Film 323: Aesthetics of Gaming

Spring 2011, Thursdays 1:30 to 4:20, Avery 217

Professor Ed Halter

Office: Avery 220

Office hours Thursdays 5pm to 7pm, by appointment


One 5-10 page paper; one 12-20 page paper; class discussion; in-class presentation.

Grading rubric: 

30% participation (including presentation and short assignments); 30% first paper; 40% second paper. All assigned work must be completed by the semester’s end for a passing grade. Three or more absences, for whatever reason, and your grade automatically drops a letter.

Paper topics:

First paper: Explore a single concept presented in Section One, and how it relates to electronic gaming.

Second paper: Open topic of your choice within the parameters of the seminar.

Shorter readings and book excerpts will be available on Reserveweb, as directly linked pdfs, or otherwise online. The following required books will be at the Bard Bookstore:

Critical Play by Mary Flanagan
Gaming by Alexander R. Galloway
Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga
Man, Play and Games by Roger Caillois
The Medium of the Video Game by Mark J.P. Wolf (ed.)
Playing and Reality by D.W. Winnicott

In-class presentation
Each week one student will give a 15-20 minute presentation on a game. The game can be anything you choose—electronic or non-electronic, a console system, a genre of game or a specific title. In your presentation, you should explain the history of the game, how it is played, and, most importantly, how it illustrates, contradicts, or otherwise illuminates some key aspect or aspects of that week’s reading.

Week One
Jan 27

Part One: Play and Game

Week Two
Feb 3
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1938)
Presentation: Max

Week Three
Feb 10
Roger Caillois, Man, Play and Games (1958)
Presentation: Michael

Week Four
Feb 17
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (1973) (rw)
Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling” (1957) (rw)
Dave Hickey, “The Heresy of Zone Defense” (1995) (pdf)
Presentation: Sarah Johnston-French

Week Five
Feb 24
Sigmund Freud, from Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) (rw)
D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (1971)
Presentation: Lillian

Week Six
Mar 3
Jean Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra,” (1981) (rw)
Sherry Turkle, from Simulation and its Discontents (2009) (rw)
Presentation: Christopher

Part Two: Video Games

Week Seven
Mar 10
Mark J.P. Wolf, The Medium of the Video Game, Parts I and II (2002)
Charles Bernstein, “Play It Again, Pac-Man,” (1991) (in Wolf, or web)
Presentation: Seth

Week Eight
Mar 17
Alexander R. Galloway, Gaming: Essays in Algorithmic Culture (2006)
Presentation: Jonathan
* First paper due in class or before

Mar 24 – no class, Spring Break

Week Nine
Mar 31
Mary Flanagan, Critical Play (2009)
Presentation: Nicholas

Week Ten
Apr 7
Espen Aarseth, “Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation” (2004) (web)

Gonzalo Frasca, “Ludology Meets Narratology” (1999) (web)
Jesper Juul, from Half-Real (2005) (pdf)
Presentation: Curtis

Week Eleven
Apr 14
Andreas Jahn-Sudmann "Innovation NOT Opposition: The Logic of Distinction of Independent Games" (2008) (web)
Tale of Tales, “Realtime Art Manifesto” 2006 (web)
Ian Bogost, “Persuasive Games: The Proceduralist Style” (2009) (web)
Roger Ebert on video games as art (web: 2005-1 2005-2 2010-1 2010-2)
Presentation: Adam & Agatha

Week Twelve
Apr 21
Moderation week, no reading.
8-Bit by Marcin Ramocki and Justin Strawhand, 2006
Darkon by Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel, 2006

Week Thirteen
April 28
Kieron Gillen, “The New Games Journalism” (2004) (web)

Ian Shanahan, "Bow, Nigger" (2004) (web)
Keith Stuart, “Ten Unmissable Examples of New Games Journalism” (2005) (web)
* note: please read the ten articles linked to from Stuart’s piece.
Presentation: Billy, Sarah Louis
* One page proposal + bibliography for final essay due

Week Fourteen
May 5
Stephen Johnson, from Everything Bad is Good For You (2005) (rw)
Gonzalo Frasca, "Ephemeral Games: Is it Barbaric to Design Videogames After Auschwitz?" (pdf) (2000)
Tom Bissell, “Video games: the addiction” (2010) (web)
Presentation: Dylan

Week Fifteen
May 12
Completion Week - No Class
* Final 12-20 page paper due in my office, Avery 220