it was over. My compulsion had vanished. I still enjoyed the game, and had plenty more challenges to complete. But I didn’t need to play it any more. For some mysterious reason, Burnout had suddenly released me from its talons.

This is one of the abiding mysteries of games: Why do they let us go so suddenly? —Clive ThompsonThe End of the Affair (Wired)

One of the units in this January’s “Videogame Culture and Theory” course will ask students to do a “close playing” and analysis of a game they are playing right now. My assumption, and I hope I’m not over-reacting (preacting?) is that students will come into the course with a strong idea of the “canon” of videogames worth studying, and that these games will overlap closely with whatever the students have themselves played recently.

I can’t force them to buy a PlayStation in order to do the “readings,” and since it’s an online game I can’t just put all the games on reserve in the library. (Emulators, here I come!)

If I did let students focus only on the games they already know well, I worry that the syndrome applied above will make it difficult for the students to return to and think critically about games they have recently played. So I am going to try to teach the critical process by asking them to play older games, and even “spoof” games like the ones from a recent StrongBad retrospective on videogame designs. (Here’s a good example of what I mean.)