Spring 2008
Tues. & Thurs. 1:00-3:20 pm
Humanities Instructional Bldg. (HIB) #335
Robert Nideffer:
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.


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 WEEK 03: PAST I: Game Studies - Why Now? WEEK 04: PAST II: Military Connections WEEK 05: PRESENT: Hacks, Cracks, and Contemporary Game Art WEEK 06: CASE STUDY: WoW WEEK 07: MIDTERM PROGRESS CHECK WEEK 08: FUTURE: Platforms WEEK 09: FINAL PREPARATIONS