Syllabus 2011

Week 1
(Aug. 25)
Week 2
(Aug. 30-Sep. 1)
Week 3
(Sep. 6-8)
Week 4
(Sep. 13-15)
Week 5
(Sep. 20-22)
Week 6
(Sep. 27-29)
Week 7
(Oct. 4-6)
Week 8
(Oct. 11-13)
Week 9
(Oct. 18-20)
Week 10
(Oct. 25-27)
Week 11
(Nov. 1-3)
Week 12
(Nov. 8-10)
Week 13
(Nov. 15-17)
Week 14
(Nov. 29-Dec. 1)
Week 15
(Dec. 6-8)
Course Requirements

Computer games are transforming the entertainment industry, generating an estimated $57 billion in revenue in 2009. For more than twenty years, online communities have been producing new forms of psychological, social, and cultural experience. Early text-based adventure games such as Zork have become the multimedia environments of online games like Lord of the Rings Online, which combine the written word with graphics, music, skills, professions, and action.  Are online games generating new interactive modes of narrative? How do multimedia environments transform the age-old patterns of quest romances that structure much game play? Is the line between virtual and real experience erased by the fusion of online communities, role playing, and escapist fictions? These questions will animate our consideration of digital narrative forms.

Taught by a professor of English, the course will meet in a multimedia seminar room in the Hill Center, allowing us to explore the fundamentals of game design. Students will be required to subscribe to an online game, Lord of the Rings Online, and will compare the interactive story arcs with related narrative forms from literature and film. Readings will range from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine to steampunk fiction, comics, anime, and action film and include critical theory such as Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jesper Juul’s Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, and McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory.  Students must have a Windows based computer or Bootcamp already installed on their Mac computers before the first day of class.

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Week 1 (Aug. 25)

Thursday

Course procedures and requirements

Instructions for downloading and subscribing to Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO).  Set up a WordPress blog account and a class Facebook Group.

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Week 2 (Aug. 30-Sep. 1)

Tuesday

Jesper Juul, “ Introduction,” Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, pp. 1-22.

McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory 2.0. Read, “AGONY on The Cave”

Thursday

Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended DVD Edition)

Blog Topic (due Friday, 6:00 p.m.): TBA.

*

Week 3 (Sep. 6-8)

Tuesday

“Chronology of Influences on Gaming” PODCAST, parts I and II (available on YouTube here).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Dungeons_And_Dragons

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zork

Thursday

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Read Book I, chapters 1-8 of the novel)

Jane Chance, “Heroic Narrative and the Power of Structure” (OAK)

Blog Topic (due Friday, 6:00 p.m.): TBA

*

Week 4 (Sep. 13-15)

Tuesday – NO CLASS (conferences)

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (read through Book II, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond”)

Thursday

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (finish the novel)

Topic for first paper: Compare and contrast a place, object, setting/description, journey, quest (look especially at the Prelude and Book 1, where you meet Strider), or action from LOTRO, the game, with what occurs there in the novel and movie, The Fellowship of the Ring.  You should choose moments from each text (considering the game and the movie as “texts”) that allow you to generate an argument about the capabilities of each medium.  Some prompts to consider:

Do the various texts produce the same mood, atmosphere, or feelings in the audience?  Does one convey ideas that the others d0 not?  What techniques does each use to produce its effects (consider some of the following: imagery, setting, graphics, p.o.v., camera angle, dialogue, freedom of interpretation, flashback, music or sound effects, atmosphere, etc.)?  Are elements you examine connected to the rest of the narrative in the same way or do they produce tangential stories, which enhance or distract from the cognitive and/or emotional impact of the experience?

For Thursday’s class, the elements in both the game and the movie and novel that you plan to analyze and write a thesis sentence about what the differences between the texts indicate to you.  Then list two pieces of evidence from each text that you would choose to analyze to support your thesis.  Be prepared to have your document projected on the screen and discussed in class.

Writing workshop: Drawing effective comparisons and supporting them with evidence and analysis.  Demonstration of a three-media comparison in class.

*

Week 5 (Sep. 20-23)

Tuesday

Rough draft of first paper due (5-pages, double spaced).

Bring paper to class in digital form (on your laptop or on USB drive).

Writing workshop using digital collaborative writing software.

Thursday

Bolter and Grusin, from Remediation (OAK)

Friday

Final draft of first paper due, 6:00 p.m.  Submit your paper using SafeAssign in OAK.  Name your file as follows: “Lastname , Firstname – paper 1 – final”

*

Week 6 (Sep. 27-29)

Tuesday

Begin (or continue) Epic quest: Book 1, Chapter 1 in LOTRO (to advance in Bk.1, Ch. 1, your character should be level 12 or higher).

