Syllabus

ENG 380: New Media
video game studies

professor informationAlex Reid, Associate Professor
phone: 716-645-0691
email: areid@buffalo.edu
twitter: digitaldigs
web: alex-reid.net
course informationonline asynchronous course
credits: 3
location: eng380videogames.wordpress.com

course description
Since the appearance of the Atari 2600 video game console in 1977, video games have become an increasingly common feature of our lives. Today, we play games on our televisions through more advanced consoles, dedicated handheld devices, personal computers, and on our mobile phones. We play games online with millions of co-players, in augmented reality, and with our bodies without controllers. In other words, video games have proliferated and mutated into a vast ecology of media, interactivity, and genre. Over the last 20 years, the interdisciplinary study of video games has developed into a full-blown area of scholarly practice, including many practices with their origins in English and the humanities (as well as other methods from the social sciences, computer science, engineering, and other fields).

This online course will introduce the methods and foundational scholarship in games studies. We will play a number of games ourselves (you will not be required to purchase any specific games or devices, other than what is typically needed to participate in an online class). In addition to developing an ability to analyze and interpret video games, we will also discuss the potential social and cultural uses of video gaming beyond entertainment. Readings will include Ian Bogost’s How To Do Things With Videogames, Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, and other essays. Course work will include online discussions, reading responses, and a final research project.

course materials

  • Ian Bogost, How to Do Things With Videogames
  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel
  • Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken
  • Bonnie Nardi, My Life as a Night Elf Priest
  • Alexander Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture

assignments

class participation
This is an online class. You will participate in a regular basis. Regular participation means posting to the course blog a minimum of 25 times during the session and at least 3 times each week. These contributions can be in the form of new posts or comments on existing posts. While you will have freedom to raise topics of your own interest (related to video gaming, of course), your posts must be substantive, at least one solid paragraph (100 words+).

research blogging
By Monday, June 10th you will need to identify a research project you wish to undertake. You can work in groups or individually. In addition to the class participation blogs, you will each post 10 times on your research activity. A typical post might discuss a piece of research you’ve found.

games research
Your research project will result in a final product. If you want the product can be fairly traditional: you can write a research paper on your own. If so, you can expect to write an 8-page paper (2000 words). However, you can do a digital project or a group project (or a group digital project for that matter). I will negotiate the specific parameters of the assignment with you. For this assignment you will considering the intersection of gaming with some aspect of our culture (e.g. gaming and education, gaming and business [e.g. “gamification”], gaming and politics [“serious games”], newsgames, etc.).

videogame review (optional assignment)
Write a review of a video game of your choosing. There are many websites out there that can serve as examples. In this case, I would expect a review of approximately 1000 words.

videogame analysis (optional assignment)
Taking up one or more of the analytical concepts presented by Bogost and Galloway, you will conduct a close investigation of the gaming principles as work in a specific game of your choosing. (1000 words)

grading contract

By Monday June 2nd, you must select the contract you wish to adopt for the course. You can choose to seek to earn an A, B, or C. I reserve +/- grades to evaluate the quality of your work.

C grade (novice)
For a “C” you must complete the following requirements:

  • Class Participation
  • Research Blogging
  • Games Research

B grade (average)
For a “B” you must complete the “C” grade requirements plus one of the following:

  • Videogame review
  • Videogame analysis

A grade (expert)
For an “A” you must complete the “C” grade requirements, plus two of the following:

  • Videogame review
  • Videogame analysis
  • Games Research Plus (a 50% larger project, e.g. 3000 words rather than 2000).

course policies

contract violations

If a student fails to meet the requirements of the contract s/he has selected, the highest possible grade that can be earned is a C+. That is, if you select an “A” contract and complete only one of the optional assignments, you cannot earn a B.

Students who do not select a contract option by Friday, June 6th, will default to a “C” contract.

Students may petition to change their contract. Petitions will not be considered after Friday, June 30th.

disability services
Government regulations require that university policies, practices, and procedures not discriminate on the basis of disability. Disability Services coordinates reasonable modifications so that individuals with disabilities can access and benefit from all programs, services, and activities of the university. Please visit the Disability Services website for further information: http://www.ub-disability.buffalo.edu/.

academic dishonesty
Please familiarize yourself with the University’s Academic Integrity policy, which can be found at http://undergrad-catalog.buffalo.edu/policies/course/integrity.shtml. In a writing course, we are particularly concerned with plagiarism, which the catalog describes as “Copying or receiving material from any source and submitting that material as one’s own, without acknowledging and citing the particular debts to the source (quotations, paraphrases, basic ideas), or in any other manner representing the work of another as one’s own.” The writing program’s policy states that the first instance of plagiarism will result in an “F” on that assignment. Any additional instances of plagiarism will result in failure of the course.

late assignments
In the shortened span of a summer session, there is little time for extensions. The final day of the course is Thursday, July 3rd. All materials must be submitted by 11:59PM on that day.

schedule

week readings
5/26 Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken
6/2 Ian Bogost, How to Do Things With Videogames
6/9 Bonnie Nardi, My Life as a Night Elf Priest
6/16 Alexander Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture

Research Blogging begins

6/23 Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel

Videogame Review and Videogame Analysis due this week

6/30 Games Research due this week

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