Video Gaming (EL 250)

2 January 2006

Getting Started

As of 4pm January 2, I'm pleased by the progress that Leslie, Stephan, Evan and Kayla have already begun. Good job!

Each day that a J-Term class meets is worth the equivalent of more than a week of classes during the regular term. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so here's a road map of sorts -- a checklist, to help you stay focused.

Click on the Jauary 2, 2006 course page and read through all the items in order.

  • Welcome to "Video Gaming" (no homework, just read it.)
  • Blog Activity (no homework; a list of what your peers are blogging; for future reference)
  • Course Overview (no homework, just read it.)
  • Definitions and Key Concepts (no homework, FYI)
  • Introduction to Weblogs (just FYI; full instructions will be available when required)
  • History of Video Games (several links for you to browse or consult when necessary)
  • J-Web: Orientation and Reflection (a bank of short-answer questions, due by 9:AM Tuesday.
  • Gamer Culture in Movies (post a comment on the course webe page for any two of the movies on this short list. Participate in the online discussion by interacting with your peers and with me.)
  • Red vs. Blue (watch this short online video, and post a brief response.)
  • My Trip to Liberty city (watch this short online video, and post a brief response.)
  • Strong Bad on Video Games (watch this short Flash animation, sample each of the four included games, and post brief comments as directed.)
  • Initial Reactions (just a place where I'll be sure to look for course-related questions and comments)

I won't always post a list in such detail, but additional work due for tomorrow is:

  • Ex 1a (rough draft of a game review; due on J-Web by 9am)
  • Read and post a brief response to "A Rape in Cyberspace"
  • Read and post a brief response to "New Games Journalism"
  • Read and/or listen to "Storytelling in Videogames" and post a brief response
  • Read the short articles on the "Interactive Fiction" page and sample the game "Adventure"
  • Watch the short film ">Interactive" and post a brief response
  • Complete the J-Web unit "Studying Video Games" (the due date I have in mind is 4pm on Jan 3, but in case you're backed up a little, the system won't actually lock you out until 9am on Jan 4)
  • Ex 1-b: Peer review of your game review. Due by 6pm Jan 3.
  • General Discussion. (I'll post discussion prompts based on issues that have come up so far. If you have participated in a good online discussion that you want to call to the attention of the class, mention it on this page.)
  • RRRR. (Just FYI... more details about how I plan to integrate your individual weblogs into the daily course activity.)

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Initial Reactions

I will post discussion questions via e-mail and/or the course blog, based on issues that come up on the work that you have done so far. If we can agree on a time, we might hold future discussion in the J-Web chatroom.

Note: This is the course weblog. The default behavior of a weblog is to display the most recent entry first, so this actually the last thing I want you to read on Jan 2.

To see the items arranged in their proper order, click on today's date (either from "2 January 2006" above, or on the calendar to the upper right.

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Rhino Feeder

Part of Strong Bad's Videogames animation.

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Thy Dungeonman

Part of Strong Bad's Videogames animation.

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Part of Strong Bad's Videogames animation.

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Secret Collect

Part of Strong Bad's Videogames animation.

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Strong Bad on Videogames

Requires Macromedia Flash.

Our assignment is to watch Video Games. Stick around after the animation ends -- there will be four more things to do. Sample all four of them, and then choose one to investigate in depth.

Continue reading...

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My Trip to Liberty City

What assumptions about videogames do you find challenged, or reaffirmed, in this short movie?

On this page, add a brief comment that presents a thoughtful response to this video.

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Red vs. Blue (ep. 1)

Another example of machinima -- movies made by using environments created for videogames.

Red vs. Blue (ep. 1)

A variation of a theme explored in countless stories about toys that have lives of their own ("Toy Story," Winnie the Pooh, The Nutcracker, The Tin Soldier, etc.) The movie Tron explored in depth the related conceit that computer programs have lives of their own, told through the perspective of characters sucked into a computer. The play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, is an existentialist representation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, as told from the perspective of two bit players (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) who are among the many pawns used by the more powerful characters.

On this page, add a brief comment that presents a thoughtful response to this video.

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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

My kids loved this movie. We watched it one night, and when my three-year-old got up the next morning she asked to watch it again.

This movie is not destined to win any Oscars, but I included it on the list because of its depiction of gamer culture.

Continue reading...

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The opening sequence of this Tom Hanks comedy shows a boy playing a graphics-and-text video game. In the context of a movie that celebrates the innocence of childhood and attacks the childish culture of corporate greed, games play an important role.

Continue reading...

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War Games

In the early 1980s, with communists declaring martial law in Poland, three soviet rulers dying in quick succession, and assassination attempts on both Ronald Reagan and John Paul II, tension was running high regarding the threat of nuclear war.

Continue reading...

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Tron was hailed for its ground-breaking computer-generated representation of a virtual world inside a computer.

