Beyond serving as a popular form of entertainment for global mass consumption, video games reflect the play element of culture as an artistic medium, narrative format, and social platform. This course introduces undergraduates to video games and the subfield of game-studies. In order to provide appropriate context, the course situates video games in the history of the visual and material culture of games and examines the fundamental premises of the agonic and ludic stemming as far back as Plato and Aristotle. Deep critical reading on theories of play through authors such as Kant, Gadamer, and Huizinga will link game-studies to core debates in the humanities.
A main focus of the course will be the development of videogames from the 1970s to present. Students will learn to use art historical methodology and close looking to analyze video games not merely as texts, as they are often taught, but rather as interactive experiences seen though formal analysis, reception theory, and narrative structure. In addition to reading and writing about video games, students will also play video games followed by discussions that will touch upon how video games reflect important issues in art and society. To this end we will consider the significance of avant-garde art videogames as well as current debates on issues of gender, race, and commercialization in gamer culture.
This course will not require previous experience with gaming. It is a course on history and theory and will not involve coding or writing video games.