VISST 300 11 Game On. Introduction to Visual Studies
California College of the Arts
Instructor: Matteo Bittanti, Ph.D.
Introduction to the Arts, Introduction to the Modern Arts, 3 units VISST-200
Location and time
B Building, B2, CCA Oakland - Tuesday, 12 - 3 pm
1. Course Description
This course focuses on the artistic and socio-cultural impact of videogames. We will examine the design, production, consumption, and aesthetic implications of interactive entertainment.
The topics that we will investigate this semester include (but are not limited to):
- What is the role of gaming in society?
- What makes a videogame different or similar to existing forms of play?
- How are videogames used as part of storytelling?
- In what social contexts are games played?
- How do issues of gender, race and sexuality play out in gaming culture?
- Can games be considered art? What is the relationship between contemporary art and gaming?
Through a series of critical readings, case studies, and group discussions, we will attempt to answer these questions and consider what role games play in our understanding of visual culture. In addition to essays included in books, edited anthologies, and online publications, the course content will be supplemented by in-class discussion of influential games. Students should come away from the course with an understanding of the evolution of this medium, as well as insights into design, and socio-cultural impacts of interactive entertainment. Students will develop the ability to recognize and suggest connections between the medium of the videogame and the broader field of visual studies.
Game On is not...
- …a game design course, i.e. you will not learn how to become a game designer (although you will understand some of the features of game design)
- …a course on the history of digital games – although historical developments will be discussed, Game On will offer a thematic rather than chronological approach to videogames
- Just because we will be talking about games, do not assume that this is an “easy class” – quite the contrary
- Most of the essays will be available on the class blog...
- …However, the course material is quite intense and heavy: please prepare for lectures by completing the reading assignments by the date listed in the schedule of lectures
- The reading load will soon become a burden if you do not keep up
2. Required Textbook and Class Blog
James Newman, Playing With Videogames, London, Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237 [Amazon]
Additional essays/articles – both required and optional – will be available on a weekly basis on a password-protected class blog. Please, do not share your password with anybody
3. Written Assignments and Projects
For Game On, students are required to submit four kinds of written assignments:
- Weekly Written Responses to the Readings (1 page minimum)
- Proposals for both the Mid-Term and Final Project
- Mid-Term project (4-5 page paper)
- Final project (10-15 page paper)
3.1 Weekly Assignments (digital only)
Students are required to contribute to the online discussion that supplements in-class participation. Such contribution will take the form of written weekly entries to the Game On blog.
Each contribution will consist of a weekly posting of 1 page minimum (at least 500 words) reflecting thoughtfully and critically upon the weekly assignment. That is: students' analyses should make full use of the concepts and ideas expressed in the readings. In other words, mere evaluative comments (e.g. “I like this”, “I think it’s boring”) based on personal opinion are highly discouraged.
Moreover, the posting should not be a summary of the reading. Rather you should use this opportunity to construct a solid, convincing argument closely related to the topics explored and discussed in class.
Written assignments must be submitted as .DOC or .RFT attachments (no .PDF) please via email to the instructor each Sunday by midnight in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations, if available) formatted according to a writing manual of style. Late submission will receive a lower score.
All contributions will be posted and the blog to encourage transparency and to foster dialogue and exchange of ideas.
Evaluation: Your weekly written contributions will not receive individual letter grades. Each submission will be given one of the following grades:
- √+ [above average]
- √ [average]
- √- [below average]
- I [incomplete/late/missing]
At the end of the semester, each student receives one letter grade for the "cinematic notes" as a whole.
Any student who receives an "I" grade for more than three submissions (and has no legitimate medical excuse) fails this assignment for the entire semester.
The blog plays a central role in this class. Participation does not end in the classroom.
3.2 Mid-Term Project: "My Gaming Experience(s)" Presentation & Paper (both digital and printed copy required)
Each student is required to produce a 4-5 page paper and a presentation on their gaming experience. Written in first-person and with a personal style, this self-portrait should include aspects of gaming culture (artworks, images, videos etc.) that define(d) your personal gaming history. Your paper/project should answer these three key questions:
- Who are you, as a gamer?
- How do games define your sense of identity?
- What role do games play in you life?
This self-portrait can take the form of a collage, book, webpage, video, infographics, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
- Write a two-page written explanation of your project. This writing should describe the logic behind your gaming profile. Proposal due by Sunday Oct 3 2010 by midnight. Send the contributions to the instructor as a .DOC or .RFT attachments (no .PDF) please.
- Each student will bring in their "gaming experience" paper and a give a 5-minute presentation of it in class. If the work is a collage of digital images, video, or a website, students must email the image or website link to the professor at least 24 hours before class presentation. No make-up presentations.