The characters are forgettable, and it's really hard to take that creepy rotating face seriously as a threat. A few discussion prompts follow. Feel free to address one or several of these points, or bring up your own discussion topics.

Continue reading...

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Gamer Culture in Movies

On the appropriate page on the course blog, participate in a discussion of two of: Tron; Wargames; Big; Spy Kids 3-D. (Experienced bloggers, you are welcome to use your own blogs to drive the discussion.)

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J-Web: Orientation and Reflection

A set of online questions (administered through J-Web) designed to help you focus on the issues we'll be talking about.

You'll first be given a series of multiple-choice questions on the readings. Once you answer those questions correctly, you'll be given additional readings and prompts. The workbooks are open-book, open-notes, and open-internet. I've created creating these online workbooks with the intention that they will help me track what you are learning on an individual basis, and that the deadlines will help you pace yourself and keep from falling behind.

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History of Video Games

Links to basic reference material and resources.

Wikipedia's History of Computer and Video Games.
Bear in mind that Wikipedia is a community encyclopedia that anyone can edit -- including people who don't know what they're talking about, and those who passionately believe something without actually having the facts to back up their points. Thus, I consider a Wikipedia to be a good enough reference for routine class assignments and informal discussions, but for research papers or formal presentations you should look for more authoritative sources.

PBS's The Video Game Revolution: History of Gaming
Requires flash. Not a whole lot of data, but the timeline gives a good overview.

Computer Game Timeline
More detailed, but still just a list of milestones.

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Introduction to Weblogs

Peer-to-peer interaction is a vital component of this course. We'll do most of that interaction through weblogs. If you've never blogged before, don't worry. While students sometimes tell me they felt overwhelmed when they first encountered blogging, time and time again they tell me by the end of the course that what they get out of blogging depends heavily on what they put into it. You might want to read this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on how Seton Hill University students have been using their blogs.

You will each get a Seton Hill weblog. I will point you to complete instructions, and there will be plenty of time for you to try out your blog and get comfortable with it before we start blogging in earnest.

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Definitions and Key Concepts

This page features brief definitions of key terms.

We'll spend some this week developing our own definitions of these:

  • Fun
  • Game
  • Video Game

Continue reading...

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Blog Activity

Recent activity on the blogs of all members of this course. This page will update regularly, though it will often lag a few hours behind. To force an update, post a comment anywhere on this website or the NMJ website.
50 Recent Peer Entries Continue reading...

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Course Overview

I plan to make "EL 250: MGW: Videogaming" my full-time job for the next three weeks, and I suggest that you do the same. Since we're meeting for a total of 14 weekdays (three weeks, excluding Martin Luther King Day), each day represents a little more than a week's worth of work in an ordinary, semester-long course. During that ordinary week, you would meet for 2 1/2 hours in the classroom, and have an additional 2-3 hours worth of homework for each hour in class. Therefore, for each day the class meets, you should plan to commit several hours a day to reading assigned texts, another hour or two for interacting with your peers and me in our online, blog-based "classroom," and another several hours doing homework such as answering study questions or writing exercises and papers.

I've tried to pace things so that we're heavy on reading and short exercises in the beginning, but heavy on your own in-depth projects towards the end. Further, I'm giving everyone the no-penalty option of taking an incomplete on the final draft of the final paper, so that I have time to read and thorougly comment on the drafts that you submit on the last day of classes. (SHU policy requires that you complete 80% of the course material before you can request an incomplete, and the final paper is worth 20%, so you'll have to keep up with all the other courswork if you want to take advangate of the no-penalty final paper extension.)

Note that a draft of Ex 1: Game Review is due tomorrow morning (Jan 3), and a revision is due on Wednesday. To see what else is due tomorrow, click on the numeral for Jan 3 on the calendar in the marign of this page.

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Blog Roster

List of links to personal weblogs.

Continue reading...

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Welcome to ''Video Gaming''

Welcome to EL 250, "Video Gaming"

The course website is located at The site will develop as the course progresses. I'll never move a deadline up, but I may assign additional readings or change assignments. Once classes start, I plan to post an announcement every day at about 4pm EST, and that's where you'll find a list of what you should be working on next.

The page you will want to consult most frequently is the outline (which lists all assigned readings and the due dates for major assignments).

The most important thing to note is that I'll make that 4pm update with the optimistic assumption that you have completed all the assigned work for that day. Some of the next day's work will actually be due at 9:AM, so that I have time to read and respond to it, and incorporate your progress into my daily 4PM announcement.

Feel free to post questions on the site -- I'll be happy to clarify whenever I can. I'm working on an updated blogging tutorial, but if you're dying to get started, here's a link to the existing weblog tutorial.

You can also contact me privately, if you don't wish to make your comment public.

If you e-mail me a good question, I might strip your name from it and post a public response. I won't do that if the content of your e-mail is obviously private, but otherwise I'm operating on the assumption that if you ask me a question there are probably others in the class who would benefit from the answer. If you'd prefer a private repsonse, then let me know.

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