Video Game Culture and Theory

My online three-week course will start tomorrow morning. It will lean heavily on blogging, so chances are I’ll be a bit more productive than usual in that area.

Video Game Culture and Theory

This course isn’t about learning how to “win” a game, nor is it about
programming or design. In fact, according to a recent study in the
academic journal Games Studies,  “prior videogame experience often interferes with students’ abilities to reason critically and analytically about games” (Zagal and Bruckman).  Playing a game in order to study it requires a different approach than playing it in order to master it.

Your objectives for this course are to

  • explore definitions of important concepts such as game and fun
  • learn about the origins and historical development of video games,
  • expose yourself to a broad range of games,
  • gain experience recognizing and interpreting basic game elements (goal, risk, fiction, emotional engagement, rules, outcome, values, consequences, close playing, etc.),
  • develop an awareness of the complex cultural context
    within which games exist (children’s culture, geek culture, women’s
    issues, political debate, economic and hardware constraints, aesthetic concerns, etc.),
  • and ultimately, to articulate the core cultural values represented in a particular game.

To that end, you will:

  • play several games on the syllabus
  • study several texts (including fan-made videos, games journalism, and academic research)
  • complete quizzes and exercises to ensure that you are keeping up with the readings and to evaluate your progress,
  • participate regularly in class web-based discussions, and
  • research an academic subject related to games, and present your findings in a creative online presentation (could be a video, website, or just about anything) and an academic paper (6-8 pages).

One student [Update, at midnight — three students] who couldn’t wait is [are] already posting homework… I welcome the enthusiasm.

I’ll be up late doing some tweaking on the site.  With the weather we’ve been having lately, it’s great to be able to teach this one from home.