Video
Game
Studies

ENGL 203 | Prof. Daniel Scott Snelson
http://dss-edit.com | dsnelson @ humnet
Thursdays | Kaplan Hall A56 | 12:00-2:50pm
Office Hours: danny snelson .youcanbook.me

Abstract

This seminar explores emerging trends in scholarship on video games with a focus on theory and method. We will study recent monographs drawing from a diverse array of fields including media theory, code and platform studies, poetry and poetics, critical race studies, visual culture, art and art history, gender and sexuality studies, cinema studies, queer and crip theory, digital humanities, and performance studies, among others. In each instance, we’ll chart how and why approaches to video games might interface with these fields. The course will be built on books published in the very recent past and as they surface throughout the quarter. New works will be paired with optional readings in related constellations and foundational texts for further research, as well as a range of gameplay experiments and engagements. The final set of readings (and playings) will be determined in collaboration with seminar participants. Course requirements include: an informal presentation, Discord participation and critical Twitch streams, playing a bunch of games over the quarter, and a final research paper or project exploring new methods in video game scholarship.

 

All featured texts should be read in print—or at least the introduction. Participants encouraged to acquire print books where possible. The rest of the texts will be made available online. Access to the full course digital repository will be granted on the first session (and may be requested by the public via email). Games made free where available.

As a general outline for the course, take note that these are broad strokes subject to change. This seminar is fully interactive, growing and responding to its users. Each week will build on previous weeks, class conversations, and the directions that our study of TMI happens to follow. The content syllabus will be updated regularly as a result, though the requirement will remain fixed. The syllabus will only be completed after we finish the course, and all research (including your own) has been collected.

Given the brevity of the quarter, unexcused absences will cut into your participation percentage. If you must miss a class, it is your responsibility to make arrangements with me both before and after the absence. Proposals for interaction commensurate with a three-hour seminar session will be accepted. 

Participants will gain familiarity with a wide range of disciplinary approaches to writing about the internet. Skills for navigating the monograph using digital research methods will be developed. Independent research and creative synthesis will be highlighted. Scholarly techniques covered include the annotated bibliography, the public presentation, the collective synthesis, and the creative research project. Above all, this seminar incubates new and unlikely connections—among a diverse array of disciplinary perspectives—toward writing and reading on and about the internet. 

Between seminar sessions, we’ll continue an ongoing conversation over Discord. An invitation and signup to the dedicated (private) server will occur on our first meeting. This is a platform for informal conversation and advance preparation for seminar meetings and course actions. Responsive posts are encouraged.

Laptops or devices will be necessary for certain tasks. At some points in conversation, they will be banned. Laptops are required for every session, as experiments or research questions may arrive on the fly. I welcome any questions about technology or technical tasks at any point of the quarter.

This course aims to facilitate access to research and exploration across a variety of platforms. Please don’t hesitate to draw attention to any point of access that might be improved: from the lighting of the classroom, the size of text, the format of conversation, and so forth. All possible accommodations will be made. Additionally, or for more information, you may contact the CAE at (310) 825-1501, or at the CAE office at A255 Murphy Hall, or access the CAE website at www.cae.ucla.edu.

Increasingly, cloud gaming is making even the most computationally intensive games readily available to any user with a screen. Our super-fast ethernet connection at UCLA definitely helps. In addition, the newly-formed media lab (with a range of gaming devices) will be made available to students in this course. However, all you will need to participate is a screen (phone, tablet, or console) with access to the internet. We’ll discuss options and costs together in the seminar and in the Discord. 

Course Actions Due Date % of Grade
Seminar Attendance & Participation. This is a conversation-based course. We only get to meet on a handful of occasions—your input in each session is paramount to the course's function & collective success. In this regard, I'll also note that grades will be non-qualitative throughout.
Ongoing
20%
Discord Server Interactions. Continuing conversation from the seminar room to Discord. Gathering & sharing resources. Building & maintaining informal discourse.

Each week should feature at least:

• One core question on the featured text, for conversation.

• One key takeaway re: theory/method from the featured text.

