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2012 Spring Issue 4 (April 27, 2012)

What Would Game Studies Look Like?

April 27, 2012
By Stuart Urback

Game design in academia is a thing.  It’s not going away anytime soon, if Carnegie Mellon, Rochester Institute, NYU, USC, or MIT are to be believed.  However, I often have the problem of spending such a long time defending exactly why game design belongs at this college (or really any college that I never actually explain what a game design major, or what game design courses would look like.  So that’s what I’m going to do.

Instead of arguing for or against game design, today I’m just going to imagine, what if games were part of Carleton’s curriculum. (Note: All of the below are MY OWN CREATION and are NOT REAL courses in any way shape or form)

Am. Studies: New American Pastime? Current studies show that approximately 87% of all American teenagers and over 70% of the general population play video games; most play games socially.  What does it mean as a culture and a society to have many of our interactions occur through the lens of a game?

Art History:  Are Games Art? This class looks to explore the changing definitions of art by asking the question, are games art?  Topics include the Smithsonian exhibit, artwork in video games, and games as an artform. 
Art:  Interactive Media  Ever wanted to make something that viewers could play with?  This class will explore the challenges and potentials that occur when developing interaction into artwork. 

CAMS: Games and Cinema  How have games effected movies?  How have movies effected games?  We will look at games like Mass Effect, Halo, and Bioshock, as well as movies like Inception, Iron Man, and 300.  What has crossed over?  How has this changed the nature of film and game design?

Cognitive Science:  Mind Games  Games have been called Skinnerian boxes and electronic crack.  Why are people so addicted to them?  This class will explore the physiological effects of gameplay on the human mind.

Cross- Cultural Studies: Games Across Cultures  How do different cultures think about play?  What position does it have in their societies?  The goal of this class is to create a model of thinking about games that incorporates cultural modes of understanding into the mix.  Is it possible to develop games that appeal to certain cultures more than others?

English: Games as Text  How can we critically analyze the texts and interactions within games to understand them more fully?  Can there be such thing as a poetic game?  This class will explore connections and divergences between popular and academic literature.  We will also explore the relationship between game and author, and how those conceptions diverge with a more literary conception of the author.

Environmental Studies: Our Environment and the Virtual World  The goal of this class is to gain a deeper understanding of our relationships with virtual worlds affect our relationship with the real world.  This will look both at consumption of electronics as well as the types of play that occurs in virtual worlds.  Students will analyze popular games like Farmville, as well as academic games like World Without Oil in order to understand how the real and imagined worlds interact.

Linguistics: Games and Communication  What ways do games operate like systems of communications?  How do humans use games to communicate and how do games change the way we communicate?  The class will analyze games like Scrabble, World of Warcraft, and Words with Friends.

Philosophy: Loss  Dealing with death and failure is a common part of the human experience.  We will explore the way humans deal with death and what types of methods are popular.  Exploration of games and contests will be a part of this as well, how do games change our relationship to failure and death.  Are they ultimately positive or negative?

Sociology and Anthropology: Games as Subculture  “Gamer Culture” has invaded the United States.  But what is gamer culture?  This class looks to analyze (sub)cultures of play within the United States within games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and Everquest.  The final project will involve doing a compare contrast between the cultures we analyze with the supposed “gamer culture” that is spreading.

Physics: Angry Birds 101  Physics is a huge part of virtual (and real) games, but we often fail to think about how we use physics when we play these games.  This (introductory) class will look at both virtual and real games and analyze the different physical theories at work when they are played, as well as the ways they “defy reality”!

The goal was to debunk the notion that talking about games would not be worthwhile, or that it would be too difficult to incorporate into a “typical” Carleton education.  Hope you enjoyed!

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