Video Gaming (EL 250)

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.

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

Ex 1a: Game Review (Draft) 10pts

Three phases (1a & 1b, both due on Tuesday; 1c, due on Wednesday). Submit this phase by J-Web. Write a 300-word review of a game that you have recently found important. If you can, you are welcome to collect screen captures for use with your final draft. Due by 11am, Jan 3.

Permalink | 3 Jan 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

J-Web: Studying Video Games

J-Web Questions.

Permalink | 3 Jan 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 1-b: Game Review (Peer Review) 10pts

Trade drafts with two classmates, and write a short paragraph for each peer, containing both positive feedback (what you liked) and constructive criticism (specific advice for improvement). Send a copy of your comments to your peer, and also post them on J-Web by 5pm Tuesday.

Permalink | 3 Jan 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

J-Web: A Theory of Fun 1

Administered through J-Web. There are two sets of questions. When you have a perfect score on the multiple-choice questions, you can move on to the essay questions.

Permalink | 4 Jan 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 1c: Game Review (Final) 20pts

If your revisions are superficial or don't address the points brought up by responses to your draft, this phase of the assignment may be worth zero points. Everyone should submit the final draft on J-Web, but I also encourage you to post it on your own blog.

Permalink | 4 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 2a: Beyond the Review (Draft) 10pts

You will post the final draft on your weblog, but post the first draft to J-Web. Since the "new games journalism" we've been talking about does include a personal element, and because the students whom I know may not know each other very well (or at all), I'd like each of you to post on your own blog a very brief statement about how your personal experiences with games might affect the way you write. You are welcome to copy and paste from earlier J-Web exercises, and you are welcome to go into depth if you like, but three or four sentences would be enough.

For Exercise 2, you may choose to expand the review you wrote for Ex 1, or you may focus on a different game/topic. (Note: Ex 5 will ask you to choose a game that you want to study for your final paper. Please don't choose the same game for Ex 2 and Ex 5.)

Instead of writing another ordinary review, write a more reflective, thoughtful, intense essay. Trim the discussion of the controls, graphics, and technical specifications. While you should still specify the exact title of the game, what year it came out, and what system it's for, you should focus more on the passions and pleasures and significance of playing this game. 500 words.

From State of Play, suggestions for articles that game magazine readers might want to read: "an intimate account of a game that the writer knows well, and around which a community has grown with it's own emergent rules and traditions…it's in the magazine's interest to explore and get involved with gaming communities and to revel in gaming experiences that only become accessible after months of play. After all, there is still so much to say about Manhunt, about Project Zero 2, about Animal Crossing. There's a wealth of material out there. It could just be a lazy list feature (say, 'the best endings in Silent Hill 2 and what they mean'). People love lazy list features. It could be a decent one-on-one interview with a game's creators, or a chat with its biggest fans."

Also, "Subjective journalism does NOT mean glorifying the writer. Notice how, by the end of 'Bow, Nigger' we know everything about the player's experiences, the thoughts, feelings and theories that emerge during the short light saber battle, but we know nothing about the author him/herself. It's subjective, but it isn't self-publicising. It isn't autobiography."

While I agree that gaming culture at large doesn't need gaming-themed autobiography, I'd consider some autobiography, as long as the focus is on the game. For a good example, See M Heller, "Adventure."

Permalink | 5 Jan 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

J-Web: A Theory of Fun 2

Administered through J-Web.

Permalink | 5 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Portfolio 1 (Draft) 20pts

A compilation of the work you've contributed to the online discussion so far. You should have contributed at least *something* and interacted meaningfully with your peers for every text we have discussed in the course, and that you did at least some of this interaction *before* the daily class discussion period. Your portfolio is the vehicle through which you get credit for your best online contributions.

Please *do not* simply list all of your online contributions. Your task is to select your *best* online contributions, and to sort those contributions into the categories I provide. If you've blogged for me before, this will be nothing new. If you've never blogged for credit before don't worry. I'm deliberately not posting all the details now, because I've learned in the past that giving the details too soon causes everyone unnecessary stress. Once you get a little time to practice blogging, it will all start making a lot more sense.)

The portfolio assignment asks you to collect your best blogging, providing me with the evidence I need in order to evaluate your contributions. To do so, I ask that you provide informative links to those postings, that you sort those links into the categories and subcategories I provide, and that you offer some kind of narrative or analysis that helps me understand what you feel you have contributed to, and what you feel you are getting out of, the online discussion.

Here are some examples of top-notch portfolio pages that students have submitted in other classes.

Chris Ulicne

Jason Pugh
Nancy Gregg

Portfolio Requirements

Three sections, of equal weight.


"Coverage" is your way of making sure you get credit for work that I might not have noticed in the flurry of blog postings.

Depth is your opportunity to point out those entries which showcase your ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate -- higher-order critical thinking skills that move far beyond summarizing and repeating "the right answer."

Interaction is where you showcase your willingness to engage thoughtfully and respectfully with the ideas your peers present.

