This course will meet synchronously via Zoom on the day and time listed above. There will be numerous asynchronous learning opportunities and other small group meetings to be scheduled separately with me and with other students as you work on projects together.
In the menu above, you can find all the information and work of this course. There’s a list of the texts and services you’ll need this semester, our learning outcomes, the course policies (note that you can click on headers to expand each section), and how grading will work this semester. You can also find the schedule for the semester and a list of the side quests and major quests you’ll complete over the course of the semester. There is also a page of resources that should be helpful to you.
West of House
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.
> open mailbox
Opening the small mailbox reveals a course description.
> take course description
You have a course description.
> read course description.
As products of a complicated network of social, economic, and technological forces, games are dense objects, deeply layered with multiple meanings and hidden histories that reveal much about our cultural values, hopes and anxieties, and assumptions about the world. In this class, we’ll play games, read and write about games, discuss games, design games, and create and build our own games. In the process, we’ll explore how systems analysis, probability theory, pattern recognition, and procedural rhetoric have become indispensable tools for understanding contemporary culture.
The writing you do in this class will include not only words on paper but also oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal communication. You will write to explore concepts like genre, rhetoric, academic discourse, and critical thinking, while further developing and honing your own methods and styles of writing. As a class, we will create, design, and publish a podcast series about games — each student will be responsible for producing an episode and assistant producing another. You will also work in groups to develop a game concept and deliver a Kickstarter-style proposal and game pitch. There are also weekly “low-stakes” sketch assignments to encourage your exploration of different methods and techniques, along with some larger analytical writing assignments. All of these course assignments include a variety of formal and informal genres, all of them incorporating multiple modes of communication (Written, Aural, Nonverbal, Digital, and Visual).
Even after reading that course description, you might be asking yourself some questions right about now. Why take a first year writing class about playing games when such classes are supposed to prepare you to be successful in the rest of your classes over the course of your college career? Why are we going to be spending a semester playing, thinking and writing about, and making games when there is a global pandemic going on that has forced us to be engaging in this class online instead of in a classroom on campus? Why a class on games in the midst of all the other traumas that we are facing individually and collectively at this time?
I encourage you to continue to ask such questions as the class continues. We’ll engage in ongoing conversation about such questions and formulate some answers to them over the course of the semester. In the meantime, I’ll simply respond with a quote from Steven Johnson’s chapter on “Games in Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, which we’ll read early in the semester. Johnson suggests that games look on the surface like other media like music videos, “But” he says, “what you actually do in playing a game — the way your mind has to work — is radically different: It’s not about tolerating or aestheticizing chaos; it’s about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order” (61-2).