The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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dsheinem
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My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games"

by dsheinem Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:11 am

This fall I will be teaching a first year seminar course entitled "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games." It is designed to teach basic university research and writing skills around a topic of interest, and to expose students to connections between various arts/humanities programs and the gaming industry.

Since a fair amount of my thinking about games over the years has been influenced by this site, I thought I'd "pay it back" by creating a thread that might allow you to "follow along" with the course's development between now and the end of the year. I'd like to eventually share some of the lectures and course materials as they are generated, but for now I thought you'd find these introductory materials interesting.

Syllabus:

CATALOG COURSE DESCRIPTION:

This course analyzes the ways that video games have shaped a wide variety of cultural and social practices both in the United States and globally. Students will learn how games and their various effects have been studied in fields such as Communication Studies, Psychology, Media Studies, Journalism, History, Library Sciences, English, Ludology, Education, and Computer Science; they will also learn about scholarship in the emerging field of Game Studies. Students will have opportunities to experience and play a variety of games across many platforms, to create academic writing about games, and to recognize connections between research on games and ongoing changes in the video game industry.


COURSE MATERIALS:

READINGS:
Readings are meant to be completed in full as assigned
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things With Video Games. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
Melissinos, Chris, and Patrick O'Rourke. The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect. New York: Welcome, 2012. Print.
Other course readings will be made available on BOLT:

GAMES:
Required games are meant to be played for a minimum of 10-15 minutes each.
• Students will be required to download the game distribution platform “Steam” from http://www.steampowered.com. Many of the required games for the course are available on this platform. Most are free or have demos available, though some may require purchase. Students must create a Steam account.
• Students will be required to download “Second Life” and “World of Warcraft” and to create free trial accounts to play these games during Week 3 of the course. Other required games may also require students to download software and create free accounts.
• Some games will be made available on BOLT
• Options for accessing both recommended and required games will be discussed in class on a regular basis. In some rare cases, system requirements may be too high for a required game to be played. In these circumstances, students are encouraged to watch online video clips as an alternative.

ASSIGNMENTS:

Five Pop Quizzes – 10% (2% each)
• There will be five unannounced quizzes in the course. They will occur at the start of class and be designed to test your comprehension of course readings that were assigned for that class period. Thus, quizzes will emphasize content that students will have read but that has not been discussed in class. As we will be discussing the answers immediately following the quiz, these cannot be made up. Students with excused absences will be allowed to write a three page response paper to the content covered on the quiz.

Group Project -10%
• You will work with other students on one of three projects surrounding video games and controversy. A detailed assignment sheet will be handed out early in the course.

Individual Project:
Proposal - 5%
Annotated Bibliography - 10%
Final Paper - 20%
o Throughout the course, you will work on a research project of interest related to the course content. A handout with details will be distributed early in the semester.

Exams:
Midterm – 15%
Final Exam – 20%
o These exams will be a mix of possible multiple choice, matching, short answer, and essay questions. The midterm will be held during class time. The final exam will be cumulative and held during finals week.

Participation – 10%
• Active participation includes frequent contribution to class discussion, completing smaller assignments in the classroom or in groups, etc. You will be expected to both attend class and participate in the discussion with regularity. You will be evaluated on the quality (not only quantity) of your contribution. Your participation grade may also include short homework assignments or in class exercises. You will also be expected to take part in the required field trip to the “Art of Video Games” exhibit.

Extra Credit
• There will be several announced extra credit opportunities during the semester that will encourage students to engage with course content and concepts in new contexts.



Course Policies:

(most are boilerplate - here's one of potential interest, though)

Mature Content: Some of the assigned games carry an “M” rating, which indicates that “Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.” Students who are concerned that they may find some of this material so distressing as to hamper their success in the course are encouraged to speak to the professor about said content and about the possibility of acquiring alternate materials.



Tentative Schedule

Week 1
Tuesday, August 27
Course Intro: Why Study Video Games?