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (in class).

Thursday  - Library tour: CLASS MEETS AT THE CENTRAL LIBRARY REFERENCE DESK

Blog topic: Write on King of Kong.

*

Week 7 (Oct. 4-6)

Topic for second paper: TBA

Tuesday

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)

Thursday – No class, FALL BREAK

*

Week 8 (Oct. 11-13)

Tuesday

Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals ( OAK ): Defining Games, pp. 71 – 83 and The Magic Circle , pp. 93 – 99

Thursday

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), dir. by Hayao Miyazaki

Begin playing Never Winter Nights 2  over the weekend.

Blog (due Friday at 6:00 p.m.): TBA

*

Week 9 (Oct. 18-20)

Tuesday

Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, vol. 1 (graphic novel)

Thursday

T. L. Taylor, “Whose Game Is This Anyway” and “The Future of Persistent Worlds and Critical Game Studies” in Play between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture , pp. 124-62.  (OAK)

Paper 2 Topic: Analyze a character from Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (vol. 1) in relation to a single theme explored in the graphic novel.  Themes might include such issues as: addiction, colonialism, feminism, racism, industrial society, psychopathology, criminality, emotion, selfishness, mental illness, government conspiracies, secret police forces, sexuality, nationalism, etc.  Please use evidence drawn from both the visual elements in the text and the narrative development of the character.  (5-pages.  Rough draft due in class Thursday, Oct. 27)

Blog (due Friday at 6:00 p.m.):

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Week 10 (Oct. 25-27)

Tuesday

Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (OAK): Games as Narrative Play, pp. 377 – 416

See paper topic above.

Thursday

Rough draft of second paper due. Bring your paper as a digital file to class. Name your file as follows: “Lastname , Firstname – paper 2 – draft”

*

Week 11 (Nov. 1-3)

Tuesday

Sherlock Holmes (2009), dir. Guy Ritchie

Final draft of second paper due, 6:00 p.m.  Submit your paper using SafeAssign in OAK.  Name your file as follows: “Lastname , Firstname – paper 2 – final”

Thursday NAVSA

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Sign of the Four”

Blog (due Friday at 6:00 p.m.): TBA

*

Week 12 (Nov. 8-10

Paper 3 topic: TBA

Tuesday

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

Thursday

Install Neverwinter Nights 2 Toolset and make sure that it works on your computer.

Read Neverwinter Nights 2 Toolset (help file), “Creating a Module” and “Placing Objects”

Narrative Workshop Assignments

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Week 13 (Nov. 14-18)

Tuesday

Rough draft of third paper due by 6:00 p.m.

Game design workshop

Thursday

Game design workshop

Friday

Final draft of first paper due, 11:59 p.m.  Submit your paper using SafeAssign in OAK.  Name your file as follows: “Lastname , Firstname – paper 3 – final”

(Thanksgiving Holiday)

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Week 14 (Nov. 29-Dec. 1)

Tuesday

Game design workshop

Thursday

Game design workshop

Blog (due Friday at 6:00 p.m.): TBA

*

Week 15 (Dec. 6-8)

Tuesday

Game design workshop

Thursday

Presentations

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Course Requirements

Three 5-page papers will count for 50% of the grade.

Weekly blog entries, 30% of the grade

  • Passionate
  • Author Engagement in the topic
  • Thoughtful
  • Creative
  • Coherent
  • Not grading on length or mechanics unless major patterns of bad grammar appear.

Completion of daily reading assignments, class participation, and final gaming project will count for 20% of the grade.

  • Learning to speak articulately about cultural issues is a valuable skill, which literature seminars are designed to foster. Pushing oneself to voice an informed opinion in public often forces a person to think more deeply and to respond to others, whereas listening passively can foster the tendency to accept others’ ideas rather than work out one’s own position. Speaking about specific features of the text also demonstrates that one has read the assigned material carefully.
  • Class participation grades will be calculated as follows:
    • Attendance at the great majority of classes constitutes the minimum passing standard and establishes one’s participation grade as a D.
    • Speaking up only a few times during the course of the semester constitutes satisfactory performance and earn a grade of C.
    • Entering the discussion every class or two constitutes average performance and earns a grade of B.
    • Frequent participation, which is intelligent, respectful of others, and clearly oriented toward contributing to the class experience rather than scoring points or showing off, constitutes excellent performance and earns a grade of A.

 
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