• One hot take on a game you played.
Ongoing, due Tuesday night
20%
Presentation & Discord Synthesis. Informal presentation / conversation starter for a selected date. Synthesize Discord queries & conversation with an overview of pressing questions on the reading.
Sign-up
10%
Annotated Bibliography. Select five constellation and/or game entries over the quarter to annotate. One paragraph per entry. These selections should build toward your research project. A bibliographic template will be distributed & discussed in the second session of the seminar.
1-3 due 11.1.22.

4-5 due 11.30.22.
10%
Pecha Kucha. Final session final project rapid-fire presentations.
12.1.22
10%
Final Research Project. Open format, 10 pages or equivalent depth in experimental form of your choice. Must synthesize and respond to course materials. Collaboration, invention, exploration all encouraged.
12.9.22
30%

Primary Texts

Constellations

Games

Week 0 Libraries / Resources

The Syllabus.

VGS Text Collection. 

Karaganis, Joe. Shadow Libraries: Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education. 2018. 

Dobson, James E. Critical Digital Humanities: The Search for a Methodology. 2019.

Elias, George Skaff, Karl Robert Gutschera, Richard Garfield. Characteristics of Games. 2012.

Fuller, Matthew. Software Studies: A Lexicon. 2008. 

Wolf, Mark J. P. and Bernard Perron. The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies. 2016.

CYO. Discord. The Seminar. 

Week 1 – 9.29 Experiments

Jagoda, Patrick. Experimental Games: Critique, Play, and Design in the Age of Gamification. 2020.

See also: Jagoda. Network Aesthetics. 2016.

 

Presented by: DSS

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Samuel Presner, and Jeffrey T. Schnapp. Digital _ Humanities. 2012.

Cohen, Kris. Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations.  2017.

Cornell, Lauren, and Ed Halter. Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century. 2015.

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. 2009.

Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming. 2006.

Groys, Boris. In the Flow. 2018.

Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. 1939.

Steyerl, Hito. The Wretched of the Screen. 2013.

Nelson, Jason. Game, Game, Game, and Again Game. 2007.

Blow, Jonathan. Braid. 2008.

Molleindustria. Every day the same dream. 2009.

Ocias, Alexander. Loved. 2010.

Antropy, Anna. Dys4ia. 2012.

Tomorrow Corporation. Little Inferno. 2012.

Ryerson, Liz. Problem Attic. 2013.

Wreden, Davey, and William Pugh. The Stanley Parable. 2013 (+Ultra Deluxe, 2022)

Fox, Toby. Undertale. 2015.

Barone, Eric. Stardew Valley. 2016.

Week 2 — 10.6 — Cultures

(Deferred Session)

Antropy, Anna. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. 2012.

 

 
Presented by: Cleo

Cornell, Lauren, and Ed Halter. Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century. 2015.

Kholeif, Omar, et al. You Are Here: Art After the Internet. 2017.

Kinder, Marsha, and Tara McPherson. Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities. 2014.

Milburn, Colin. Respawn: Gamers, Hackers, and Technogenic Life. 2018.

Nagle, Angela, and Mary Sarah. Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. 2017. 

Shreier, Jason. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made. 2017.

Week 3 — 10.13 Ecologies

Chang, Alenda. Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games. 2019.

 

Presented by: Rae, Alex, Anthony

Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. 1997.

Guins, Raiford. Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife. 2014.

Han, Byung-Chul, and Erik Butler. In the Swarm: Digital Prospects. 2017.

Juul, Jesper. Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. 2005.

Kunzelman, Cameron. The World Is Born From Zero: Understanding Speculation and Video Games. 2022.

Nardi, Bonnie A. My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of WarCraft. 2010.

Tyler, Tom. Game: Animals, Video Games, and Humanity. 2022.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. How Pacman Eats. 2020.

Crowther, Will and Don Woods. Adventure. 1976.

Wright, Will. Spore. 2008.

Thatgamecompany. Flower. 2009.

Chen, Jenova. Journey. 2012.

