Week ahead: 6

6 9/22
  • Fiasco/Alice is Missing Rulebooks
  • Setup games in class

This week, you’ll be playing one of these two games together in groups of 3-5 via Roll20. I’ll be sending you invitations to join games on the platform. After you play, you’ll write up a reflection about the game.

In class on Tuesday, you’ll get a chance to begin setting up your characters and the games.

We’ll also spend some time in class finalizing details on the podcast series.

Week Ahead: 4

4 9/8
9/10* Ian Bogost “Media Microecology” and “Empathy” from How to Do Things with Videogames

In class on Tuesday, we’ll have two primary tasks:

  • We’ll continue to establish our own working definition for what a game is and to develop the basic theoretical framework we can rely on to analyze games by considering Steven Johnson’s argument in Everything Bad is Good for You and Mary Flanagan’s “Introduction to Critical Play.”
  • We’ll also need to establish the ground rules for the podcast series that this class will be be publishing this semester.

Make sure you have read over the assignment page for the podcast series. You’ll be divided into 6 groups of 3 students for the podcast series, then within each group you’ll take turns rotating through the 3 different roles as you produce episodes. That means by the end of the semester we will have together published 18 episodes of a podcast series exploring how games encourage us to think, feel, and behave.

I am going to encourage you to devote episodes to exploring games that were included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality this summer. The bundle included more than 1700 independent games and raised $8,149,349.66 for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund in order to support protestors who continue to march for racial justice throughout the nation. I’ve put together a playlist called Play Make Write Think that highlights almost 50 of those games based on recommendations I’ve seen and based on my own perusal of the list of 1700+ games, just to help make the choice not so overwhelming. I purchased the full bundle and can make games from it available to you for the purposes of critical analysis in your podcast episodes.

In our class discussion on Tuesday, you will all need to be engaged in developing the rules for the series; for example, should each episode be devoted only to a single game or can we be allowed to compare two? and should we make every episode about one or more games from the Bundle, or should we allow the freedom to go outside the bundle for episodes? We will also need to come up with a title, begin drafting the text we’ll record for the introductory bumper, and think about what music we’ll use in the intro to set the tone.

After class, for the rest of the week

After Tuesday, you’ll have two short essays by Ian Bogost that will round out the theoretical foundation texts for the semester. Ian Bogost is a Professor of Media Studies and of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, has written or edited ten books on video games, and created the wildly-successful Cow-Clicker, a Facebook game critiquing Facebook games. These two essays are very short but they are fairly dense theoretical writing. Please read them carefully, paying special attention to “Media Microecology.” On September 15, we’ll have a special guest teacher discussing that essay with you so it’s very important that you come to class having read the essay and are prepared to discuss it.

I have also sent you all emails with information about the game we’ll be discussing on 9/15, Gone Home. Your side quest this week is to liveblog your playing of the game.

Week ahead: 3

8/30 Side Quest 1: Avatar
3 9/1
  • “Introduction” from Superbetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal
  • Play Depression Quest
9/6 Side Quest 2: Combophoto


As of writing this on Sunday afternoon, 8 of you have already published your avatars on your sites and I’ve gotten them added to the Students Sites page. The syndication of students posts is still not fully automated because I’m waiting for three more students to let me know the URL for their sites. Once I get those and have finished setting up syndication, I’ll make the process fully automated so that when you publish a blog post to your site it will show up on the Student Posts page almost immediately. Until then, I need to run a manual update to pull posts in, so don’t worry if you publish your avatar post and it doesn’t show up until tomorrow.

Before class on Tuesday, play Depression Quest. It’s a browser based game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. You do not necessarily need to play to a conclusion, but play for at least an hour or so because we’ll use Depression Quest as our primary text for discussion on Tuesday, where we will be paying most attention to these two issues:

  • You’ll have read a couple different essays by Jane McGonigal (“What is a Game?” last week and the introduction to Superbetter this week) plus listened to the podcast analyzing Monopoly last week so we’ll spend some time thinking about the definitions she forwards for games and how they apply to Depression Quest (and Monopoly).
  • Last week, you also read Andrea Lunsford’s description of the terms we need to consider when we think about the rhetorical situation of a text or an author. Rhetorical situation is a really important term for any first year writing class, so we will spend a bit of time discussing those terms and then I will ask you to think about the rhetorical situation of Depression Quest.

After our synchronous class session, you’ll play the browser-based game Tangaroa Deep and read Steven Johnson’s essay in which he argues, amongst other things, that our increasingly complex games are making all of us smarter. And I’ll publish a discussion thread on Canvas where I’ll ask you to think about how Johnson’s article pertains to that game. We will also definitely spend some time in class next week discussing the Johnson article.

All of these discussions working out definitions of games and what kinds of things games can do to and for us will be really important in the coming weeks when we start playing some games that I have selected for you in greater depth and as you start choosing games you want to analyze in podcast episodes that we’ll publish as a class. We are laying the theoretical framework for future discussions, so please read carefully and come to class ready to ask questions about the texts’ arguments.

Also, your second side quest is another photography assignment that should be fun. You’ll be combining two different photos to create a new powerful image.

Week 2

2 8/25 First synchronous meeting via Zoom
8/26 Literacy Narrative
8/30 Side Quest 1: Avatar

Near the end of the week, I’ll usually post a “week ahead” post that aims to just give you a snapshot of what’s coming up so you can stay on track. The welcome to the class post kind of walked you through last week and up to today, when you’ll be publishing your literacy narratives as pages on your WordPress sites (and then publishing a reflective blog post about the writing process). If you’re not going to have the literacy narrative published before tomorrow morning (August 27), please send me an email letting me know when you do expect to have it published.

Once you have published your literacy narrative, sign up for a conference with me at the earliest convenient time for you.

By Sunday, you should publish your first side quest assignment, creating a square avatar image that will replace all those images of Thor’s underpants on the Student Sites page. Follow the link above to the assignment post for full instructions.

If you did not read “Rhetorical Situations” before class yesterday, please do read it this week. In our next synchronous class session, our discussion will focus on two main topics:

  • Rhetorical situations, and in particular identifying the rhetorical situation of the game Depression Quest (which you’ll play before class)
  • Beginning to develop our working definitions of a game and play.

By class on Tuesday, you’ll have already read a number of different definitions of game presented in two different essays by Jane McGonigal (the one linked above and also the introduction to Superbetter, which will be due next week on Tuesday). You will have also listened to the 99% Invisible podcast linked above analyzing the game Monopoly. We’ll talk about all those texts, paying special attention to what they say about the power and purpose of games and how they define that term. So as you read and listen, take notes about those definitions and think about which ones make the most sense for you.

I hope that’s all clear and the schedule is making sense to you. I’ll post a week ahead post that’s actually looking ahead to next week in a couple of days, but this one is here just to help keep you oriented in the meantime.