ENG 227: VIDEO GAMES AS LITERATURE

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology


Catalogue Description:


Course explores the role of video game in storytelling and culture. Students will play and analyze several games, while learning key terms in critical gaming and current trends in the gaming industry. Students will also create their own game using Twine technology.


Course Introduction:


Throughout this course we will play, analyze, and discuss several games that have a popular appeal and/or been a focal point critical discourses.
The focus of this class will be on story-focused games as we will explore the genre with a focus on literary techniques; however, we will also question the role of literature in video games and vice versa. Using story-based games have other functions as well. Those in the computer program can gain more experience in coding; graphics majors can practice utilizing the use of graphics within a narrative. We will use software like Twine, and everyone in the class will have a game they are able to publish and have their friends play. You will learn what makes an intersting story/game, and the role video games play in our society culturally and politically.


Required Textbooks and tools:

This list is a caveat that will be chosen in terms of availablity and hours of game play. Each class will have about 1-2 hours of gameplay a week. Some will be done in class and some outside of class.

Braid Jonathan Blow (Steam)
Papers, Please Lucas Pope (Steam or an app)
Kentucky Route Zero (Steam)
The Uncle who Works for Nintendo (Jayisgames.com)
Depression Quest Zoe Quinn (depressionquest.com)
Dys4ia Anna Anthropy (jayisgames.com)
Every Day the Same Dream Mollie Industria (Molleindustira.org)
Papa and Yo (Steam)

*Notebook

*Stevens email account

*Access to a computer to play outside of class


Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to:

1. Identify, compare, contrast, and evaluate the way stories are told and designed in video games.
2. Learn and apply significant critical concepts and vocabulary specific to video games.
3. Critically analyze and contextualize storytelling video games with the help of recognized authorities in the field, both academic and popular.
4. Understand major movements and discourse communities within critical gaming like #Gamergate.
5. Play, think, speak, and write in a more effective, thoughtful, critical, and informed fashion.
6. Develop stronger analytical skills.
7. Develop ethical research skills.
8. Learn how to create a game online using a Twine application (Twinery.org).
9. Develop stronger reading, researching, and writing skills.

Grading Scale

A 94 - 100
A- 90 - 93
B+ 87 - 89
B 84 - 86
B- 80 - 83
C+ 77 - 79
C 74 - 76
C- 70 - 73
D+ 67 - 69
D 64 - 66
D- 60 - 63
F 59 - 0
I Incompletes must be approved
W Withdrawal must be before the deadline


Grading and assignments
Journal Responses and quizzes | 35%
Essay | 20% points
Twine game | 20% points
Presentation 1 | 15% points
Presentation 2 | 10% points
Total: 100%


In-class Responses, Quizzes, Participation and Attendance

Discussing the literature in class is an integral part of critical thinking and engaging with the works beyond reading. This is what literature (even in the form of a game) is about, so you must both listen to your peers and share in the discussion. Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. While debate can make lively conversations, arguments that are not professional and fall into the trap of ad hominom will not be tolerated and result in a dismissal from the class.
You will be docked points every time you are disruptive in class; this includes but isn’t limited to sleeping in class, arriving late to class, talking when others have the floor, not participating in a group activity, using your cell phone, etc. Again, if your behavior in class affects the learning process, you will be withdrawn from the class. Your prepared daily attendance is critical to your success in this course.
I keep one note card for each student and at the end of each week I will assess your participation in the discussions, group projects, and/or other activities completed in class.
In addition, at least once a week, you will participate in an in-class writing assignment or quiz on the work that was assigned for that week or any other material that was assigned. This also covers any additional secondary information we read or learned about in class. For example, you could be asked to discuss the concept of time and regret in Jonathan Blow’s Braid (you will understand what this means by the time you are asked to write about it).
I will drop the lowest grade. This cannot be made up unless you have a documented excuse, so being in class is very important. However, you will only have the day upon your return to make this up and it must be during my office hours.
Two unexcused absences will be reported to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. More than five unexcused absences may be reason for dismissal from the course. Two weeks worth of unexcused absences also result to a 10 percent grade deduction from your overall grade.


Essay

You have one critical essay due in this class. It will be a research paper on a game (not a review) or interesting topic in gaming of your choice, but it must utilize scholarly articles preferably from academic journals like Game Studies. You can utilize some bloggers; however, the rules of analyzing legitimate sources must be used. The paper will be 3 pages and have at least three sources. Before the paper is due you must submit your thesis and the articles you plan to use. I also expect the use of key terms from the course like procedural rhetoric, design, narrative, political potential, etc.
See rules on plagiarism. They must be uploaded to Turnitin.com.


Presentations

You will have two presentations in this class. One will be a group project leading a class discussion on a genre of games. You will engage with questions like: What are the major games in the genre? What is the most played (best sales)? What is the purpose of the game? (Endgame?) What critical issues surround the type of game?
The second presentation will be a lesson on a specific task in Twine. See Twine instructions.