Thursday, August 29
An Overview of Game Studies
Required Reading: “Introduction”
Required Playing: two of classmates’ favorite games (from Tuesday’s exercise)
Suggested Additional Playing: two more of classmates’ favorite games (from Monday’s exercise)

Week 2
Tuesday, September 3
Lecture: The History of Video Games, Part 1: 1959-1984 (origins-first gen)
Required Reading: Melissinos and O’Rourke, pp.1-45
Required Playing: Spacewar!, Pong, Zork, Combat, Pitfall, Space Invaders, Pac-Man
Suggested Additional Playing: Multi User Dungeon, Donkey Kong


Thursday, September 5
Discussion: Basics of Game Design Theory
Required Reading: Bogost, pp.18-23 (“Empathy”), pp.37-44 (“Pranks”), pp.89-95 (“Relaxation”), pp125-133 (“Habituation”)
Required Playing: Darfur is Dying, Zuma, Tetris, Syobon Action, Robotron 2084
Suggested Additional Playing: Breakout, Defender, Mega Man (any), Angry Birds (any), Flow, The Legend of Zelda (any), SimCity (any), Space Harrier


Week 3
Tuesday, September 10
Discussion: Online Game Communities – Virtual Worlds
Required Reading: Shaw – “What is Video Game Culture?”
Required Playing: World of Warcraft, Second Life
Suggested Additional Playing: PlayStation Home, EverQuest, Farmville

Thursday, September 12
Guest Lecture: Researching and Preserving Virtual Environments
Required Reading: TBD by presenter

Week 4
Tuesday, September 17
Group Presentation on Controversy - Video Games and Violence
Required Reading: Bogost, pp. 134-140 (“Disinterest”)
Required Playing: Deathrace, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto III (or later)
Suggested Additional Playing: Carmageddon, Night Trap, Manhunt, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Thursday, September 19
Guest Lecture: Video Game Journalism
Required Reading: TBD by presenter

Week 5
Tuesday, September 24
Lecture: The History of Video Games, Part 2: 1984-1996 (8 and 16 bit)
Required Reading: Melissinos and O’Rourke – pp.46-95
Required Playing: Super Mario Bros game (8-bit or 16-bit), Sonic the Hedgehog game (16-bit), Samurai Shodown (any), Gradius (any from the era)
Suggested Additional Playing: Bonk’s Adventure, Starfox, Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter, Madden 1996 or earlier, NBA Jam, Killer Instinct, Alex Kidd (any)

Thursday, September 26
Guest Lecture: Video Games and Identity
Required Reading: Voorhees - TBD
Required Playing: Civilization (any), Final Fantasy (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: TBD by presenter

Week 6:
Tuesday, October 1
Research Workshop

Thursday, October 3
Lecture: Gaming Internationally: Japan
Required Reading: Galbraith – “Bishōjo Games: ‘Techno-Intimacy’ and the Virtually Human in Japan”
Required Playing: Final Fantasy VII, Crimzon Clover, Magical Diary
Suggested Additional Playing: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Phoenix Wright (any), Monster Hunter (any), Shin Megami Tensei (any), Persona (any), Umineko (any)

Week 7:
Tuesday, October 8
Lecture: Games as Interactive Fiction
Required Reading: Bogost, pp. 24-29 (“Reverence)
Required Playing: Half-Life 1 or Half-Life 2, Grim Fandango, Bioshock
Suggested Additional Playing: Metal Gear Solid (any), Beyond Good and Evil, Fallout (any), Silent Hill 1 or 2, The Last of Us, Maniac Mansion or other LucasArts SCUMM games, Ultima (any), King’s Quest (any), (any)

Thursday, October 10
Discussion: Games and Learning
Required Reading: Raphael, et. al. – “Games for Civic Learning: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research and Design”
Required Playing: Oregon Trail, Portal 2, Global Conflict (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: Typing of the Dead, PlaceSpotting

Week 8
Tuesday, October 15
Midterm Review
Thursday, October 17
Midterm Exam

Week 9
Tuesday, October 22
Discussion: The “Games as Art” Debate
Required Reading: Bogost, pp.9-17 (“Art”), pp.70-88 (“Snapshots,” “Texture”, “Kitsch”), Ebert essay and response
Required Playing: Dear Esther, Fez, Missile Command
Suggested Additional Playing: Journey, The Legend of Zelda, Flower, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Unfinished Swan

