Film 323: Thinking About Video Games

Spring 2007, Tuesdays 1:30 to 4:20, Avery 117

Professor Ed Halter 

halter@bard.edu

Office: Avery 220

Office hours Tuesdays 10:00 to 12:00, by appointment


Requirements:

Two 10-15 page papers; class discussion; presentation of one week’s reading; occasional short assignments related to readings and discussions.


Grading rubric:

33% participation (including presentation and short assignments); 33% first paper; 34% second paper. All assigned work must be completed by the semester’s end for a passing grade.


Paper topics:

First paper: Explore how one or more of the writers in Section One might relate to a specific electronic game of your choice (could be an individual title, series, type of game, or even console system).

Second paper: Open topic of your choice within the parameters of the seminar, with minimum one week’s prior approval of the professor.


Readings

Shorter readings and book excerpts will be available online or as pdfs, linked from this site. The following required books will be at the Bard Bookstore: Homo Ludens, Man, Play and Games, The Medium of the Video Game, Gaming, and From Sun Tzu to Xbox.


In-class presentation

Each week one student will give a 15-20 minute presentation on that week's reading, meant to kick off that day's discussion, which will count towards participation. Each presentation should outline the basic arguments or themes of the reading. Useful questions to consider include: According to this writer, what is a game? What is play? What is (or would be) a video game? (Don't worry about presenting all of the writer's ideas--just hit on some of the most pertinent or the ones that interested you the most.)


Syllabus


Jan 30

Introductions

Peter Watkins, Punishment Park (1971)


Section One: Play and Game


Feb 6

J.C. Friedrich Von Schiller, Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794), esp. XIV & XV (web) (pdf)

Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (1973) (web) (pdf)

Presentation: Greg


Feb 13

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1938)

Presentation: Joshua


Feb 20

Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games (1958)

Presentation: Jane


Feb 27 

Sigmund Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920)

D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (1971)

Presentation: Bonnie


Mar 6 

Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Philosophical Investigations (1953)

Stanley Cavell, “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy” (1962)

Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science” (1946) (web)

Presentation: Ian


Mar 13 

Marshall McLuhan, from Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964)

Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations” (1981) (web)

Lev Manovich, from The Language of New Media (2001)

Presentation: Alex


Section Two: Video Games


Mar 20 

The Medium of the Video Game, Parts I and II (2002)

Steven Poole, from Trigger Happy (2000)

Presentation: Jen

* First 10-15 page paper due


Mar 27 

Espen Aarseth, “Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation” (2004) (web)

Gonzalo Frasca, “Ludology Meets Narratology” (1999) (web)

Jesper Juul, from Half-Real (2005) (pdf)

Presentation: Scott


Apr 3

No class - Spring Break


Apr 10 

Lisa Nakamura, from Cybertypes (2002) (pdf)

Julian Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace” (1993/1998) (web)

Recommended: always_black (Ian Shanahan), "Bow Nigger" (2004)

Presentation: Jonnie


Apr 17

Gonzalo Frasca, "Ephemeral Games: Is it Barbaric to Design Videogames After Auschwitz?" (pdf) (2000) 

Stephen Johnson, from Everything Bad is Good For You (2005) (reserveweb)

Presentation: Elias


Apr 24 

No discussion (screening only) – moderation week


May 1  

Alexander R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (2006)

Presentation: Jesse

Note: We will only have half a session today, 1:30-3:00, and will continue discussing Galloway in the following class.


May 8

Alexander R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (2006)

Ed Halter, From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games (2006)


May 15

Charles Bernstein, “Play it Again Pac-Man” (1991) (web) (also in Medium of the Video Game)

Henry Jenkins, “Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces” (1998) (web)

Celia Pearce “Beyond Shoot Your Friends…A Call to Arms in the Battle Against Violence” (1997) (web)

Presentation: Eliza


May 22

TBA

* Final 10-15 page paper due


Other resources:


Gamasutra

Ludology

Water Cooler Games

Grand Text Auto

The Ludologist

War and Videogames

Terra Nova

Collision Detection

We Make Money Not Art

Rhizome

Serious Games

Eddo Stern

Cory Arcangel

Selectparks

Buzzcut

Kotaku

Game Girl Advance

Game Set Watch

Gamepolitics

Joystiq

Henry Jenkins: Confessions of an Aca/Fan

Guardian Gamesblog

Slashdot: Games

Gameology