Video Gaming (EL 250)

11 January 2006

Juul, Half Real (Ch 3)

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Ex 5a: Close Playing 2 (10pts)

Three parts. Write your own "close playing" of any game in one of the following series: Final Fantasy; EverQuest; Myst; The Sims; Tomb Raider; Grand Theft Auto. (400 words; 10 points.)

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Topics TBA.

What issues are coming up as we continue to work through Juul's book?

Leslie said she was surprised that Juul spent so much time examining games as stories. I found that noteworthy, since Juul is strongly identified with the ludological position (games-as-rules), as opposed to the narratological (games-as-stories). It might be worthwhile to visit this brief introduction to gaming scholarship, which I wrote as the preface to my notes for a conference on video game criticism that I attended in 2004.

The eight or ten pages of references in the back of Half Real should be enough to dispel the idea that video game scholarship is still scarce, though I recognize fully that in a compressed course like this, it's crucial to find a thesis that you can actually examine based on the limited information that you can actually get your hands on. Much good games research is available onine, but so are a lot of fan sites and shallow game reviews.

You may have noted that Jesper Juul is writing in a mode that differs greatly from both Brenda Laurel and Ralph Koster. How would you characterize Juul's mode? How do his goals, as an author, differ from the goals of Laurel and Koster?

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Daily Update

Just a reminder: J-Web lists as "Inc" any assignment that you've submitted but that I haven't yet evaluated. That's a terrible design flaw, since from my end I can't tell at a glance whether you haven't completed the work. What's even weirder, it seems that J-Web sometimes records a 0% for work that I haven't yet evaluated, so that you can submit a new assignment and see your grade go DOWN until I review it and punch in the numbers to give you credit for the various short answers.

Now that I'm letting you download the essay questions and upload your answers as a word processing file, it's actually much more tedious for me (a lot of clicking, closing blank windows, saving files in new diretories, that sort of thing), but since it's a small class (and my only class) I don't really mind.

I've sent in a 2-page memo with suggestions for improving the J-Web interface, but who knows whether the developers of that program will take it seriously.

On to more intellectually rewarding topics. I'm looking forward to hearing more of what you have to say about Jesper Juul's Half Real, and have updated today's discussion page accordingly.

On the syllabus for tomorrow: Chapter 4 of Half Real, the peer-review of your Close Playing 2, and an optional rough draft of Portfolio 2.

While I was writing this essay, I noticed Evan's assessment of Juul's methodology. Juul is very careful to engage other scholars and theories thoughtfully, and presenting his own ideas in the context of synthesis, rather than opposition (as often happens when, for instance, the narratology position is pitted against the ludological one, as if they are mutually exclusive). I'm glad you called our attention to this, Evan. Good work.

Leslie has posted a draft of her next blogging portfolio, which points to an impressive array of online contributions.

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