Games & Culture
The course conveys the necessary tools for analyzing games and player cultures from a comprehensive variety of angles, ranging from classic play theories and semiotics to transmedia and gender studies. It engages with games and play from a historical perspective, establishing a common ground for communication about games and player cultures among students from different backgrounds.
Games and Play are fundamental phenomena found in every society throughout history. They are forms of entertainment, and also part of many cultural discourses, as well as modes of behavior and communication. Lately they have evolved, through computer technology, into the most prominent form of digital culture and expression.
Students will learn how to analyse games and their relation to culture at large in order to discuss games from various theoretical, cultural and critical perspectives, classify them according to taxonomies and assess their use in various contexts.
This course offers a broad overview of the fundamental concepts, theories and approaches to games and play. We will discuss a selection of the main critical and research approaches.
The main topics of the course are as follows:
- Defining and analyzing games and play
- Games as sign-systems and rule-systems
- Quest games, narrative, and fiction
- Space and time in games
- Avatars, Characters, and Agency
- Representation in and of games and their players
- Games as transmedia and cross media artefacts
- Players and fans
- Materialities of games
- Doing games research and applying it to practices
- The politics and ideologies of games, player cultures, edutainment and gamification
Formal prerequisitesThere are no formal prerequisites, but a broad familiarity with games (both digital and analog) will be useful. It is suggested to spend the summer brushing up on game knowledge, i.e. researching and getting first-hand experiences of a wide variety of genres and classics*. The course is theoretical in nature so an interest in theoretical and analytical issues will help. You are expected to actively participate in the lectures, which are dialogic in form, with ample room for discussion. * An absolutely non-comprehensive list of 'canonic' games/game series/genres you should have more than heard about: - Early games: Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong - Tetris - Text Adventures (http://www.amctv.com/shows/halt-and-catch-fire/colossal-cave-adventure/landing) - Super Mario Bros. - SimCity - Myst - Doom, Quake, Half-Life 1+2 - Diablo - Tomb Raider - System Shock, Deus Ex, Bioshock - Grand Theft Auto III - The Sims - CRPGs (Final Fantasy, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, KOTOR/Mass Effect/Dragon Age) - Adventures (esp. the LucasArts school: Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, Sam & Max) - Survival Horror (Resident Evil, Silent Hill) - RTS (esp. the Blizzard school: Warcraft, Starcraft)
Intended learning outcomes
After the course, the student should be able to:
- Discuss games, play and player cultures from various theoretical, cultural and critical perspectives.
- Classify games and playful activities in the form of taxonomies and typologies, and formulate models that expose problems in existing concepts.
- Contextualize games in a historical and generic perspective.
- Analyze games and identify game genres using a variety of analysis methods.
- Assess and discuss game concepts and the use of games in various contexts.
- Problematize game definitions and categorizations.
- Apply new theories and evaluate them critically.
- Argumentatively position yourself towards common cultural biases related to play and games.
- Locate and situate media biases and social media campaigns related to the production and consumption of games.
Ordinary examExam type:
C: Written report, external (7-trinsskala)
The course will be assessed and graded based on a term paper. As the paper is the sole basis for grading, it cannot be done in groups. The topic is chosen by the student (in consultation with course manager and TAs) based on the course content, i.e. it must relate thematically to at least one of the topics covered in class and incorporate at least one of the texts on the reading list, and at least 8 research sources in total. The term paper has to be academic in style, approach, and execution, and include both a bibliography and a ludography (preferably in APA style). The length should be roughly (+/-10%) 11 standard pages or 28.000 characters including spaces.