Thursday, October 24
Prepare for Field Trip: “The Art of Video Games” – Syracuse, NY

**OCTOBER 26 – Field Trip to “Art of Video Games” Exhibit in Syracuse, NY**

Week 10
Tuesday, October 29
Group Presentation on Controversy: Video Games and Sexuality – Group Presentations
Required Reading: Bogost, pp.103-109 (“Titillation”),
Required Playing: Custer’s Last Stand, Tomb Raider (any), Duke Nuke ‘Em (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: Mass Effect (any), Dragon Age (any), Heavy Rain, God of War (any), Catherine, Leisure Suit Larry (any)

Thursday, October 31
Writing Workshop

Week 11
Tuesday, November 5
Lecture: The History of Video Games, Part 3: 1997-2005 (32 bit and last gen)
Required Reading: Melissinos and O’Rourke – pp.96-156, 176-185, 194-203
Required Playing: Diablo II, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (any), Unreal Tournament
Suggested Additional Playing: Gran Turismo (any), Resident Evil 1,2,3 or 4, Tekken 1,2,3, or 4, Fable, Metal Gear Solid 1,2, or 3, Devil May Cry 1, 2, or 3, Metroid Prime (any), Super Mario 64, Shenmue (any), The Sims 1 or 2

Thursday, November 7
Discussion: Video Games and Music
Required Reading: Bogost - pp 30-36 (“Music”)
Required Playing: Beat Hazard or Audiosurf, Bastion, Sonic CD
Suggested Additional Playing: Rez, Child of Eden, Guitar Hero (any), Rock Band (any), Rhythm Heaven (any), Chrono Trigger, Castlevania (any 2D)

Week 12
Tuesday, November 12
Lecture: The Economics of Video Games
Required Reading: Bogost, pp. 64-69 (“Promotion”), pp.96-102 (“Throwaways”)
Required Playing: any “Free to Play” game

Thursday, November 14
Discussion: Competitive Gaming Culture
Required Reading: Witkowski – “On the Digital Playing Field: How We ‘‘Do Sport” With Networked Computer Games”
Required Playing: Street Fighter (any), DonPachi/DoDonPachi (any), Quake III (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: recent entries in these series: Halo, Call of Duty, Madden, NCAA Football, Battlefield, any "Vs." fighting game

Week 13
Tuesday, November 19
Lecture: Gaming Internationally: Korea
Required Reading: Jin – “Introduction”
Required Playing: Starcraft, League of Legends

Thursday, November 21
Writing Workshop

*THANKSGVING BREAK*
Week 14

Tuesday, December 3
Group Presentation on Controversy- Video Games and Race
Required Reading: Higgin –“Video Games as Critical Race Pedagogy” and Everett and Watkins – “The Power of Play: The Portrayal of Performance and Race in Video Games”
Required Playing: Muslim Massacre, Ethnic Cleansing, Saints Row: The Third: Initiation Station
Suggested Additional Playing: Resident Evil 5, Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 2 or 3, Saints Row (any), Grand Theft Auto (any)

Thursday, December 5
Lecture: The History of Video Games, Part 4: 2005-present
Required Reading: Melissinos and O’Rourke – pp.158-177, 186-195, 204-213
Required Playing: Minecraft, Limbo, Borderlands (any), Call of Duty 2 or later
Suggested Additional Playing: Wii Sports, The Walking Dead, Skyrim, Oblivion, Uncharted 2, Super Mario Galaxy, Fallout 3, Little Big Planet (any)

FINAL EXAM


^I tried to pick games that fit the topics and/or readings, that were easily accessible in some way via PC, that were low-cost (or had demos), and that could be played on most modern computers. There are probably twice as many "recommended" games that, like these required ones, line up to weekly topics but are more spread out across a wider variety of consoles and generations.

Game availability chart. "BOLT" means the game or demo will be on a course web resource: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc ... sp=sharing

I'll share more once the class gets going. I'm really looking forward to this course - hopefully it will become a regular annual offering (which seems likely). If you have thoughts or questions, please chime in!
Last edited by dsheinem on Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:44 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by noiseredux Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:26 am

this is awesome Dave!

