IN 1982, Walt Disney Pictures released Tron, one of the first movies to feature computer animation, to visualize cyberspace, and to be released with a video game product tie-in. Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times review of the movie that year said, "The movie addresses itself without apology to the computer generation, embracing the imagery of those arcade video games that parents fear are rotting the minds of their children. If you’ve never played Pac-Man or Space Invaders or the Tron game itself, you probably are not quite ready to see this movie..." Ironically, years later, Ebert would claim that video games, unlike films, could never be art. Regardless, video games have left their marks on the culture and found their way into other media--film, television, literature, fashion, performance, even real world places and spaces. As Henry Jenkins wrote in 2000, "The time has come to take games seriously as an important new popular art shaping the aesthetic sensibility of the 21st century."
OUR FOCUS GROUP, as part of a continuing series on video games generated by the Critical Gaming Project at UW, will explore the influences, intersections, and tensions between video games and other media--thinking through what Bolter and Grusin call remediation: "Digital visual media can be best understood through the ways in which they honor, rival, and revise linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, and print. No medium today...seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media” (15). Central to the class are the following questions: How and why are video games important? How are video games and video game players represented, stereotyped, or vindicated by other media? How are video games remediate and get remediated by other media? What are the possibilities and consequences of adapting or reimagining video games in other forms, mediums, and spaces? To do this, we will read texts by Vernor Vinge, Orson Scott Card, Julian Dibbell, and Cory Doctorow. We will watch movies like Tron and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. And we will engage video game representations on the Internet, in gaming communities, and other technologies.
THE COURSE will meet once a week for 2 hours to engage reading, guided discussion, analytical and reflective writing, and some game play. Students will be asked to participate in discussions both in class and online and make a short in-class presentation.
Readings and Texts
Barlow, John Perry. "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace." www.eff.org. 8 Feb. 1996. https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Bogost, Ian. "Exploitationware." Gamasutra. 3 May 2011. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6366/persuasive_games_exploitationware.php.
Bogost, Ian. "Gamification is Bullshit." www.bogost.com. 8 Aug. 2011. http://www.bogost.com/blog/gamification_is_bullshit.shtml.
Bogost, Ian and Nick Montfort. Racing the Beam. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. "Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation" & "Chapter One: Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation." Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999. 2-51. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. New York: Tor, 1994.
Castronova, Edward. "Preface" and "Chapter 1: Dreams Fashioned in Silicon." Exodus to the Virtual World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. xiii-xix, 3-19. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Dibbell, Julian. "A Rape in Cyberspace." My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World. New York: Owl Books, 1998. 11-30. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Doctorow, Cory. "Anda's Game." Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005. 59-100. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Frasca, Gonzalo. "Press Left Button to Dissent." IGDA. Nov. 2003. http://www.igda.org/columns/ivorytower/ivory_Nov03.php. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Frasca, Gonzalo. "Videogames of the Oppressed." www.electronicbookreview.com. 24 Jun. 2004. http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/Boalian. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Jackson, Shelley. "My Body." Electronic Literature Collection. Electronic Literature Organization. http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/jackson__my_body_a_wunderkammer/
Jenkins, Henry. "Art Form for the Digital Age." Technology Review. 103:5 (Sept 2000): 117-120. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
Juul, Jesper. "Chapter 1: A Casual Revolution." A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2010. 1-23. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Dir. Seth Gordon. Perf. Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, and Mark Alpiger. New Line Home Video, 2008. DVD.
McGonigal, Jane. "Growing Up Gamer." janemcgonigal.com. http://www.avantgame.com/growing_up_gamer_mcgonigal_sept2008.pdf
McGonigal, Jane. "Introduction: Reality is Broken." Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin, 2011. 1-18. (Also available via UW e-reserve).
The Mentor. "The Hacker Manifesto." www.mithral.com. 8 Jan. 1986. http://www.mithral.com/~beberg/manifesto.html.
Montgomery, R.A. Journey Under the Sea (Choose Your Own Adventure #2). Waitsfield, VT: Chooseco, 2005.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Dir. Edgar Wright. Perf. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kieran Culkin. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2010.
Tron. Dir. Steven Lisberger. Perf. Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, and David Warner. Walt Disney Productions, 1982. DVD.
Vinge, Vernor. "True Names." True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier. New York: Tor, 2001. 239-330.
(Also available via UW
• Download the
course policies and syllabus (PDF).
Requirements & Grading
What is a focus group? Focus groups provide a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to design and lead a class. Focus groups allow students with common interests to create a space to discuss topics which may not be covered elsewhere in the UW undergraduate curricula. As with all CHID courses, all students participating in focus groups are expected to engage topics critically, respectfully, and from varying perspectives.