Coverage: Readings and Discussions

Coverage: Readings

Links to your best contributions on each of the assigned texts for the first week of class. For most of these, it's okay if your best contribution is a comment posted to the course blog or a peer's blog.

You can find a list of all the assigned readings.

Coverage: Discussions

When including Movie-related work in your portfolio, make sure that you prominently list the four movies that you chose to focus on (out of the list of 10 that are part of the syllabus) and link to your best contributions in each.


Longer entries, featuring links to outside sources, assigned readings, your own thoughtful presentation of relevant experiences, and/or integration of previous class topics. Entries that fall under the final R of the RRRR sequence -- the "Reflection" -- would be fine here.


I consider two different kinds of useful interaction.

"Discussion" is a useful participation responding to prompts that I provide, or to engage productively with those who leave comments on your own blog entries. This is useful, but somewhat passive, in that you are mostly reacting to ideas that others throw your way.

"Xenoblogging" -- a term that I made up -- means the work that you do to support the blogging done by your peers. Few people find blogging rewarding if they feel that nobody is reading and reacting to what they wrote. That's why I devised the RRRR To help students figure out what I mean by this, I cooked up a quick taxonomy:

  • "comment primo" (which launches a discussion on someone else's blog)
  • the "comment grande" (a long comment posted on a peer blog, which you can then advertise via a cross-blog posting)
  • the "comment informative" (in which a commenter uses his or her particular knowledge in order to flesh out a general or incomplete statement made in a peer's blog entry)
  • the "link gracious" (which draws attention to the source of an idea or to a good conversation happening on someone else's blog)

There are thus several ways to get credit for your blogging. While the "coverage" requirement does involve posting SOMETHING for each assigned reading and discussion, I don't assign word counts or length requirements for any of the items in the portfolios.

Permalink | 5 Jan 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)

J-Web: A Theory of Fun 3

Administered through J-Web.

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

J-Web: Misc Readings

Comprehension questions for recent readings.

Aarseth, Hayward, Wong

Permalink | 6 Jan 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Portfolio 1 (Final) 80pts

Include an essay that reflects on your accomplishments so far, and incorporates links to online material.

Permalink | 6 Jan 2006 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 2c: Beyond the Revision (Final) 20pts

Publish on your blog by 9am Monday.

Permalink | 9 Jan 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

J-Web: Laurel

Comprehension questions for Utopian Entrepreneur

Update: I accidentally set this to lock you out at 12:05 am, rather than 12:05 pm, so I've extended the deadline until tomorrow morning.

Permalink | 9 Jan 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 3: Close Playing 1 (40pts)

Two parts, each worth 20. For each part, write an essay (200 words) based on a "close playing" of the game.

For more help with the assignment, see this brief paragraph, from an article by Janet Murray, that efficiently analyzes another game by the same author, Kabul Kaboom.
Frasca's game focuses on the situation of an Afghani child, presented as a figure from Picasso's Guernica , a painting that is emblematic of the horrors of civilian bombardment. The child is positioned in a game screen similar to Space Invaders , in which bombs and hamburgers, rather than space ships, fall from the skies. The game is a political cartoon on the irony of a "humanitarian" war, in which the U.S. is dropping both food and bombs on an already war-ravaged and famine-threatened country. The irony of the game is that you cannot move the figure so that the screamingly opened mouth can receive the food instead of the bombs. Like a child caught in the horrors of war, you are helpless to determine which is your fate. And like a civilian under a bombardment campaign, you cannot shoot back - or even choose when to end the game, since it begins again as soon as it is over. "Kabul Kaboom" works because it subverts our expectations of a game. It immobilizes us where we expect to have power, forcing us to experience the dramatic situation that is the focus of the expression.

See also pages 123-130 in Half Real.

In literature, a "close reading" is an essay that looks in detail at the specific words that make up a work. Take a look at the following website, which explains the concept of a "close reading" in detail; it gives a sample paragraph from a literary work

Permalink | 9 Jan 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)

Workbook Juul 1

Permalink | 10 Jan 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 4: Proposal for Term Paper (40pts)

Two parts, including a bibliography in MLA style (minimum 5 sources, incuding 3 academic sources not on the syllabus; 20pts) and a preliminary thesis paragraph (20pts). The handbook you received in STW has a section on MLA style; you can also consult two of my online resources -- the MLA Bibliography Bulider and a set of instructions for formatting a paper in MLA style.

Paper 2 is a research paper that asks you to investigate a significant topic in games. Topics might include an analysis of gender roles within EverQuest; the application of George Orwell's political writing to the environment of Half-Life 2; a close analysis of the concept of "gonzo journalism" in game magazines; a local news feature that examines your own community's reaction to violence or sexual content in a current game; a paper that explains a "mod" that you created in order to teach a concept or make a political point; or another similar topic approved by me.

Permalink | 10 Jan 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

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.)

