Daily Archives: August 29, 2008

Videogame Ethnography Class Syllabus

The semester here at IUK has started and, with the exception of food poisoning, things have been going pretty well. I thought I might as well post my syllabus for the gaming class I’m teaching in case any one care.

The class is actually in a computer lab which is nice so that we can play games. Because my diss is about FPS games we are going to be playing FPS games in class. Valve has a special educational program that seems to be designed for game design classes because it gives access to the editors but it also gives students access to all the Half-Life 2 games including CS and TF2.

Because it is ethnographic in focus each week the students have a journal due which is just a one to two page reflection on their playing. It is especially interesting to watch the students that have never played a computer FPS try to navigate through the game. Eventually I hope we will be able to play TF2 in class to get some comparison between single and multiplayer gaming.

So here’s the syllabus:

  topic Assignments due that day
Tues Aug 26 Class intro
Will introduce course concepts and assignments. Topic: What is a game‌
What is ethnography‌
Begins an introduction of the concept of ethnography and the notion of participant observation.
Thurs Aug 28 Description
In class exercise on thick description and observation. describing versus telling involving the senses in the writing self-reflection
Horace Miner "Body Ritual among the Nacirema"
Pat Hughes "The Sacred Rac"

Boellstorff, Tom. "A Ludicrous Discipline‌ Ethnography and Game Studies." Games and Culture 1.1 (2006): 29-35.

For a background on the games we will be playing, also read:

Play Zork. available at http://www.inthe70s.com/games/adventure/zork.shtml

Tues Sep 2 Thick Description Geertz, Thick Description
Gamespot history of video games, read up until 1992 and skim the rest http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/video/hov/index.html
Pong story main page, http://www.pong-story.com/intro.htm

William Higinbotham article http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/history/higinbotham.asp

Play Spacewar http://spacewar.oversigma.com/

Videogame Explosion intro and part 1 pages xiii-28

Thurs Sep 4 Videogame History
Starting with the notion of "first" videogame we will examine the notions of building a canon of videogame landmarks. Who gets to be "first" and why‌ We will also examine the notion of what is a game, and what is a videogame.
Videogame Explosion part 2 p. 29-66, 75-80, 91-98, 103-106

Williams, Dmitri. "Why Game Studies Now‌ Gamers Don’t Bowl Alone." Games and Culture 1.1 (2006): 13-16.

Tues Sep 9 Videogame history 2
Videogame advertising through the ages will be discussed as wil the notions of building of an audience. Comparisons between early games and current games will be made and the reasons behind the changes will be discussed.
Game Over chapters 1-5
Thur Sep 11 Tetris and Casual Games
Play Tetris and go to games.yahoo.com and play a couple puzzle games.
Videogame Explosion 107-126, 151-193, 203-228

Watch Tetris – From Russia With Love — available on course website or bring a blank dvd and I will copy it for you.

Tues Sep 16 Test 1
Test one will be designed not only to ensure that students have a basic grasp of the history of videogames, as well as an understanding of ethnography. Moreover, the test will be intended to see if students are able to interrogate the process of canon creation and why the technological developments are of significance. Test format will consist of ten short answer and three essay questions.
Thur Sep 18 Game Studies — preliminary concepts
Now that we have established a common ground, we will move into the theories that make up game studies. Starting with Poole’s Trigger Happy, we will begin to explore soem of the fundamental concepts of videogame studies and explore issues of medium specificity.
Poole, Steven. Trigger Happy : Videogames and the Entertainment
Revolution. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Arcade Pub., 2000. Chapters 1, 3,
and 4.

"Are Games Art‌" Kuro5hin.org. Sep 10, 2002 http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/9/10/72851/0039
Read the main story and a few of the longer comments. Look for the commonalities among the responses.

Young, Bryan-Mitchell. "Why Does it Matter If They are Art‌" http://popularculturegaming.com/archives/000023.html

Tues Sep 23 Continuing introductory concepts Poole, Steven. Trigger Happy : Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Arcade Pub., 2000. Chapters 5, 6, 8-10.
Thur Sep 25 Mods, Makers, and Movies
Discussing fandom and modding. Looking at videogames as a participatory medium. What is the role of the player and how does the community play a role in the popularity of videogames‌
Jenkins, Textual Poachers (selections).

