unpacking our understanding of play and games

Using reading from module 1 (and extra research if needed) Main Question: demonstrate your understanding of the relationships between play and games.

You are advised to base your discussion around one game. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

The End of Us

The Republia Times

The Raccoon Who Lost Their Shape

Entire Screen of One Game

Cookie Clicker

My Garbage Cat Wakes Me Up at 3am Every Day

Zork

Small Worlds

The essay should be 1500 words in length, including in-text references; however, your reference list is not included in this count. You have 10% flexibility with the word limit, but being substantially under or over-length will result in a poorer mark.

Please keep in mind, you will need to develop your own analysis in this essay. Even if you agree completely with one article or book you are using, you will need to present a larger and more balanced examination than any single source can provide. You will be expected to have read and to utilise both core and deeper readings from the relevant topic. As this is a research essay, to do well you may also need to find appropriate additional material to further your analysis.

Your essay should include a fully formed introduction and conclusion, should be written in paragraph form, should present a clear argument and should meaningfully engage with the readings provided in the unit as well as including credible material from additional sources if required.  Your essay should follow the APA 6th ed. referencing style.

Criteria for Assessment

You will be assessed on:

· Accurate definition of terms

· Clear and coherent writing and expression (spelling, grammar and formatting)

· Use of reading and accurate referencing following correct APA 6th ed. style

· Development of a coherent argument

Module-1:  In the first part of the unit we begin by unpacking our understanding of play and games. This is followed by a critical discussion of immersion and interactivity as core themes defining online and digital forms of play. This will function to springboard our discussion of deeper concepts in the second module, giving us a functional grounding in the early theories of play and gaming.

  • Topic 1.1: Play: An Introduction
  • Topic 1.2: Games and Rules
  • Topic 1.3: Immersion, Interactivity, and       Narrative

Topic 1.1: Play: An Introduction

Play

In this unit we explore the evolution of web-based play and examine the crucial role of Internet connectivity in the contemporary video game industry. As we begin, however, a few of you might still be wondering: why study video games at all? Why do games matter? And why should we take them seriously in an academic context?

The short answer is that video games represent the single largest industry spawned by digital media. Globally, the video game industry is worth over one hundred billion dollars and increases in value each year. Recent studies indicate that this trend will continue.

As a result, the video game industry represents an important source of employment for a wide range of people. Students taking this unit may decide to pursue one of these jobs in future:

– game designer, producer, or AI programmer;

– background, character, storyboard, or texture artist;

– audio technician, voice actor, sound designer, or composer;

– script and dialogue writer;

– promotions, marketing, social media, community and brand manager;

– game tester, journalist or reviewer;

– game studies researcher, educator, and lecturer.

As you will see, video games also represent a meaningful area of research that can help us learn more about culture, psychology, economics, and contemporary society. Like film, television, and all other media, games are embedded with cultural themes, beliefs, and ideas that can be examined critically. Games are not separate from culture and society, but the evolving products of its demands, fears, communities, and networked technologies. As such, this unit explores how games both reflect and impact the world that produced them.

Core Readings

Each week core readings are essential to understanding and developing the weekly topic. You must do these readings before entering into class discussion. This first week we have two readings; one published before digital games were invented, and one published after.

Caillois, Roger. (1961). “The Definition of Play.” In Man, Play and Games (pp.3-10). Urbana: University of Illinois Press [Find it here]

Nielsen, Simon Egenfeldt, Jonas Heide Smith & Susana Pajares Tosca. (2008). “What is a Game?” In Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction (pp. 22-44). Taylor and Francis. [Available via the library]

Questions

1. In the 1960s, French sociologist Roger Caillois provided a list of six defining characteristics of play. Do these six characteristics still apply to contemporary digital gameplay? Why/why not?

2. What are some of the challenges you might encounter when studying video games? What key concepts are important to understand?

3. Do you play video/computer/mobile games? Are they an important part of your life? Why/why not?

Suggested Playing

In addition to the core readings, try playing one or more of these free online games:

· The End of Us

· The Republia Times

· The Raccoon Who Lost their Shape

Topic 1.2: Games and Rules

Topic Outline

Early game theorists tended to view play and games as the same thing in much of their work. But as games have diversified it has become important to distinguish between them, even if just for definitional purposes. This week we take a deeper look at what makes a game a game (as distinct from play) and consider the role of rules. Our first reading comes from gaming theorist Jesper Juul who outlines six essential characteristics of games. These characteristics allow a great deal of flexbility in understanding how widely different media (The Sims vs. World of Warcraft, for example) can all be considered as games. The second and third readings explore the difference between digital and analogue games, and begin to unpack how cultural ideas are expressed through games.

Core Readings

1) Juul, J. (2010). The game, the player, the world: Looking for a heart of gameness. PLURAIS-Revista Multidisciplinar da UNEB, 1 (2). 248 – 270 (Find it here)

2) Liebe, M. (2008). There is no magic circle: On the difference between computer games and traditional games. The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference Proceedings, 324 – 340 (Located here)

Bogost, I. (2008). The rhetoric of video games. In Salen K. (ed.), The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 117 – 140. DOI: 10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.117 (You can find it here)

Questions

In order to get started thinking through this area, when reading, please consider:

1. Juul who outlines six essential characteristics of games – what are they, and do you agree with his definition?

2. What is the difference between a toy and a game? At what point does play become a game?

3. How are analogue and digital games different?

4. Bogost argues that “rules do not merely create the experience of play—they also construct the meaning of the game” (2008, p.121). What does he mean by this?

Topic 1.3: Immersion, Interactivity, and Narrative

Topic Outline

One of the core characteristics framing an understanding of digital games and play is the concept of immersion. While other media (such as film and television) are watched, assessed and viewed, games are interactive. Through the activity of the audience in playing, the outcome of gaming is an ‘immersive’ experience in which the space of a game can become a rich and vivid interactive world. This can create challenges in understanding and discussing video games. Immersion is sometimes oversimplified as creating mindless players who lose their sense of reality. Negative ideas about immersion in gaming include the notion that games are escapist, and can cause people become addicted to playing; or that players lose perspective and the ability to understand social rules and control themselves, potentially becoming violent or reclusive. Because video games involve an immersive experience with an interactive text, critical theorists have clashed over how to analyse them. Two different approaches have dominanted games research: ludology and narratology. This week we examine the concept of immersion alongside interactivity and narrative.

Required Reading

1) Ermi, L. and Mayra, F. (2005). Fundamental components of the gameplay experience: Analysing immersion. Proceedings of DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing Views – Worlds in Play. (Available here or here)

2) Jenkins, H. (2004). Game design as narrative architecture, Computer 44(3), 118 – 130. (Find it here)

4) Calleja, G. (2010). Digital games and escapism, Games and Culture 5(4), 335 – 353.

You can find it here. Note: you must be logged into Oasis to access this article in the library database.

Questions

In order to get started thinking through this area, this week please consider:

1. What is immersion? What makes a game immersive?

2. When we use the argument that games (or other media) are ‘escapist,’ what does that mean? Does it mean different things for different media? Is this a problem? Why/Why not?

3.     What distinguishes the different approaches of the ludologists and the narratologists?

 

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