Twine Game

You will create a game of your own. I should be at least ten minutes of game play. It must have the main elements of a narrative (characters, setting, and plot) and a game (a way to win or lose). Using twine takes a good amount of steps and coding, so as we build your game in the computer lab, you will create a mini-lecture on a function in Twine that you may discover out of need for creating your own story. For example, you can teach the class how to insert pictures within your game, or you can teach them how to score points. It should take about five minutes, and you should create a handout with screen shots so everyone has a take away. You may work with a partner for more complex tasks.


Late assignments

Late assignments will only be accepted if you have an excused absence with proof like a doctor's note. However, you will have one free pass: after one work that is late, I will not accept any more work. You will not be able to make up any presentations and if you miss both, it is an automatic zero in the course.


Professionalism

It is expected that all students follow the mission statement and philosophical statement of the college. I expect everyone to treat each other with respect and kindness. A professional environment will also be maintained to ensure a positive learning environment. If you cannot maintain this, please withdraw from the class. I will dismiss you from the course if your behavior becomes a repeated issue. Please keep in mind that we will be talking openly about some controversial topics; we will approach the theories with an open-mind, and it is not meant to be taken as a dogma, so to speak. The only ideas that will not be tolerated are those racist, sexist, or in general, oppressive in nature--I will also not tolerate language that purposely closes out other's opinions, unless they are bigoted in an intentionally negative way.


Makeup Policy

If you have an excused absence, it is still your responsibility to make up the work by the following class. If you have missed consecutive excused absences, you are to visit me during my office hours, call, or email me, so we can work together to come up with a plan of action with new due dates. You will have the amount of days missed to make up any of the given work.


Academic Honesty

Recognizing the importance of academic integrity to the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology community, the College Academic Policies; Standards Committee adopted a new Academic Integrity policy, Spring 2007. The shared conviction, represented in the procedures that follow, is that academic integrity is best taught and reinforced by faculty as an element of the teaching and learning process. Only in the limited instances in which faculty believe that disciplinary, as well as academic, sanctions are called for should the process move to the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Definition and expectations: Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and all members of the College community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, College’s Code of Conduct demands that students conduct themselves in a responsible manner that corresponds to acceptable and mature adult standards of behavior and comply with all College regulations and directives. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.
Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the College community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.
To protect the rights and maintain the trust of honest students and support appropriate behavior, faculty and administrators should regularly communicate high standards of integrity and reinforce them by taking reasonable steps to anticipate and deter acts of dishonesty in all assignments. At the beginning of each course, it is the responsibility of the instructor to provide students with a statement clarifying the application of College academic integrity policies to that course.
Academic Honesty: Section 7324 of the Crimes Code of Pennsylvania makes it a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree to sell or offer for distribution any dissertation, thesis, term paper, essay, report, or other written assignment, or to sell or offer for distribution any assistance in the preparation of such assignments, for submission to an educational institution to meet the requirements for a degree, diploma, certificate, or course of study. (Assignment is defined as a written, recorded, pictorial, artistic, or other academic task. To prepare is defined as to create, write, or in any way produce in whole or substantial part any such assignment.)
The law does not prohibit an educational institution or members of its faculty and staff from offering instruction or instructional services as part of its curricula or programs. Neither does the law apply to the sale of certain copyrighted materials described in Section 7324(f).

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined as …

* Submitting an assignment claiming to be original work but which has been wholly or partially created by someone else.
* Allowing your work to be submitted by another student as if it were that student’s own original work.
* Presenting as one’s own the ideas (i.e., paraphrases or summaries of research), organization, or the wording (i.e., direct quotations) of another work without appropriate acknowledgement of the sources within the text of your work and a works cited page per the standards of an accepted academic documentation system (i.e., CBE, Chicago Manual of Style, APA, or MLA).
* Inaccurate, sloppy, or faulty documentation of sources.
Disciplinary Sanctions: Penalties that may be imposed include but are not limited to the following:
* Faculty may lower the grade or fail that particular assignment, lower the course grade, give a failing course grade and/or dismiss that student from the course. Additionally, Faculty may recommend further involvement from the Vice President of Academic Affairs.
The Vice President for Academic Affairs may impose harsher measures within the context of the College.


The English Lab

The English Lab is located in the Learning Resource Center (LRC), second floor. It is open to all students who need or want extra help on their assignments. If you receive a failing grade on an assignment, you may be required to see the English tutor.


Students with Disabilities

Disabilities Accommodations: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Amendment Act of 2009, students with learning, physical, or emotional disabilities that affect a major life activity are entitled to reasonable accommodations provided by the college. Students must provide documentation and meet with the Disabilities Coordinator prior to the accommodations being provided. For further information see Debra Schuch, Counselor/Disabilities Coordinator, Hartzell 101 between 8:30 am-4:30 pm weekdays. Phone: 717-299-7408 or e-mail Schuch@stevenscollege.edu to schedule an appointment.