Syllabus (Spring, 2018)

 

ENGL 3726, New Media
(Curb Center, 146A)
Week 1 (Jan 8-12) Week 2 (Jan 15-19) Week 3 (Jan 22-26)
Week 4 (Jan 29-Feb 2) Week 5 (Feb 5-9) Week 6 (Feb 12-16)
Week 7  (Feb 19-23) Week 8  (Feb 26-Mar 2) Spring Break (Mar 5-9)
Week 9 (Mar 12-16) Week 10 (Mar 19-23) Week 11 (Mar 26-30)
Week 12 (Apr 2-6) Week 13 (Apr 9-13) Week 14 (Apr 16-20)
Week 15 (Apr 23)
 Readings, Films, and Games
 Course Requirements

Course Description

This course explores the impact of new media on narrative and communication through a focus on online games.  Beginning with a massively multiplayer role playing game (MMO) and some examples from the indie gaming world, the course introduces students to the literary and artistic challenges of constructing narratives in a digital environment and the implications of new media for communication in our daily lives as students, professionals, and members of global communities.

The course has three components:

  • Games. Students will play a selection of indie games and the free-to-play MMO, The Lord of the Rings Online.  There will also be reports on games from some genres not covered by the class: first-person shooters, mobile games, sports games, etc.
  • Readings. Texts will include literature in the romance tradition that inspired fantasy gaming from Keats, Tennyson, and Browning to J. R. R. Tolkien; novels and films about gaming such as Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One; Twitter fiction such as Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box”; media and game 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.
  • Digital projects. Students will compose blog entries and use social media platforms to practice conveying complex arguments in visual, spatial, and audio formats. Assignments will introduce students to digital media such as visual storytelling tools, GIS mapping programs, timelines, and video editing software. The final assignment will involve creating a collaborative new media project.

No background in gaming or digital technology is required.  Students will learn the theory and practice of new media through demonstrations and hands-on workshops.  Students will need a laptop with a mouse that is capable of running Lord of the Rings Online (see system requirements at https://help.standingstonegames.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002036807-What-are-the-system-requirements-for-LOTRO-).

Learning goals

The course has two broad objectives, one concerning literary culture, the other focused on new media.

  1. Literary: To understand the cultural role of romance narrative down through the ages. In practice, this means learning about the roots of many online games in romance literature from Homer’s Odyssey  and medieval romance to Romantic and Victorian poetry to J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. New Media: To become more reflective about the media we experience in every aspect of our lives from film and television to social media to internet memes. In the process, students will develop enhanced skills in media production and analysis.

*

Readings

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) – purchase any edition, print or digital
  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011)  – purchase any edition, print or digital
  • Jennifer Egan, “Black Box,” The New Yorker (June 4 and 11, 2012). Available free to Vanderbilt users here.
  • Thomas Beller, “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing
  • Poems by John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Constantine Cavafy (Brightspace)
  • Media theory:
    • Jesper Juul, “Introduction,” Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, pp. 1-7, 18-21. (Brightspace)
    • J. David Bolter and Richard Grusin, from Remediation, “Introduction,”
    • Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux, Ch. 6, “Breaking the Metagame: Feminist Spoilsports and Magic Circle Jerks,” from Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames (2017)

Films

  • King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, dir. Seth Gordon (2007)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson (extended version)
  • Ready Player One, dir. Steven Spielberg (2018)

Games

  • Lord of the Rings Online (Turbine, 2007) – Free to play.  Download from Standing Stone Games. Join the GLADDEN server
  • Braid (Number None, 2008) – $14.99 on Steam (Wait to buy until class)
  • Journey (thatgamecompany, 2012) – PS3 only (Wait to buy until class)
  • Portal (Valve, 2007) – $9.99 on Steam  (Wait to buy until class)
  • Gone Home (Fullbright, 2013) – $14.99 on Steam (Wait to buy until class)
  • Papers Please (3909, 2013) – $9.99 on Steam  (Wait to buy until class)

*

Week 1 (Jan 8-12)

Monday

Wednesday

  • Jesper Juul, “Introduction,” Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, pp. 1-7, 18-21. (Brightspace)
  • Coursera, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and NarrativeWatch:
    • 1.5 A brief history of games
  • In class: Sign up for blog entry and presentation

Friday

  •  King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007). Available for rent on Amazon

*

Week 2 (Jan 15-19)

Monday

  • Martin Luther King Day (NO CLASS MEETING)

Tuesday (noon): Telese – blog post due

Wednesday

  • Braid (available on Steam) – Complete before class (alone or in teams).  Spend a minimum of two hours progressing through as many levels as you can of this platform game.  You do not have to finish the game, but there will be a prize for the individual or team who gets furthest.

Friday

  • Gameplay assignment (LOTRO) – Complete before classComplete the Tutorial and begin the quests in the Intro region.If you complete the quests in the Intro region, your character will be around level 5-6.  You will know you have completed the Intro region when an NPC asks you to go with him to retake the region and warns you that you will not be able to do any more quests in the Intro area once you have accepted his quest.  You will not be able to use the Chat function until you have exited the Introductory region.When you have ported out of the Intro area, join the celticknights chat channel by clicking in the chat box (lower left corner of the screen) and type /joinchannel celticknights .  From then on, you can switch to that channel by  typing: /1 and a space. Ask if there is an officer from Vicarious Universe who can invite you to join the Kinship.