- Students will submit a printed hard copy of paper and presentation AND copies of the paper and presentation burned on disc (CD-ROM or DVD) with their name. October 19 2010 @ noon. Late submissions will be penalized per day.
3.3 Final Project (both digital and printed copy required)
The final project consists in a written essay on any topic related to the course themes. This essay should include aspects of gaming culture (performance, hacking, Game Art, fandom, etc.) that you find compelling, exciting, frustrating or provocative—aspects of gaming culture that you feel help inform, constitute, or dispute your values and ideas on gaming, art, culture, and meaning. The essay should be supplemented by other audiovisual texts, such as collage, book, website, video, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
The essay should be 10-15 page long and should be critical in nature, that is, analytical and interpretative and not merely descriptive. This writing should analyze a gaming culture artifact or artifacts using the essays read and discussed in class as a starting point for a poignant investigation. The quality of your writing is important, so write clearly and cogently.
It is required that you provide a bibliography of print and electronic materials and cite them appropriately. Include URLs and titles for websites. Note any interviews or other sources. In other words, be sure to treat this as a research paper. FYI, here is some guidance on "Using Primary Sources on the Web": http://www.lib.washington.edu/subject/History/RUSA/.
Important note: Without getting into a big discussion, I would discourage you generally from using Wikipedia or any other encyclopedia articles without authorship attribution; however, Wikipedia serves a purpose by addressing many neglected topics in areas such as cutting-edge technology or popular culture (i.e., videogames) and, in particular, often provides good guidance to sources for further investigation of these topics. Also, you may find wikipedia -- or any websites for that matter -- useful as primary sources or as a source of data such as publication dates or the like. When in doubt, look for corroborating sources.
A few hints for the paper:
1. Identify your topic clearly in the introduction. Briefly sketch your topic and inform the reader how you intend to organize your presentation and exposition.
2. Why is this topic significant? How is it related to readings, discussions or class sessions in this course.
3. The conclusion should reiterate the significance of your topic. It also provides an opportunity to speculate a little; how might what you learned lead to further work, a revision of previous research by others, a new theoretical take, or whatever you have in mind.
Deadlines and Important Dates: The topic of the paper should be cleared with the instructor in advance. A proposal should be submitted by November 9 2010 by noon. Students must submit a one page proposal that provides a detailed description of the final project and outlines plans for research as well as relevant questions and concerns. Like any solid proposal (for a grant or exhibition), this proposal should be persuasive and demonstrate why this project is innovative, compelling and worth pursuing. There is a “no-delay policy” for the submission of the proposal.
The proposal consists of: - a two page abstract an essential bibliography
On November 30 2010 we will have an in-class Final Project Workshop and Individual Meetings. Please, bring drafts of final project for in-class discussion, workshop, meetings, and exchange. Students will present their rough drafts in seminar and get critical feedback from the instructor and the class.
The final paper must be submitted by December 14 2010 @ noon. The essay should be submitted as a .DOC or .RTF file (no .PDF, please) and on printed paper, brevi manu. Late submissions will be penalized with a lower grade. Please, be punctual!
The goal is for you all to work in towards the final paper over the last 3-4 weeks of the quarter. Bottom line: No last-minute papers, no all-nighters!
The paper must be complemented with a 10-15-minute presentation in-class oral presentation. The presentation should not be a mere summary of the written essay: students could use a video montage, PowerPoint slides, multimedia shows or other presentation tools for their project. NO make-up presentations.
Above all, be creative!
3.4 Project Evaluation Criteria
The mid-term papers and the final projects will be evaluated on the following criteria: thorough research; clear, logical, and original arguments; critical and creative analysis of visual material supported by visual examples; serious effort, preparation, and engagement in the subject matter. The written component of the projects must be handed in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes or endnotes, full bibliography, illustrations) formatted according to the CCA writing manual of style. For additional information about the assessment criteria, please consult the Visual Studies Assessment Guideline.
The final grade for the course will be determined by evaluation in the following areas:
1. Attendance and Participation 20%
2. Weekly Assignment 20%
3. Mid-Term Presentation & Paper 25%
4. Project Proposals 5%
5. Final Research Paper/Creative Project 30%
Students are expected to read all assigned texts and be prepared to discuss them in class. All papers, assignments, presentations, and final projects must be completed on time and in full. Written assignments must be submitted by email the instructor no later than each Monday at noon in typed, double-spaced, and spell-checked with complete references (footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations) formatted according to a writing manual of style. There will be no make-up presentations.
There will be a penalty that may be equivalent to one-half letter grade per day for any work submitted late. Attendance is mandatory. Each absence may result in a penalty that may be equivalent to the lowering of the final grade by one-half letter grade per absence. In other words, absences can drastically affect your final grade in a negative manner. Students who are habitually late or absent from four or more classes will receive a grade of C or lower.
