Video Gaming (EL 250)

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.

Permalink | 2 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Permalink | 2 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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

Acronyms and Terms (sampler)

  • Adventure game -- typically deals with quests and puzzles, with a complex story, interactions with in-game characters controlled by the computer (NPCs)
  • AI (artificial intelligence) -- computer-based emulation of thought; used to control the actions of non-player characters (NPCs)
  • GAG (graphic adventure game) --
  • IF (interactive fiction)
  • MUD (multiple user dungeon) -- text-based gmae for multiple players, named after an early mainframe adventure game called "Dungeon" (later released commercially as Zork).
  • NPC (non-player character) -- the computer-controlled characters
  • PC (player charater) -- the in-game representation of a human player sitting at the controls.
  • RPG (role-playing game) -- combat-based, resource-management games, dealing with extended campaigns, numerous variables, and a PC whose powers grow steadily over time. Dungeons and Dragons and J.R.R. Tolkien are big influences on this genre.

Academic Concepts

  • Review -- A news feature designed mostly to help consumers decide whether they want to buy, rent, or pass on a product. Reviewers play an important part in the economics of indsutries such as publishing, the movies, and games, but a game review covers only a subset of the kinds of issues we will discuss in this class. Reviewers work on a tight deadline, and may have time to play a game for only a few hours before they have to start churning out their article (if they want to beat their competition). Reviewers help consumers decide what games to buy.
  • Criticism -- An essay, written after sufficient time has passed so that a thoughtful author can consider the effect of a work, the ways in which the work has changed the field, the ways in which the field affected the way the target audience reacted to the work. Critics help publishers decide what to publish, and provide depth, context, terminology, and analysis that reviewers can draw on when their next pressing deadline looms.
  • Theory -- A body of knowledge that helps critics determine what criteria to use when evaluating whole categories of works. For example, a critic may draw on feminist literary theory when evaluating the way women are depicted in video games, literary theory when evaluating the emotional impact of the story, and film theory to critique the cut scenes.
  • Critical Thinking. Lower levels are Knowledge, Comprehension and Application. Higher levels are Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. See "Writing that Demonstrates Thinking Ability."

Other Games-Related Glossaries

Dictionary of Video Game Theory
Interactive Fiction Wiki

Permalink | 2 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Permalink | 2 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

RRRR (Read, React, Respond, Reflect)

For every assigned text in EL250, including an article, a section from a book, a game, or a video, I am asking every student to contribute to an online discussion.

First we will start out simply posting a comment to the appropriate page on the EL 250 website.

But once everyone has had some time to experiment with the SHU weblog system, I'm asking for everyone to employ this four-step process, designed to prepare for a productive online discussion.

Read the assigned text (or play the game, or watch the video clip, etc.), react by posting an "agenda item" (see FAQ) to your weblog, respond to 2-4 items posted by your peers, and once a day I am asking you to reflect on your experiences in a 200-word informal essay (see "reflection paper" in the glossary).

But rather than counting the number of words on your blog, I'm interested in seeing you engage intellectually with the course content and your peers, whether you do that on your own blogs, on the course blog, or in the comments you leave on peer blogs.

The process of reading, reacting, responding, and reflecting is part of all critical thinking and writing. In our online community, we will practice, in an informal manner, the intellectual activity that goes into the production of a college-level research paper.

While your agenda items and lengthier reflections should be a little more formal, when you leave comments, don't worry too much about typos or grammatical mistakes. Feel free to use :) and LOL if you like.

Permalink | 3 Jan 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)