I haven't read that Bogost book yet, but really should.

Controversy: Video Games and Sexuality


^where's the Required Game to be Played for that week?
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by dsheinem Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:30 am

noiseredux wrote:this is awesome Dave!

I haven't read that Bogost book yet, but really should.

Controversy: Video Games and Sexuality


^where's the Required Game to be Played for that week?


Required Playing: Custer’s Last Stand, Tomb Raider, Duke Nuke ‘Em (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: Mass Effect (any), Dragon Age (any), Heavy Rain, God of War (any), Catherine
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by alienjesus Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:37 am

Is this course only about video games and their impact on culture, or does stuff like the psychology of play come into it too? Will you be looking at how gaming changes perceptions of space too?

I know I tied lots of early development psychology, ludology and space theory to my media degree regarding games, and it was very interesting to see how gaming and play factored into those topics. Of course, they might not be suited to this type of , although the psychology section could come into the learning topic on your list that I see.

This sounds pretty interesting, I'll be sure to keep following this thread. My final dissertation was about gender issues regarding hypermasculinity in video games, and I did another big essay on how portable games and other portable media devices redefine domestic space too, so I look forward to seeing what this course explores too 8)


P.S I would like to see which required games match up with which week!
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by noiseredux Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:45 am

dsheinem wrote:Required Playing:


Custer’s Last Stand, - derp, how did I miss that?
Tomb Raider, - yeah interesting probably. First one? New one? (Maybe bring Metroid into the same conversation?)
Duke Nuke ‘Em (any) - ah yeah, I was thinking of Duke as more stupid violence. But yeah was kind of spacing on the strip clubs and all.

Suggested Additional Playing:


Mass Effect (any), - no idea dude.
Dragon Age (any), - no idea guy.
Heavy Rain, - very very good choice.
God of War (any), - oh yeah!
Catherine - very very very good choice.

...Hot Coffee to be mentioned?

Anyway, would be interested in hearing (reading) some of the related stuff. I think I'd be curious as to how your students take Heavy Rain and Catherine. Heavy Rain is of course so cinematic that I think I'm curious how they'd compare/contrast the experience to a more passive film-viewing. Catherine on the other hand, I think a lot of the game's story is going to depend on your age. I mean, I think the target market is "about 30" and I'm assuming your students are younger than that.

alienjesus wrote:P.S I would like to see which required games match up with which week!


^This. I'd find that list a lot more interesting if I understood it more as a syllabus.
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by dsheinem Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:53 am

noiseredux wrote:
dsheinem wrote:Required Playing:


Custer’s Last Stand, - derp, how did I miss that?
Tomb Raider, - yeah interesting probably. First one? New one? (Maybe bring Metroid into the same conversation?)
Duke Nuke ‘Em (any) - ah yeah, I was thinking of Duke as more stupid violence. But yeah was kind of spacing on the strip clubs and all.

Suggested Additional Playing:


Mass Effect (any), - no idea dude.
Dragon Age (any), - no idea guy.
Heavy Rain, - very very good choice.
God of War (any), - oh yeah!
Catherine - very very very good choice.

...Hot Coffee to be mentioned?

Anyway, would be interested in hearing (reading) some of the related stuff. I think I'd be curious as to how your students take Heavy Rain and Catherine. Heavy Rain is of course so cinematic that I think I'm curious how they'd compare/contrast the experience to a more passive film-viewing. Catherine on the other hand, I think a lot of the game's story is going to depend on your age. I mean, I think the target market is "about 30" and I'm assuming your students are younger than that.

alienjesus wrote:P.S I would like to see which required games match up with which week!


^This. I'd find that list a lot more interesting if I understood it more as a syllabus.


Ok, OP updated accordingly. Some of the games aren't finalized (especially the "recommended" games) and there are some questions and TBDs and what not in the week to week schedule. But, if you wanted to see it in its early/raw thinking, here it is....