Raessens, “Computer Games as Participatory Media Culture.” In: J. Raessens and J. Goldstein (eds). Handbook of Computer Game Studies. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press

Olli Sotamaa, "Computer Game Modding, Intermediality and Participatory Culture." http://old.imv.au.dk/eng/academic/pdf_files/Sotamaa.pdf

Morris, S. (2003). WADs, Bots and Mods: Multiplayer FPS Games as Co-creative Media. Level Up Conference Proceedings. Utrecht, University of Utrecht.

Tues Sep 30 Defining Games, Defining Fun
Today we will discuss exactly what a game is and what fun is. We will attempt to gain an understanding of the concepts and develop a way of talking about these concepts in a scholarly fashion.
Pearce, C. (2004). Towards a game Theory of Game. First person: new media as story, performance, and game. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press: 143-153.

Juul, J. (2003). The game, the player, the world: looking for a heart of gameness. Level Up Conference Proceedings, Utrecht, University of Utrecht.

Thur Oct 2 Defining Games, Defining Game Studies
Continuing the defining of games. Begins to think about the foundational issues of game studies such as ludology vs. narratology.
Understanding Videogames chapter 6, 7

Eskelinen, M. (2004). Towards Computer Game Studies. First person: new media as story, performance, and game. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press: 36-44.

Tues Oct 7 Ludology vs. Narratology Frasca, G. (2003). Ludologists love stories, too: notes from a debate that never took place. Level Up Conference Proceedings. Utrecht, University of Utrecht.

King, G. and T. Krzywinska (2002). Computer Games / Cinema / Interfaces. Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings. Tampere, Tampere University Press.

Thur Oct 9 Ludology vs. Narratology 2 Moulthrop, S. (2004). From Work to Play: Molecular Culture in the Time of Deadly Games. First person: new media as story, performance, and game. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press: 56-69.

Zimmerman, E. (2004). Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four Naughty Concepts in Need of Discipline. First person: new media as story, performance, and game. N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press: 154-164.

Tues Oct 14 Gender
Today’s class will focus on depictions of men and women within videogames.
Schleiner, Anne-Marie. "Female-Bobs arrive at Dusk." http://www.opensorcery.net/Femalebob2.html

Henry Jenkins, "’Complete Freedom of Movement’: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces." Available here: http://web.mit.edu/21fms/www/faculty/henry3/pub/complete.html.
Orig. published as pp. 262-297 in From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, eds. Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998).

Thur Oct 16 Lara Croft
Today we will discuss the phenomenon of Tomb Raider and the appeals of the Lara Croft character. Is she a feminist‌ Or is she just a doll for men to control‌ (Or can she be both‌)
Schleiner, Anne-Marie "Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons‌ Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games." Leonardo – Volume 34, Number 3, June 2001, pp. 221-226 ( available at http://www.opensorcery.net/lara2.html or www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/002409401750286976)

Kennedy, Helen W. " Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo‌: On the Limits of Textual Analysis." Game Studies. 2(2): 2002. http://www.gamestudies.org/0202/kennedy/

Thompson, Clive. "How Lara Croft Steals Hearts." Wired. April 24, 2006. May 18

Tues Oct 21 Women –"Girl Games"
Last class discussed gender within games. Today will will begin to discuss the gender of those who actually play the gamesdiscuss games that attempt to market themselves towards women and some possible explanations why few women play videogames..
Rebecca L. Eisenberg, "Girl Games: Adventures in Lip Gloss." Orig. published in Ms. Magazine (Jan. 1998). Available here: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/19980213/girl_games.htm

Pinckard, Jane. "Genderplay: Successes and Failures in Character Designs for Videogames." GameGirlAdvance. April 16, 2003 http://is.gd/1Mr4

Thur Oct 23 Women Gaming Girls Case, Stevie. "Women in Gaming." Microsoft.com. January
12, 2004. May 18, 2006 . http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/games/learnmore/womeningames.mspx

Jenson, J., & de Castell, S. (June, 2005).
Her Own Boss: Gender and the Pursuit of Incompetent Play. Paper
presented at DIGRA 2005, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.
Available at www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php‌id=186

Carr, D. (June, 2005). Contexts, pleasures and preferences: girls playing computer games. Paper presented at DIGRA 2005, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Available at http://www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php‌id=50

Tues Oct 28 Men
Moving on to the men who play videogames
Krotoski, Aleks. "Masculinity and online gaming." Guardian Games Blog.
March 29 2006. May 19, 2006 .
Pay special attention to the comments at
the end.

