COURSE: “Virtual Worlds and Video Games” (Winter 2009)

ENGL 207 B: Introduction to Cultural Studies: “Virtual Worlds and Video Games”
Winter Quarter 2009
MTWTH 10:30-11:20 AM

ALEXANDER GALLOWAY in Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture argues that play “is a symbolic action for larger issues in culture” (16) and that video games “render social realities into playable form” (17). Using a broad archive of “imagined worlds”–drawing on literature, video games, text games and hypertext, film, and scholarship–this course will identify and explore some of the key concepts, the key moves, and the key terms of the interdiscipinary fields of cultural studies.

CENTRAL QUESTIONS AND ENGAGEMENTS INCLUDE: What are the different critical practices and methodologies of cultural studies? How might we employ different cultural studies approaches and lenses to these virtual worlds and video games? Why study these “imagined worlds,” how are they important, and what values do they have? In this course, we will look at and analyze texts of media old and new through the lenses of cultural studies and deploy virtual worlds and video games as theories about and dramatizations of different social relationships and realities, to unpack and analyze the intersections of cultural formations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality, particularly in the US context. We will look at how video games can be rhetorical, political, and popular tools, and in the words of Gonzalo Frasca, how “they can be used for conveying passionate ideas…to deliver an ideological message.” Moreover, Henry Jenkins adds that we should “look at games as an emerging art form…and talk about how to strike a balance between this form of expression and social responsibility” (120).

READINGS MAY INCLUDE IN WHOLE OR IN EXCERPT: Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Orson Scott Card, Shelley Jackson, Walter Benjamin, Alexander Galloway, Ian Bogost, Lisa Nakamura, N. Katherine Hayles, Maureen McHugh, Nick Montfort, William Gibson, Donna Haraway, Cory Doctorow, Julian Dibbell, and Gonzalo Frasca. Digital and visual texts may include: Will Crowther’s Adventure, Jason Rohrer’s Gravitation, Gregory Weir’s The Majesty of Colors, Andrew Plotkin’s Shade, LambdaMOO, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s Façade, Tron, Monster Camp, America’s Army, and World of Warcraft.

NEW MEDIA AND GAME PLAY will be a required part of the class. Students will be required to keep a weekly “plog” (play log). Moreover, students will produce two short researched, revised, and analytical papers, which will potentially be used to develop into a larger online group project. Students seeking W-Credit will be accommodated.

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