Takazaki, Yutaka. Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector. 2014.

O’Reilly, David. Mountain. 2014.

Campo Santo. Firewatch. 2016.

Giant Squid. Abzû. 2016.

Hello Games. No Man’s Sky. 2018.

Farming games (e.g. FarmVille): various. 

Week 4 — 10.20 Orientations

Ruberg, BonnieVideo Games Have Always Been Queer. 2019.

 

Presented by: Sean, Carlos

Cote, Amanda CGaming Sexism: Gender and Identity in the Era of Casual Video Games. 2020.

Harper, Todd, Meghan Blythe Adams, Nicholas Taylor (eds.). Queerness in Play. 2018.

Murray, Soraya. On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender, and Space.  2017.

Phillips, Amanda. Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture. 2020.

Ruberg, Bonnie and Adrienne Shaw (eds.). Queer Game Studies. 2017.

Sarkeesian, Anita. Feminist Frequency. 2009 – ongoing.

Shaw, Adrienne. Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture. 2014.

Games React Null

Week 5 10.27 — Cartographies

Patterson, Christopher. Open World Empire: Race, Erotics, and the Global Rise of Video Games. 2020.

 

Presented by: Katarina, Yi, Kaliyah

Bratton, Benjamin H. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. 2016. 

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics. 2008

Dyer-Witheford, Nick and Greig de Peuter. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. 2009.

Fickle, Tara. The Race Card From Gaming Technologies to Model Minorities. 2019.

Galloway, Alexander R., and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. 2007.

Mejias, Ulises Ali. Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World. 2013. 

Pederson, Claudia Costa. Gaming Utopia: Ludic Worlds in Art, Design, and Media. 2021.

Srnicek, Nick. Platform Capitalism. 2016.

Games TBA 

Week 6 — 11.3 Intersections

Gray, Kishonna L. Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming. 2020.

Presented by: John

Benjamin, Ruha. Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life. 2019.

Brock, André Jr. Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures. 2020.

Gray, Kishonna L. and David J. Leonard, eds. Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice. 2018.

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. 2002.

Nakamura, Lisa, and Peter Chow-White, ed. Race After the Internet. 2013.

Losh, Elizabeth, and Jacqueline Wernimont. Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and the Digital Humanities. 2019. 

Penix-Tadsen, Phillip. Cultural Code: Video Games and Latin America. 2016.
 

Games TBA

 

Week 7 — 11.10 Feelings

Anable, Aubrey. Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect. 2018.

Presented by: Alexander, Ariel, Michael

Bogost, Ian. Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticsm. 2006.

Fuller, Matthew, and Andrew Goffey. Evil Media. 2012.

Isbister, Katherine. How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design. 2016.

Soderman, Braxton. Against Flow: Video Games and the Flowing Subject. 2021.

Tettegah, Sharon Y., and Safiya Umoja Noble. Emotions, Technology, and Design. 2016.

 

 

Games TBA

 

Week 8 — 11.17 Ethnographies

Taylor, T.L. Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming. 2018.

 

Presented by: Luta, Alec

Paul, Christopher A. Free-to-Play: Mobile Video Games, Bias, and Norms. 2020.

Reinhard, Andrew. Archaeogaming: An Introduction to Archaeology in and of Video Games. 2018.

Richardson, Ingrid, and Larissa Hjorth. Ambient Play. 2020.

Roberts, Sarah T. Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media. 2019.

 

 

Games TBA

Week 9 — 11.24 HOLIDAY

Week 10 — 12.1 Metagames

Boluk, Stephanie and Patrick LeMieux. Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames. 2017.

Presented by: Malu, Don, Ziggy

Ed. Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum. Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming. 2016.

Montfort, Nick. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. 2003.

Salter, Anastasia, and Stuart Moulthrop. Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives. 2021.

Scholz, Trebor, and Nathan Schneider. Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet. 2017.

Schrank, Brian. Avant-garde Videogames: Playing with Technoculture. 2014.

Smith, Micheal D., and Rahul Telang. Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment. 2017.

 

Games TBA