This list relates to the academic year 2020-2021 which does not start until 01/08/2020
  1. Core reading list 1 item
    1. This modular/study/assessment block is in part based around notions and/or material that can be found in the core text(s) listed below.  It is therefore likely that you will use, or refer to, in your lecture/seminar sessions the notions and/or material in the books listed here.  You will likely be directed to study aspects of these texts in your out-of-classroom time, that is, in your private study.  


      Please see week-by-week.


  2. Supplementary reading 9 items
    For an introduction to game studies and video game analysis, consult the following sources:
    1. Understanding video games: the essential introduction - Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Jonas Heide Smith, Susana Pajares Tosca 2016 (electronic resource)

      Book Recommended reading

    2. Introduction to game analysis - Clara Fernâandez-Vara 2019 (electronic resource)

      Book Recommended reading

    3. An introduction to game studies: games in culture - Frans Mèayrèa 2008 (electronic resource)

      Book Recommended reading

    4. Understanding digital games - Jason Rutter, Jo Bryce 2006

      Book Recommended reading

    5. The video game theory reader - Mark J. P. Wolf, Bernard Perron 2003

      Book Recommended reading

    6. The video game theory reader 2 - Bernard Perron, Mark J. P. Wolf 2009 (electronic resource)

      Book Recommended reading

    7. The routledge companion to video game studies - Bernard Perron 2014 (electronic resource)

      Book Recommended reading

    8. Rules of play: game design fundamentals - Katie Salen Tekinbaðs, Eric Zimmerman c2004

      Book Recommended reading

    9. The game design reader: a rules of play anthology - Katie Salen Tekinbaðs, Eric Zimmerman c2006

      Book Recommended reading

  3. Session 1 – Simulation and Procedurality 7 items
    This week, we will look at the concepts of simulation and procedurality that define game ontology. We will look particularly at Salen and Zimmerman's definition of simulation, Ian Bogost's idea of "procedural rhetoric" and Miguel Sicart's critique of it. Finally, we will discuss the importance and meaning of simulations in our culture through the work of Jean Baudrillard. You should approach the reading list by looking at Salen and Zimmerman piece which describes video games as simulation and their procedural, operational and abstract character. You can then move on to Ian Bogost influential proposition of "procedural rhetoric" and the persuasive power of games to make compelling arguments by shaping behaviors. Next, you should look at Miguel Sicart critique of procedurality and its techno-deterministic behavioralism. Sicart reminds us of the "chaotic" nature of play and its importance in the creation of meaning when interacting with games. Finally, the last reading for this week is Baudrillard influential writing on simulations and their place in our culture. Baudrillard philosophical provocation is one that argues the existence of "simulacra" cultural artefact based on simulations that overwrite the "real" effectively constituting a new dimension, that of the "hyperreal".
    1. Playing 1 item
      1. This War of Mine (11 bits studios, Microsoft Windows, 2014)

    2. Required reading 4 items
      1. Rules of play: game design fundamentals

        Chapter Essential reading Read Chapter 27, pp 420-458: Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E., ‘Games as the Play of Simulation’

      2. Persuasive games: the expressive power of videogames - Ian Bogost c2007 (electronic resource)

        Book Essential reading Read: Ian Bogost, ‘Procedural Rhetoric’

      3. Against Procedurality - Miguel Sicart

        Article Essential reading

      4. Simulacra and simulation

        Chapter Essential reading Read Jean Baudrillard (1994), 'The Precession of Simulacra'

    3. Further reading 2 items
      1. The video game reader

        Chapter Recommended reading Gonzalo Frasca, “Simulation vs Narrative: Introduction to Ludology, pp. 231-236

      2. Unit operations: an approach to videogame criticism - Ian Bogost 2006

        Book Recommended reading Ian Bogost, “Unit Operations”, “Structuralism and Computation” and “Humanism and Object Technology”, pp. 1–30.

  4. Session 2 – Abstraction, Realism, Photorealism and Hyperrealism 8 items
    This week we will be looking at three concepts that are often evoked in relation to video game visual style, those of abstraction, photorealism and hyperrealism. You should start by reading André Bazin seminal essay "The Ontology of the Photographic Image", which deconstructs the obsession for realism the history of pictorial arts in relaiWe will explore together the conceptual limitations of these three categories, their history, and their relationship with technology and with other media.
    1. Playing 2 items
      1. Hotline Miami (Dennaton Game, Microsoft Windows, 2012)

      2. Grand Theft Auto IV (Rockstar North, Micorsoft Windows, 2008)

    2. Required reading 4 items
      1. The video game theory reader

        Chapter Essential reading Mark J. P. Wolf, ‘Abstraction in the Video Game’, in ed. by Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (eds.), The Video Game Theory Reader (Routledge, 2003), pp. 47–65.