5. Class Policies
Attendance is mandatory. Students are required to attend the full length of all classes, turn in all assignments, and participate in weekly discussions. Students are responsible for obtaining all hand-outs, information, and notes provided in class.
Each unexcused absence will result in a penalty that may be equivalent to the lowering of the final grade by one-half letter grade per absence. There are no make-up presentations or quizzes. Three tardy arrivals (10 minutes after class begins) will equal one absence. Students who are habitually late or absent from three or more classes will receive a failing grade.
If more than one class is missed due to illness you must submit written verification from a physician and notify professor via e-mail or in writing immediately. Written medical documents must be submitted within two weeks of an absence. During class, turn off cell phones, etc.
Computers may only be used for in-class presentations.
Web surfing, emailing during class is unacceptable.
No texting. Phones must be switched off. Please wait for the break.
No eating in class.
(For more information, see the official CCA integrity code)
The reputation of a university and the value of its degrees rest upon the study and research carried on at that institution. The policy for maintaining academic honesty is:
A. Each student is responsible for performing academic tasks in such a way that honesty is not in question.
B. Unless an exception is specifically defined by an instructor, students are expected to maintain the following standards of integrity:
1. All tests, term papers, oral and written assignments are to be the work of the student presenting the material for course credit.
2. Any paraphrase, quotation, or summary (that is, any use of words, ideas, or findings of other persons, writers, or researchers) requires explicit citation of the source.
3. Deliberately supplying material to another student for purposes of plagiarism (to take and pass off as one's own ideas, writings, or work of another) is dishonest.
6. Academic Honesty
C. Each instructor is responsible for a learning environment supportive of academic honesty.
1. If a faculty member has reason to suspect academic dishonesty in or out of class, the faculty member should require additional and/or revised work that is unquestionably the work of the student.
2. A faculty member who has proof that academic honesty has been violated should take appropriate disciplinary action, which may include refusal of course credit.
3. A faculty member shall bring to the attention of the Vice President, Academic Affairs, all violations of academic honesty. The Vice President may place on probation, suspend, or expel any student who violates the policy on academic honesty.
This schedule is tentative and may change as needed
Links, audiovisual material, and additional texts will be added on the blog on a weekly basis
Schedule & Readings
WEEK #1 September 7, 2010
What is Game On? A Tutorial
Course overview and requirements
WEEK #2 September 14, 2010
How do we talk about videogames?
- Talking About Videogames" in James Newman, Playing With Videogames, London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 21-46
- D.B. Weiss, Lucky Wander Boy, London: Plume, 2003. 1-42.
- Erik Van Pelt, “How Killing People With My Dad Improved Our Relationship”, GamaSutra, 2004.
- Clive Thompson "You Grew Up Playing Shoot'em-Up Games. Why Can't Your Kids?",Wired, April 2007.
- Kieron Gillen, "The New Games Journalism", March 23, 2004 + "Bow, Nigger", by Always Black, 2004.
WEEK #3 September 21, 2010
Games Between Story and Space
- "Videogames and/as stories" in James Newman, Playing With Videogames, London, Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 46-69.
- Mary Fuller and Henry Jenkins, “Nintendo® and New World Travel Writing: A Dialogue”,in Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community, ed. Steven G. Jones (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1995): 57-72.
- Geoff King & Tanya Krzywinska, "Gamescapes: Exploration and Virtual Presence in Game-Worlds", in Tomb Raiders & Space Invaders. Videogame Forms & Contexts, New York: I.B. Tauris. 76-122.
- Michael Nitsche, "Story Maps", in Video Game Spaces. Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Worlds, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. 227-232.
WEEK #4 September 28. 2010
- James Newman, "Things to make and do: fanart, music, and cosplay" Playing With Videogames, London, Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 69-89
- Charles Paulk, “Signifying Play: The Sims and the Sociology of Interior Design", Game Studies, volume 6 issue 1 December 2006.
- Olli Sotamaa, “Let Me Take You to The Movies: Productive Players, Commodification, and Transformative Play”, Convergence, 13:4, 2007, 383-401.
- Talmadge Wright, Eric Boria and Paul Breidenbach, “Creative Player Actions in FPS Online Video Games Playing Counter-Strike”, Game Studies, volume 2, issue 2, 2002
WEEK #5 October 5, 2010
Making Your Way Through (and Around) A Game
- James Newman, "Game guides, walkthroughs and FAQs" in Playing With Videogames, London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 89 - 122
- "To Cheat or not to Cheat. Is that even a question?" in Mia Consalvo, Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. 1-13
- "A Techno-Semiotic Approach to Cheating in Computer Games. Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Machine" by Julian Kücklich, Games and Culture, Vol. 4, No. 2, 158-169 (2009)
Mid-Term Paper Proposal Due Sunday Sept 27 by midnight: 1-2 page about your "gaming experiences"
WEEK #6 October 12, 2010
Gaming as Performance
- James Newman, "Superplay, sequence breaking and speedrunning" in Playing With Videogames, London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 123 -148
- Gillian Andrews "Land of a Couple of Dances: Global and Local Influences on Freestyle Play inDance Dance Revolution", Fibreculture, no. 8, 2006.