What are they not? Focus groups are not spaces for students to promote one particular point of view. While students can take on one idea or concept, this topic should be explored from multiple vantage points. Focus groups should not depart from CHID’s guiding philosophy that "the questions are the content." Focus groups are about critical scrutiny, not about ideological imposition.
This class is graded on a credit/no credit basis. All assignments must be satisfactorily completed, and you may not have more than two un-excused absences in order to get credit for this class.
Blog Responses and Remediation Presentation (50%)
The majority of the writing you will do for this class is in the form of weekly short, critical, analytical response entries to the class blog. These single-spaced, 500 or so word writings serve as reactions to, close readings of, and analyses of the texts, games, and the connections you see, read, and talk about in class. These blog responses are more than just summaries or personal reactions and will be graded on clarity, coherence, critique, and how well you concisely formulate arguments.
By the end of the quarter, you will have practiced and performed what it means to think critically about different video game and remediated texts. You will be required to present on (most likely as a team) a video game-influenced text or artifact of your choosing. These presentations will demonstrate what you have learned from and experienced in the class. Presentations will are 5 minutes and can include in-class game play.
Participation and Preparedness (50%)
Preparedness and participation forms a large component of your final grade. It is essential that you prepare for class, attend class, and participate. Missing class may seriously compromise your ability to do well in this class. Again, negative participation will hurt your participation grade. Participation is determined by
1. your respectful presence in class,
Finally, failure to turn in homework, incomplete assignments, or late papers will negatively impact your participation grade.
Attendance is strongly recommended. If you are absent, you miss the explanation of an assignment, the discussion of
a reading, the chance to play and participate, and overall, the class as a community of learning. Also, you are expected
to be in class on time. Class will start immediately at the appointed time. In the first minutes of class we may
make important announcements, establish the agenda for the class meeting, begin immediately with an important lesson,
or field questions. If you come in after we start class, even by only a few minutes, you are late and we will mark
you as such. Chronic or conspicuous attendance problems will negatively affect your credit for the class. If you
know you are going to miss class, please let us know ahead of time (via email), if you can, and we will make any
necessary arrangements. And when you do miss class, always find another student to get class notes and see us in
order to make up missed work in a timely manner.
Treat all writing as formal, academic writing, even on the class blog. All hardcopy assignments must be typed. All documents should be saved in Microsoft Word format; if you do not have access to Word, then save your documents in RTF or Rich Text Format.
All papers must follow the manuscript format outlined by the assignment. All formal papers must use MLA citation and documentation conventions. All papers must be neatly printed (in black), stapled in the top, left-hand corner if necessary, and not be three-hole punched. Papers that do not follow these format guidelines will not be accepted. They will be returned unread to you. Papers will be regarded as late until they are resubmitted in the proper format.
We are available during office hours and by appointment to help you. We encourage you to come see us early in the quarter even if it is just to talk about the class, about the assignments, or about school in general. We may ask you to meet with us when we think a conference would be useful. Our offices are located on the ground floor of Padelford Hall (northeast of the HUB). Ed's office is in B-33. Sarah’s office is in A11B. See http://www.washington.edu/home/maps/northcentral.html?pdl.
We are also available electronically by email and the course blog. Email and the blog are the best means of contacting us. We will do our best to answer your emails and blog posts, usually within twenty-four hours. If there is an emergency and you need to reach us, please contact the CHID office in B-102 Padelford.
We will also supplement our office hours with virtual hours via instant messenger. Ed uses AOL
Instant Messenger and Google Talk (AIM & Gtalk nickname: EDagogy); Sarah just uses Google Talk (Gtalk nickname: seattle.editrix).
If we are logged in, during reasonable hours, you are more than welcome to discuss the class or ask
questions. Please, when you initiate an IM conversation for the first time, please identify yourself to
us -- be polite and respectful -- and please be patient because our responses may not be immediate.
Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to refer to other people's thoughts and writing -- as long as you cite them. Many students do not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism, so feel free to ask questions about these matters at any time. Plagiarism includes:
• a student failing to cite sources of ideas
If you have any doubt about how to cite or acknowledge another's writing, please talk to me. It is always better to be safe than sorry. As a matter of policy, any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review. For further information, please refer to UW's Student Conduct Code at http://www.washington.edu/students/handbook/conduct.html. Play it smart, don't plagiarize!
If you have a registered disability that will require accommodation, please see me
immediately. If you have a disability and have not yet registered it with Disability
Resources for Students in 448 Schmitz Hall, you should do so immediately. Please
contact DRS at 206-543-8924 (Voice) or 206-543-8925 (V/TTY) or 206-616-8379 (FAX) or
via their website at
I will gladly do my best to provide appropriate accommodation you require.
Preventing violence is everyone’s responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone. For more information visit the SafeCampus website at http://www.washington.edu/safecampus and keep the following in mind:
• Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.
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