SA 135: GAME STUDIES
Tues. & Thurs. 1:00-3:20 pm
Humanities Instructional Bldg. (HIB) #335
Robert Nideffer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office: #2200 ACT (Art, Culture, and Technology) Bldg - 2nd floor, North end
This course will be devoted to the analysis of computer games and gaming. It will be a mix of theory and practice. We will begin by looking critically at the various genres of games outlined in the schedule below. To do this well, it means spending considerable time playing, writing and talking about them. The focus will be on coming up with a DESIGN DOCUMENT for your own gaming environment, but with a twist. The twist is that you will be using gaming metaphors, design principles, and technologies for proposing a game that is built around one of the following:
Tuesdays are lecture, discussion, and viewing days. Thursdays, in general, will be open lab work and play days.
The class considers games as a relatively newly evolving genre stemming from cinema and interactive experiences with a focus on the computational environment. Students develop innovative game designs within the context of a multi disciplinary, hands-on studio arts perspective, using a variety of interactive media approaches, methodologies and materials. Games are analyzed as cultural artifacts reflecting the behavior, social formation, historical location, gender, ethnicity, and class concerns of those conceiving, producing, distributing and playing them. The aesthetics of game design including character development, level design, game play experience, and delivery systems are covered. Alternate gaming paradigms such as scenario planning, non-violent problem solving, blended reality, abstract play, and other emerging forms are actively encouraged.
- An academic subject
- A book/movie/TV show
- A reworked version of a game
- A topical media/world event
- A significant event from your personal life
Students may work individually or collaboratively. If you elect to work in a group, you will need to propose a clearly defined division of labor (i.e., who is doing what), and whether you want to be graded as individuals responsible for specific components of the overall project, or receive a grade as a whole.
There will be a MIDTERM (40% of grade) and FINAL (40% of grade) presentation of your design document to the class. Class PARTICIPATION AND PERIODIC WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS will be critical (20% of grade), and must be turned in on time. Your final project must be delivered via the web. The midterm will be an opportunity to get critical feedback from the class on your proposed work in progress. The final will be a far more polished publicly presented version.
Texts will include essays or articles from various selected books, games magazines, and related websites. Readings will be posted via URL on the class website. This is NOT primarily an application-based hands-on course. It will be up to you to work with each other to learn what's needed to do what you want to do. I will be a conduit in the process.
NOTE: You must do the readings for that week's discussion topic in the week prior, so that we can have informed class discussion.
WEEK 01: INTRODUCTION: Getting Started
WEEK 02: SETTING THE STAGE: Play and Game
- ASSIGNMENT: Gaming Autobiography
WEEK 03: PAST I: Game Studies - Why Now?
- "Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon," from Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Johan Huizinga, 1938 (as reprinted in The Game Design Reader, edited by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman).
- "Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums," Stewart Brand, 1972.
- Spacewar! (Win Version), Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen (1962). Best to play with a partner. This version was programmed primarily by Peter Hirschberg (http://www.digisys.net/users/cogs/spacewar.htm) in C++ - here's the source code if you want to hack at it.
- Adventure (Win Version), William Crowther and Donald Woods (1976) (see http://www.rickadams.org/adventure/ for various ports, cheats, and distributions).
- "Angband (v3.0.4)" Thangorodrim
If you're new to interactive fiction, check out Emily Short's introduction.
- "Spacewar!," from Wikipedia 2007.
- "Colossal Cave Adventure," from Wikipedia 2007.
WEEK 04: PAST II: Military Connections
- VIDEO - MODERN MARVELS
- VIDEO - GAMERS EPISODE 1 (excerpts)
- "A Ludicrous Discipline?," by Tom Boellstorff, from Games and Culture, Sage Publications, Vol 1, No 1, January 2006.
- "Why Game Studies Now?," by Dmitri Williams, from Games and Culture, Sage Publications, Vol 1, No 1, January 2006.
- "Why Study New Games?," by Fred Turner, from Games and Culture, Sage Publications, Vol 1, No 1, January 2006.
WEEK 05: PRESENT: Hacks, Cracks, and Contemporary Game Art
WEEK 06: CASE STUDY: WoW
- "From Sun Tzu to X-Box," by Ed Halter, from Thunder's Mouth Press, New York 2006.
- USC: Institute for Creative Technology
- MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) - Win Version | Mac Version. ROM files (will work x-platform, unzip and copy ROM files in 'roms' folder inside of MAME folder once expanded. NOTE: you do not need to expand the individual ROM files - ROMs can remain zip files once placed in the 'roms' folder) Original arcade console ROMs ported to run on Personal Computers.
WEEK 07: MIDTERM PROGRESS CHECK
WEEK 08: FUTURE: Platforms
- "Building an MMO With Mass Appeal," by Nicolas Ducheneaut (et al), from Games and Culture, special issue on World of Warcraft. Vol 1 No 4 (2006).
- "Does WoW Change Everything?," by T. L. Taylor, from Games and Culture, special issue on World of Warcraft. Vol 1 No 4 (2006).
- World of Warcraft, Robert Pardo, Allen Adham, et al, Blizzard (2004). Use 10-day trial accounts to play (you can buy the game to continue). I will have it installed on my lab computers if needed. Play through at least level 5.
- WTF?! Usability Testing
Related Reading (Optional):
- "Blood Scythes, Festivals, Quests, and Backstories," by Tanya Krzywinska, from Games and Culture, special issue on World of Warcraft. Vol 1 No 4 (2006).
- "Real Genders Choose Fantasy Characters," by Nicholas DiGiuseppe and Bonnie Nardi, from First Monday, volume 12, number 5 (May 2007).
- "Storyline, Dance/Music, or PvP?," by Henry Lowood, from Games and Culture, special issue on World of Warcraft. Vol 1 No 4 (2006).
- "From Tree House to Barracks," by Dmitri Williams (et al), from Games and Culture, special issue on World of Warcraft. Vol 1 No 4 (2006).
WEEK 09: FINAL PREPARATIONS
- VIDEO - DarkCon
- "New Media as Material Constraint: An Introduction to Platform Studies," by Ian Bogost, Nick Montfort, from HASTAC proceedings, Duke University 2006.
- "Point and Shoot: Remediating Photography in Gamespace," by Cindy Poremba, from Games and Culture, Sage Publications, Vol 2, No 1, January 2007.
- "Combat in Context," by Nick Montfort, from Game Studies, Vol 6, No 1, December 2006.
WEEK 10: FINAL PRESENTATIONS