*

Week 3 (Jan 22-26)

Monday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Book I, chapters 1-5 of the novel)
  • Gameplay assignment (LOTRO) – Complete before class.Form a fellowship and meet one or more of your classmates in the Shire, Bree, or Ered Luin. Post a screenshot of you together to the class Facebook Page (one photo will do for both if you name the players in a comment).  Then do quests together.For help on how to take a screenshot on Windows, search in Google.  For help on how to take a screenshot on Mac OS, see: cnet.com/three-ways-to-take-a-screenshot-on-a-mac/.

Wednesday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Book I, chapters 7-10 of the novel)

Thursday (noon) Andrewhoffmeister-vanderbilt – blog post due

Friday

*

Week 4 (Jan 29-Feb 2)

Sunday (6:00 pm): SC – Blog 3 due

Monday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Read Book II, chapters 1-4 of the novel)
  • Gameplay assignment: Level your character in LOTRO (you should have reached level 10 or beyond).

Wednesday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (read Book II, Chapters 5-8)

Friday (NO CLASS MEETING)

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (read Book II, Chapters 9-10)

*

Week 5 (Feb 5-9)

Monday

  • Complete before class: Watch the extended version of the film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson.  Note: the film is considerably longer than the theatrical release so please allow sufficient time.
  • In class: The Romance Circle

Tuesday (noon): torietaylor – Blog 4 due

Wednesday

  • Bolter and Grusin, from Remediation, “Introduction” (Brightspace)
  • In class: screen capture exercise

Friday

  • Gameplay assignment: Level your character in LOTRO (you should have reached level 15 or beyond)
  • In class: video essay workshop

*

Week 6 (Feb 12-16)

Monday

Tuesday (noon): ethan1412 – Blog 5 due

Wednesday

Friday

  • Video essay due. Create a video essay about life and adventures in the Shire, Bree, or the Old Forest. It should contain multiple scenes created by using screen capture footage; stills from LOTRO, the Peter Jackson movie, and text from the novel; voice over narration; and music.

*

Week 7 (Feb 19-23)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Robert Wake – Blog 6 due

Monday

  • Play Portal (Valve, 2007) – $9.99 on Steam.  Spend a minimum of two hours progressing through as many levels as you can.  You do not have to finish the game.

Wednesday

Friday

  • Jennifer Egan, “Black Box,” The New Yorker (June 4 and 11, 2012). Available free to Vanderbilt users here.

*

Week 8 (Feb 26-Mar 2)

Sunday (6:00 pm): therookienook – Blog 7 due

Monday

Gone Home (Steve Gaynor, designer. Fullbright Company: 2013)

Wednesday

Friday

*

SPRING BREAK

*

Week 9 (Mar 12-16)

Sunday (6:00 pm): whimsicalkyle – Blog 8 due

Monday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 1-10

Tuesday (noon): jellyl3mon – Blog 9 due

Wednesday

  • CLASS MEETS IN THE WOND’RY (2nd floor)
  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 11-20

Friday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 21-30

*

Week 10 (Mar 19-23)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Wooseongchoi – Blog 10 due

Monday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 31-39

Wednesday

Thursday (noon): Vinceth100118 – Blog 11 due

Friday

*

Week 11 (Mar 26-30)

Monday (no class at the scheduled meeting time)

  • Class cancelled for movie outing next Sunday

Wednesday

  • Final media project (workshop)

Friday

  • Final media project (workshop)

*

Week 12 (Apr 1-6)

Monday

  • Final media project (workshop)

Tuesday

  • Evening field trip to see Ready Player One, dir. Steven Spielberg (2018

Wednesday

  • Discuss Ready Player One film

Friday

  • Final media project (workshop)

*

Week 13 (Apr 9-13)

Monday

  • Final media project (workshop)

Wednesday (MEET AT THE WOND’RY, 2nd floor)

  • Final media project (workshop)

Friday

  • Final media project (workshop)

*

Week 14 (Apr 16-20)

Monday

  • Class presentation: Kyle and Sunny, “Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One: The Battle of Castle Anorak” (GameMaker Studio 2, shooter, top-down/platformer game)

Wednesday

  • Class presentation: Matthew and Torie, “Neil Stephenson’s Seveneves: A game of 2018 and 5050″ (Tabletop RPG, homebrewed)
  • Class presentation: Andrew, “‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’: An Interactive Fiction”: (Text based game made with Twine)

Friday (MEET AT THE WOND’RY, 2nd floor)

  • Class presentation: Janelle, Robert, Vincent, Vivian, and Wooseong, “Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One: Aech’s Hideout in VR” (Virtual reality environment created with Unity 2017.3.1)

Week 15 (Apr 23)

  • Collaborative blog post


*
Course Requirements

  • Blog and presentattion: 20% of the grade.
    • Your blog posts will be peer evaluated, using the following criteria: Does the author seem deeply engaged with the topic? Is the blog entry thoughtful, creative, offbeat, or humorous? Is the entry coherent and well-suited to its apparent purpose?  Blogs will not be graded on length or mechanics unless major patterns of sloppiness appear.
    • Blog comments: Each student must comment on a minimum of 3 blog entries before class the next day.
  • Video essay: 30% of the grade.
  • Collaborative digital media design project: 40% of the grade.
  • Completion of reading assignments and class participation, 10% of the grade

Class discussion and presentations

  • Rationale: Learning to speak articulately about topical issues is a valuable skill, which small discussion 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.
  • Presentations will be evaluated on content, integration of media, and oral performance.
  • Class participation grades will be calculated as follows:
    • Attendance at the great majority of classes (no more than 3 unexcused absences) 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 that is intelligent, respectful of others, and clearly oriented toward contributing to the class experience constitutes excellent performance and earns a grade of A.
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