AJ, I don't yet know how far I will get into the stuff you mentioned. I have to be careful to mitigate my enthusiasm/ depth of interest with the fact that this is an introductory course for new students that has goals that exceed simply learning about all aspects of the subject.
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by Ack Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:22 am

So how will the games be made available to students to play? Some I can understand via emulation, but will they be given access to things like a free WoW account for that particular week?

Also, a couple of thoughts:

Week 9

Tuesday, October 22
Controversy: Video Games and Sexuality – Group Presentations
Required Reading: Bogost, pp.103-109 (“Titillation”),
Required Playing: Custer’s Last Stand, Tomb Raider, Duke Nuke ‘Em (any)
Suggested Additional Playing: Mass Effect (any), Dragon Age (any), Heavy Rain, God of War (any), Catherine


I would amend that Duke Nukem suggestion a bit to be anything from Duke Nukem 3D and after. The earlier games don't feature the rampant sexism of the post-3D entries.

Thursday, October 10
Discussion: Games and Learning
Required Reading:
Required Playing: Oregon Trail, Portal 2
Suggested Additional Playing:


If this is focusing on educational games (the title hints at that), I'd also suggest Math Blaster, Reader Rabbit, and even the likes of Battlezone and America's Army to cover how the military uses video games for education purposes.

Thursday, October 17
Retro Gaming Culture
Required Reading:
Required Playing:
Suggested Additional Playing:


This is an interesting one. You've left it suspiciously blank!
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by brunoafh Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:25 am

Very cool, I will be following the thread as well. Just some quick comments that I can't keep to myself haha, and that I would have to speak up with if I was actually taking the class.

The History of Video Games, Part 2: 1984-1996 (8 and 16 bit)
Required Playing: Samurai Shodown (any)

I like Samurai Shodown as much as the next guy, but for what reason would you consider this to be more relevant to the history of 16-bit gaming than Street Fighter II? Street Fighter II paved the way for the entire genre as we know it today. Not that I'm telling you anything you don't know, this just stuck out as a weird inclusion over SF II. It seems weird among the other games here that are very much landmark games in their genres.

Games as Interactive Fiction
Suggested Additional Playing: Metal Gear Solid

The original MGS contributed more to the medium as a platform for interactive fiction than the Half Life games. HL is good but I can't see it being put over MGS, or even Silent Hill for that matter, as far as landmarks in story telling in video games go and historical relevance. Maybe I'm taking the Interactive Fiction term wrong.

Video Games and Sexuality – Group Presentations
Duke Nuke ‘Em (any)

You might want to change this to "any past Duke Nukem 3D", the DOS games aren't heavy on sexuality.
edit Ack beat me to it

Video Games and Music

I can't help but feel like Mega Man belongs here. The music of MM is nothing short of legendary among gamers and has spawned possibly as many tribute albums as Final Fantasy (which also may belong here). And along that line of thought, perhaps it would be cool to talk about composers a bit, as they really are a huge part of the medium. From the required playing I get the idea that you are mainly getting at how music can can be the focus of the gameplay, but the inclusion of Chrono Trigger and Castlevania is what put me on that line of thought.

Also I kind of think Bust a Groove deserves mention, but yeah it's too dated, bizarre, difficult, and expensive haha.
Last edited by brunoafh on Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by Ack Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:27 am

brunoafh wrote:
The History of Video Games, Part 2: 1984-1996 (8 and 16 bit)
Required Playing: Samurai Shodown (any)

I like Samurai Shodown as much as the next guy, but for what reason would you consider this to be more relevant to the history of 16-bit gaming than Street Fighter II? Street Fighter II paved the way for the entire genre as we know it today. Not that I'm telling you anything you don't know, this just stuck out as a weird inclusion over SF II. It seems weird among the other games here that are very much landmark games in their genres.


I was also wondering about this, but the Street Fighter series gets called out under his competitive gaming headline. That said, some of the other successful fighting series of the time might work: Mortal Kombat and Fatal Fury.
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Re: My course: "The Art, History, and Culture of Video Games

by noiseredux Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:29 am

he already put Mortal Kombat in the violence section. But King of Fighters beats the crap out of Fatal Fury and Samurai Shodown.
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