Experimental GameLab

DungeonMaster: ben chang
Thursday, 9-4
MI 416

In this course, students will dissect, expand, subvert, and critique computer games to develop new hybrids of video games, cybertext literature, and interactive art. Beyond the graphics and fast reflexes, computer games can often be considered as stories, as simulations, or as social situations. Screenings and examples in class will form the basis for analysis of the language and structure of computer games and some of the ways artists use them. These interests include drawing on the iconography of videogames as cultural reference points, hacking games to critique them or present new content, examining the role of online games as mediated social spaces, and exploring ways to translate traditional literary structures such as plot, motivation, pacing, and character development into interactive forms.
Technical demos in class will provide technique for both hacking existing games and creating games from scratch, using a range of contemporary tools. The technical material is targeted at students with previous experience in interactive multimedia and familiarity with programming. Projects in this class may be undertaken using whichever tools and media you prefer - there will be demos in Director, Flash, and a selection of 3D game engines, but you should use whichever tools and languages are best suited for your project. Projects in this class do NOT have to be games, and can be in any medium as long as they address the issues presented in the course.

Complete assigned readings, participate in class discussions.
Complete midterm project and final project, and participate in class critiques. Participation in the final critique is Mandatory.

More than 3 unexcused absences may be grounds for a grade of No Credit.

Required Text: First Person, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, eds.
All readings listed are from the textbook, except where otherwise noted.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Survey of video game genres; theories and issues in game studies.
  3. Game Theories
  4. Reading:
    Celia Pearce, "Towards a Game Theory of Game"
    Eric Zimmerman, "Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four Naughty Concepts in Need of Discipline"
    Technical Demo: Director and Flash Review, space, mapping, navigation, branching.
  5. Cyberdrama
  6. Reading : Section I
    Janet Murray, "From Game-Story to to Cyberdrama"
    Ken Perlin, "Can There Be a Form between a Game and a Story?"
    Michael Mateas, "A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games"

    Technical Demo: Director and Flash action games, interactivity, object-oriented programming.
  7. Ludology
  8. Reading: Section II
    Markku Eskelinen, "Towards Computer Game Studies"
    Espen Aarseth, "Genre Trouble"
    Stuart Moulthrop, "From Work to Play"

    Technical Demo: physics simulation
  9. Alternate-Reality and Real-World Gaming
  10. Reading:
    Jill Walker, "How I Was Played by Online Caroline"
  11. Subversive gamehacking and the aesthetics of illegibility
  12. Reading:
    N. Katherine Hayles, "Metaphoric Networks in Lexia to Perplexia"

    Technical Demo: Quake modding
  13. Midterm Projects
  14. Open Systems and Creative Play
  15. Reading:
    Camille Utterback, "Unusual Positions - Embodied Interactivity with Symbolic Spaces"

    Technical Demo: video/gestural input in Director
  16. Critical Simulation: agency, ethics, art, and violence
  17. Reading:
    Simon Penny, "Representation, Enaction, and the Ethics of Simulation"

    Technical Demo: 3D game engines (Nebula Device, CUBE, CrystalSpace, Unreal)
  18. Political Gaming
  19. Reading:
    Augusto Boal, "Theatre of the Oppressed" (online on the Portal)
    Gonzalo Frasca, "Videogames of the Oppressed"

    Technical Demo: 3D game engines, continued
  20. Identity, Representation, and Sexuality
  21. Mia Consalvo, "Hot Dates and Fairy-Tale Romances" (online on the Portal)

    Technical Demo: 3D game engines, continued
  22. Multiplayer Worlds - Games as communities
  23. Miroslaw Filiciak, "Hyperidentities - Postmodern Identity Patterns in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games" Technical Demo: MUDS, MOOs, multiuser worlds.
  24. Work Day
  25. Final Critique / Presentations