- Kiri Miller,"The Accidental Carjack: Ethnography, Gameworld Tourism, and Grand Theft Auto", Game Studies, volume 8 issue 1, September 2008
- Bryan G. Behrenshausen, Toward a (Kin)Aesthetic of Video Gaming: The Case of Dance Dance Revolution, Games and Culture 2007 2: 335-354
WEEK #7 October 19, 2010
My Gaming Experience(s): Presentations
Mid-Term Paper Due at noon: "My Gaming Experience(s)".
- Hector Postigigo, Of Mods and Modders: Chasing Down the Value of Fan-Based Digital Game Modifications, Games and Culture 2007 2: 300-313.
- David Kushner, "Machinima's Movie Moguls", IEEE Spectrum, July 2008.
WEEK #8 October26, 2010
- "Codemining, modding and gamemaking" in James Newman, Playing With Videogames, London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 149 - 179
- Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy, "Interventions and Recuperations?" in Game Cultures. Computer Games as New Media". New York: McGraw-Hill. 2006. 123-143
- Henry Lowood, "Found Technology: Players as Innovators in the Making of Machinima," in Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected, Tara McPherson (Ed.), Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2007. 165-196.
WEEK #9 November 2, 2010
Game Art, Art Games (1 of 2)
- Matteo Bittanti, “Game Art. This is not a Manifesto. This is a Disclaimer”, in GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames. Milan: Johan&Levi, 2006. 1-17
- Domenico Quaranta, “Videogame Aesthetics”, inGameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames. Milan: Johan&Levi, 2006. 1-17
- Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn, “Realtime Art Manifesto”, 2006
WEEK #10 November 9, 2010
Game Art, Art Games (2 of 2)
- Mary Flanagan, "Critical Computer Games" in Critical Play. Radical Game Design, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. p. 223-249 + Introduction
- Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito, "Deep Play", in At the EDGE of Art, London: Thames Book, 2006. p. 57-93.
- Matteo Bittanti, Claudio Tradardi, "ObamAds", Mattscape, 2009. [see website's page]
Final paper proposal due at noon
WEEK #11 November 16, 2010
"Only a Game?" The Politics of Race in Digital Games
- Samantha Blackmon with Daniel J. Terrell "Racing toward Representation: An Understanding of Racial Representation in Video Games". in Cynthia L. Selfe and Gail E. Hawisher, Gaming Lives in the Twenty-First Century, New York: Palgrave McMillian. 2007. 203-215.
- Anna Everett, S. Craig Watkins, "The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games", in Katie Salen (Ed.), The Ecology of Games. Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, Cambridge: MIT Press. 141-165
- Phi, Thien-bao Thuc. "Game over: Asian Americans and video game representation". Transformative Works and Cultures, 2009. no. 2.
- Ben DeVane and Kurt D. Squire, The Meaning of Race and Violence in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , Games and Culture 2008 3: 264-285.
- Tanner Higgin, Blackless Fantasy: The Disappearance of Race in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, Games and Culture 2009 4: 3-26.
WEEK #12 November 23, 2010
Games of War/WarGames
- Randy Nichols, "Target Acquired: America's Army and the Video Games Industry", in Nina B. Huntemann (Ed.), Matthew Thomas Payne (Ed.), Joystick Soldiers. The Politics of Play in Military Video Games, New York: Routledge. 2009. 39-53.
- Ed Halter, "On the Home Front. Commercial Games and Artistic Interventions", in From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games; New York: Thunder' Mouth Press, 2004. 239 - 287.
- Mark L. Sample, "Virtual Torture: Videogames and the War on Terror", GameStudies. volume 8 issue 2. December 2008
Eva Kingsepp, "Fighting Hyperreality With Hyperreality: History and Death in World War II Digital Games", Games and Culture 2007 2: 366-375)
WEEK #13 November 30, 2010
In-Class Final Project Workshop and Individual Meetings
Due: Bring drafts of final project for in-class discussion, workshop, meetings, and exchange
WEEK #14 December 7, 2010
Final Project Presentations (1 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations
WEEK #15 December 14, 2010
Final Project Presentations (2 of 2)
Students are required to attend all final presentations
Due: All Final Projects and Papers (email and/or hardcopies with CD-ROM) on Tuesday December 14 2010 at noon.
CCA student Cory Lico Wollfs performs Mario Bros Theme Song with Electric Vioin