This semester I am teaching two classes at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland, Game On! Introduction to Digital Game Studies (300 level class) and Eye: Openers. Introduction to Visual Studies (200 level class) as part of the Visual Studies program.Here is the syllabus for Game on, which I have been teaching since 2007:
This course focuses on the history and socio-cultural impact of videogames. We will examine the design, production, consumption, and artistic implications of interactive entertainment.
* 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 discuss these complex issues 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-class analyses of key games. Students should come away from the course with an understanding of the history 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
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 assignments. Three tardy arrivals (15 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. In class policy: Please turn off your cellular phones. Computers may only be used for in-class presentations. Web surfing or emailing during class is not acceptable.
Required Textbook and Class Blog
a) James Newman, Playing With Videogames, London, Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237
Additional essays/texts – both required and optional – will be available on a weekly basis on the password-protected class blog.
Written Assignments and Projects
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)
1. Weekly Assignments
Students will be required to contribute to the online discussion that supplements in-class participation. Such contribution will take the form of weekly entries to the Game On blog.
Each contribution will consist of a weekly posting of 1 page minimum (at least 500 words) to be submitted each Sunday @ midnight reflecting thoughtfully and critically upon the weekly assignment. That is: students' analysis 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 by email to the instructor no later than Sundays at 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. Your blog contributions will be graded on the quality of content, cleverness, and imagination displayed in your commentary. Links to other sources and contextual information will be highly appreciated.
The blog will be a central feature of this class. Participation does not end in the classroom.
- Contributions to the Game On blog are at least 500-word long.
- Contributions are due each Sunday by midnight
- Please send them via e-mail to Matteo Bittanti preferably as .DOC or .RTF attachments.
- Late submission will receive a lower grade.
2. Mid-Term Project: "My Gaming Experience(s)" Presentation & Paper
Each student is required to produce a 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 gamer self-portrait can take the form of a collage, book, webpage, video, infographics, or whatever else you can create and present in class.
1. Write a two-page written explanation of your project. This writing should describe the logic behind your gaming profile. Proposal due by Sept 29 @ noon.2. 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.
3. Students will submit a printed hardcopy of paper and presentation AND copies of the paper and presentation burned on disc (CD-ROM or DVD) with their name. Due Oct 13 @ noon. Late submissions will be penalized per day.
3. Final Project
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, 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. Here is some guidance on "Using Primary Sources on the Web".
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 10 2009 @ 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 17 2009 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 8 2009 @ noon. The essay should be submitted as a .DOC or .RTF file (no .PDF, please). If you wish to submit a paper copy as well, please do so before the deadline. 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!
Recap and Tips
- The final project consists in a 10-15 page essay plus an in-class presentation
- Instead of discussing multiple issues, I would recommend examining a specific topic or case study.
- Proposals should be submitted no later than November 10 via email.
- November 17: in class workshop – bring your work-in-progress material and drafts for review
- The final project should be submitted on Dec 8 2009 by noon via email (and in printed format, if you wish)
- The presentation material should be submitted in advance via email (or CD-ROM/DVD, if you prefer).
- No make-up presentations, no late papers.
Tips for students
- Be always punctual: late submission will receive lower scores
- A fruitful conversations requires an attentive reading of the texts
- Participation is key, both in-class and online
1. Students will develop a critical understanding of game studies and game culture
a. Understand the vocabulary and methods of game studies
b. Recognize the interdisciplinary nature of game studies
2. Students will develop skills for analyzing games from a visual and critical perspective
a. Critical Analysis: Use principles of visual studies to analyze videogames
b. Cultural Diversity: Develop an understanding of cultural diversity in relation to the representation of sex, gender, race in gaming
3. Students will develop projects and class presentations using principles of visual studies
a. Research: Engage in research and organize content in a clear, concise and logical manner
b. Visual Literacy: Demonstrate the ability to analyze and compare games using principles of visual studies
c. Written, Oral, Visual Communication: Present projects in a professional manner as a final paper and an oral presentation with visual images
For extra credit, students may attend CCA evening public lectures, Wattis exhibitions, or off-campus art exhibitions or art lectures related to digital gaming and write a minimum of 1200 words on each lecture or exhibition. This paper should describe the main topic of the talk and discuss questions or points of interest. Again, it should be critical, not evaluative, in nature. Students may submit up to three extra credit papers due by December 8 2009 at noon. Each student should discuss the possibility of writing an extra credit paper with the instructor well before submitting it.