Permalink | 11 Jan 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Portfolio 2 (Draft) 0pts

Optional. If you're comfortable blogging by now, you can just wait and post the whole thing tomorrow. If you think you might need some help, here's your chance to ask.

Permalink | 12 Jan 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Workbook Juul 2

Permalink | 13 Jan 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 6: Article Analysis (40pts)

Two parts.

Part 1. (25 points)

I will assign each of you an academic article, based on the game you chose to focus on in your Close Reading 2. Write a 500-word response to this article, demonstrating your abilty to engage intellectually with the ideas found on Koster, Laurel, and/or Juul. Format your exercise according to MLA Style, including a complete and accurate MLA Works Cited page.

Part 2. (15 points)

Choose a recent game (you are welcome to choose the one you used in Part 1), and collect 10 good online sources. As you did in a previous assignment, create links to all 10 of your selected sites, and write informative blurbs for the first four sources. While you needn't go overboard, think of each "blurb" as a miniature new games journalism assignment. Instead of simply listing a dry catalog of what's on the other side of the link, draw on your subjective reactions to the website.

Submit your work by posting it to your weblog, and generate a Trackback (by clicking MT Quickpost) or post the URL in a comment.

Note on your online bibliography:

Each of the 10 items on your list should have an informative, useful title. "Source 1" is not an informative title, and "" is nowhere near as useful as Name of The File Goes Here.


  1. Wikipedia's Centipede (video game) I had no idea the PC in Centipede is a garden gnome. I always assumed I was playing an insect of some sort, squirting out venom to fight off attackers. A good basic introduction to Atari's garden-variety shooter, which first started feeding on quarters in 1980. Beware the spider!

  2. Killer List of Video Games: Coin-Op Museum: Centipede
    When coin-operated arcade games are stacked shoulder-to-shoulder, you can't get a full view of the artwork along the sides. This site gives you full views of the cabinet design, as well as close-ups of game screens and the sparse but elegant instructions card. The control panel featured not a joystick, but a trackball.

  3. Retrogaming Times offers "The Many Faces of... Centipede" (scroll down to the middle of the page) which compares numerous different classic home versions of the game, on systems ranging from the Apple II to the TI 99/4a.

  4. In "Everything Old is New Again: Remaking Computer Games," Richard Rouse III compares his role as lead designer in a remake of Centipede to the task of having to remake the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho: "[T]his classic recreation will never exactly replicate the original Centipede. As a result, I think, this replica has a deleterious effect on the entire enterprise."

  5. I came across several scattered references to co-designer Donna Bailey as the first female game designer, but so far haven't found more than a paragraph on her at a time. Her Wikipedia article, under the spelling "Dona Bailey," remains a stub.

  6. Centipede screen captures from

  7. MobyGames has collected quaint advertising copy for Centipede.

  8. The Great Games Database entry for Centipede offers very technical information for serious retrogaming hardware collectors.

  9. Few online versions of classic arcade games are faithful to the originals, so playing them is like reading Cliffs Notes. Still, here's a Shockwave version of Centipede. This Flash version doesn't come close to emulating the whimsy and delicacy of the original.

  10. The novelty album Pac-Man Fever includes "Ode to a Centipede." The musicians' official website is buggy, but you can hear snippets of the songs for free, via the page where you can sample ringtones.

      Permalink | 13 Jan 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)

Portfolio 2 (Final) (100pts)

Include an essay that reflects on your accomplishments so far, and incorporates links to online material.

Permalink | 13 Jan 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 5c: Close Playing 2 (Expansion) 20pts

Revise your "close playing" to incorporate readings from the syllabus and the academic article that was the subject of Exercise 7. (600 words, 20 points.)

Permalink | 17 Jan 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 7: Thesis & Works Cited

Your thesis paragraph (20pts) and Works Cited list (20pts), in proper MLA format, for your term paper.

Include a Presubmission Note (10pts) explaining how your ideas have developed since Ex 4 (your proposal).

Permalink | 17 Jan 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Telephone Conference w/ Instructor (40pts)

Schedule it for Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, on the day you've signed up to give your online presentation.

During our telephone conversation, I will give you feedback on your term paper progress and help you on your term paper. More details as the date approaches.

Permalink | 18 Jan 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Term Paper (Draft; 6-8pg) 50pts

Due to time constraints, I won't be able to give you detailed written feedback on the drafts before J-Term ends.

Permalink | 19 Jan 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ex 8: Peer Reviews (40pts)

Write one-page responses to assigned peer rough drafts. 20pts for each response.

Permalink | 20 Jan 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Portfolio 3 (Final) (20pts)

The only assigned texts this week were your peer online presentations, but for the portfolio I'm asking you to look back over the term, reflect on how your understanding of key course concepts has changed, and reflect on what you have learned (in a coherent essay that incorporates links to online material).

Permalink | 20 Jan 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Term Paper (Final) 10pg minimum

Submit your final version of the paper (10 pages minimum).

Permalink | 20 Jan 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)