Christensen, Natasha Chen. " Geeks at Play: Doing Masculinity in an Online Gaming Site." Reconstruction 6.1 (Winter 2006).

My article about masculinity in FPS games.

Thur Oct 30 Race Leonard, David. “Live in your World, Play in Ours”: Race, Video Games, and Consuming the Other.” Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education 3.4 (2003). http://www.utpjournals.com/jour.ihtml‌lp=simile/issue12/leonardX1.html

Dymek, M., & Lennerfors, T. (June, 2005). Among pasta-loving Mafiosos, drug-selling Columbians and noodle-eating Triads – Race, humour and interactive ethics in Grand Theft Auto III. Paper presented at DIGRA 2005, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. Available at http://www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php‌id=85

Tues Nov 4 Nationhood
Is videogames a way of expressing nationhood‌ Is there a reason why certain games are more popular in the USA and others in Japan or Europe‌
Budra, Paul Vincent. "American Justice and the First-Person Shooter" Canadian Review of American Studies. 34.1 (2004): 1-12.

Jeffords, Susan. Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1994. Chapters 1 and 2.

Thur Nov 6 Test 2
This test will be designed to make sure that we have a handle on videogame theory as a field and the issues within it. The format will be the same as the first test
Tues Nov 11 Culture Wars Adorno and Horkheimer, “Culture Industry” excerpt

Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Bourdieu, Pierre. “Distinction and The Aristocracy of Culture.” Reprinted in John Stony, ed., Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 2nd edition, Pp. 431-441. University of Georgia Press, 1998.

Thur Nov 13 Media Effects
Are videogames TEH EVAL‌!‌
Underwood, Mick. "Mass Media Effects: Introduction." June 21, 2003. May 21, 2005 .
Read through all the different theories.

Media violence statistics. http://www.ripon.edu/faculty/petersikt/Media_stuff/TVThing.html

Understanding Videogames ch. 10

Tues Nov 18 Violence
From Videogames: At Issue:

Violence in Video Games May Harm Children9
Elisa Hae-Jung Song and Jane E. Anderson

The Problem of Video Game Violence Is Exaggerated 18
Greg Costikyan

Video Games Rated Appropriate for Children May Contain Violence27
Kimberly M. Thompson and Kevin Haninger

The Video Game Industry Regulates Itself Effectively35
Douglas Lowenstein

Irvine, Ian. "A History of Videogame Violence." Gamers With Jobs. http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/24510

Thur Nov 20 Moral Panics
Won’t someone think of the children‌!‌
Thompson, Kenneth. Moral Panics. New York: Routledge, 1998. Chapters 1 and 3.

Grossman, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill (Chapter 4).

Tues Nov 25 Addiction
Can you become addicted to videogames‌
Scheeres, Julia. "The Quest to End Game Addiction." Wired. Dec, 05, 2001. http://www.wired.com/news/holidays/0,1882,48479,00.html

Watch the documentary First-Person Shooter on the course website.

Tues Dec 2 Film Games and Game Films
What does it mean for a game to be "cinematic‌" Why do nearly all the films based on videogames fail‌ Why do so many videogames based on films also fail‌
Howells, Sacha A.. "Watching a Game, Playing a Movie: When Media Collide." Eds. Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska. ScreenPlay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces. London and New York: Wallflower, 2002. 110-21.

King, Geoff. "Die Hard/Try Harder: Narrative, Spectacle and Beyond, from Hollywood to Videogame." Eds. Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska. ScreenPlay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces. London and New York: Wallflower, 2002. 50-65.

Grieb, Margit. "Run Lola, Run." Eds. Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska. ScreenPlay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces. London and New York: Wallflower, 2002. 157-171.

Thur Dec 4 Games to Teach‌
Can games teach us‌
Squire, K.D. (2005). Changing the game: What happens when videogames enter the classroom‌. Innovate 1(6).

Squire, K. (2003). Video games in education. International Journal of Intelligent Simulations and Gaming (2) 1. http://website.education.wisc.edu/kdsquire/manuscripts/IJIS.doc

Marc, Prensky. "Digital Game-Based Learning." Comput. Entertain. 1.1 (2003): 21-21. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/950566.950596

Tues Dec 9 Videogame Advertising
What about those ads‌
Young, Bryan-Mitchell. “The Appearance, Disappearance, and Reapearance in Videogame Advertising.”
Thur Dec 11 Paper discussion and review PAPER DUE
  Final During Scheduled time