Final Project Evaluation Criteria
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 following table and the blog (“evaluation criteria” page):
Final Presentations due during last two weeks of class (December 1st and 8th 2009)
Students will give 10-15-minute formal presentations of their final projects during the last two weeks of class. These presentations should include visual material and will be followed by questions and class discussion. Students are required to make appropriate arrangements for showing visual material in advance. Students are required to attend all final presentations. There will be no make-up presentations.
Reminder: Final Projects are due Tuesday December 8th 2009 at 4pm.
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 Proposal 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 to 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.Measurement of Student Performance
A 93-100 Clearly stands out as excellent performance
A- 90-92B+ 87-89
B 83-86 Grasps subject matter at a level considered to be good to very goodB- 80-82
C+ 77-79C 73-76 Demonstrates a satisfactory comprehension of the subject matter
D 60-66 Quality and quantity of work is below average, marginally acceptable
Failing 59-F Quality and quantity of work is below average and not acceptable
Policy on Academic Honesty
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.
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.
Weekly Blog Contribution: Each Sunday by midnight
Mid-term Project Submission: October 13 @ noonFinal Project Proposal: November 10 @ noon
Final Project Submission: December 8th @ noon
In-Class Presentations: December 1st and 8th (mandatory attendance for all students)
Last date to submit extra credit papers: December 8th (remember: all extra credit papers require a previous approval by the instructor)
Note: 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 1, 2009
What is Game On? A Tutorial
Course overview and requirements
WEEK #2 September 8, 2009
How do we talk about videogames?Required Reading:
- 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", personal blog, March 23, 2004 + "Bow, Nigger", by Always Black, 2004.
WEEK #3 September 15, 2009
Games Between Story and SpaceRequired Reading:
- "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 22, 2009
Creative GamingRequired Reading:
- 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", GameStudies, 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 September 29, 2009
Making Your Way Through (and Around) A GameRequired Reading:
- James Newman, "Game guides, walkthroughs and FAQs" in Playing With Videogames London: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 78-0415385237. 89 - 122
- "Gaining Advantage: How Videogame Players Define and negotiate Cheating" in Mia Consalvo, Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. 83-106
WEEK #6 October 6, 2009
Gaming as PerformanceRequired Reading:
- 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 in Dance Dance Revolution", Fibreculture, 2006.
- Kiri Miller,"The Accidental Carjack: Ethnography, Gameworld Tourism, and Grand Theft Auto", Game Studies, volume 8 issue 1, September 2008
- Bryan G. Behrenshausen, Games and Culture 2007 2: 335-354
WEEK #7 October 13, 2009
My Gaming Experience(s): Presentations
WEEK #8 October 20, 2009
Game HackingRequired Reading:
- "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.
- David Kushner, "Machinima's Movie Moguls", IEEE Spectrum, 2009.
- Hector Postigo, Games and Culture 2007 2: 300-313
WEEK #9 October 27, 2009
Game Art, Art Games (1 of 2)Required Reading
- 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
- Henry Lowood, "Jon Haddock", in GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames. Milan: Johan&Levi, 2006. 22-45
- Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn, “Realtime Art Manifesto”, Tale of Tales website, 2006
WEEK #10 November 3, 2009
Game Art, Art Games (2 of 2)Required Reading
- Mary Flanagan, "Critical Computer Games" in Critical Play. Radical Game Design, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. p. 223-249
- Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito, "Deep Play", in At the EDGE of Art, London: Thames Book, 2006. 57-93.
- Matteo Bittanti, Claudio Tradardi, "ObamAds", Mattscape, 2009.
WEEK #11 November 10, 2009
"Only a Game?" From Ethics to Race
- 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.
- Miguel Sigart, "Players as Moral Beings", in The Ethics of Computer Games, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008. 61-103Jordan Deam, "How a Board Game Can make You Cry", The Escapist magazine, April 30, 2009 [link] [flickr gallery]
- Tanner Higgin, Games and Culture 2009 4: 3-26
- Ben DeVane and Kurt D. Squire, , Games and Culture 2008 3: 264-285.
Final paper proposal due at noon
WEEK #12 November 17, 2009
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 - 334.
- Mark L. Sample, "Virtual Torture: Videogames and the War on Terror", Game Studies. volume 8 issue 2. December 2008
- Eva Kingsepp, Games and Culture 2007 2: 366-375)
WEEK #13 November 24, 2009
In-Class Final Project Workshop and Individual MeetingsDue: Bring drafts of final project for in-class discussion, workshop, meetings, and exchange
WEEK #14 December 01, 2009
Final Project Presentations (1 of 2)Students are required to attend all final presentations
WEEK #15 December 08, 2009
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 8 at noon.