      2. Visual digital culture: surface play and spectacle in new media genres - Andrew Darley 2000

        Book Essential reading • Andrew Darley, ‘On formality in contemporary visual culture’, ‘Eco and Jameson: repetition and surface’, ‘Computer animation: second-order realism’, ‘Computer games: into the image?’, ‘Simulation rides: the almost motionless voyage’, ‘Interactivity and immersion as mass entertainment’, extracts from Visual Digital Culture. Surface play and spectacle in new media genres (Routledge, 2000), pp. 58–72, 82–87, 147–166.

      3. Social Realism in Gaming - Alexander R. Galloway 2004

        Article Essential reading

    3. Further reading 2 items
  5. Session 3 - Spatial Architecture and Temporal Repetition 9 items
    We will continue our incursion in the world of video game aesthetics and its formal aspects by investigating the spatial and temporal dimensions. This week, we continue our incursion in the world of video game aesthetics and its formal aspects by investigating the spatial dimension. We will look at Michael Nitsche's understanding of space as a crucial site of design, as the author develops analogies with the architectural approaches for the interpretation of different spatial typologies. We will also address the ways in which space is a carrier of narration in video games, particularly through Henry Jenkins work on environmental storytelling. We will also look at a second dimension of aesthetics , that of time. Particularly looking at the conceptualisation of time in digital media, video games develop a circular temporality that is informed by its repetitive and reiterative nature. Jesper Juul's piece introduces concepts such as "game time", "player time" and "mapping", building a vocabulary for the analysis of time in games. The aesthetic of repetition in video games is exemplified through its many layers, from the concept of core loop mechanics, to the idea life and death as immanent, via the configurative acts of saving and loading, time is conceived as cyclical rather than linear, spiralling rather than progressive. Miglena Nikolchina's essay criticises the mythical -"kalopic"- dimension of video game temporalities, which takes this medium closer to epic genres than modern novels.
    1. Playing 2 items

        The Witness (Thekla, Inc., 2016)


        Braid (Number One, 2008)

    2. Required reading 3 items
      1. Video game spaces: image, play, and structure in 3D game worlds - Michael Nitsche c2008

        Book Essential reading Michael Nitsche, ‘Architectural Approaches’, ‘Examples of Spatial Structures in Game Spaces’ and ‘Virtual Spaces, extract from Video Game Spaces: image, play, and structure in 3D worlds (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), pp. 159–202.

      2. First person: new media as story, performance, and game

        Chapter Essential reading Henry Jenkins, ‘Game Design as Narrative Architecture’, in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan (eds.), First Person - New Media as Story Performance and Game (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 118–130.

    3. Suggested reading 4 items
      1. Tomb raiders and space invaders: videogame forms and contexts - Geoff King, Tanya Krzywinska 2006 (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading

      2. The medium of the video game - Mark J. P. Wolf 2001

        Book Recommended reading Read Mark Wolf, ‘Time in the Video Game’, pp. 77–9

  6. Session 4 – Configuration, Performance and Action 10 items
    Firstly, we will explore the concept of configuration and the performing role of the player within video games. We will seek a better understanding of how the player is engaged with the video game artifacts both on an metental and physical level, assessing whose bodies are involved in the video game performance.Designer and theorist Brenda Laurel's influential work in the 1990s revolutionizes the idea of interface and interaction thanks to a theatrical approach that casts the users on a stage, performing action that are not longer in the language of the machine, but rather afforded to them via dramatized interface. Rahnhild Tronstad and Markku Eskelinen offer a similar perspective but from a contemporary point of view, specifically looking at the configurative process required by these text in order to be performed by the user. Through a shift from the "interpretation" of linear media form, to the "configuration", these new artifacts are unveiled as object to be performed. We will then turn our attention to one of the fundamental elements of video game aesthetic experience, that of "action" and its relationship with the video game apparatus. In this class, we will deconstruct visual-centric understanding of video game aesthetics and instead recuperate its physical dimension. Graeme Kirkpatrick points at the importance of the controller in the aesthetic experience of video games, at its repressed and unseen role, which instead highlights the centrality of the players' performance. Finally, Alexander Galloway provides a formal analysis of "action" in video games, articulating four distinct dimensions.
    1. Playing 2 items
      1. Super Breakout (Atari, 1978)!/arcade/atari-prom

      2. Candy Crush* (King, 2012)

    2. Required reading 4 items
      1. The medium of the video game - Mark J. P. Wolf 2001

        Book Essential reading Read Brenda Laurel, 1993, “The Six Elements and the Casual Relations Among Them”, pp. 49–65

      2. The video game theory reader - Mark J. P. Wolf, Bernard Perron 2003

        Book Essential reading Read Markku Eskelinen and Rahnhild Tronstad, 2003, ‘Video Game and Configurative Performances’, pp. 195–220.

      3. Gaming: essays on algorithmic culture - Alexander R. Galloway 2006

        Book Essential reading Read Alexander Galloway, 2006, ‘Gamic Action, Four Moments’, pp.1–38.

    3. Further reading 4 items
      1. The routledge companion to video game studies - Bernard Perron 2014 (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading Read Grant Tavinor, 2014, ‘Art and Aesthetics’, pp. 59–66

      2. Aesthetic theory and the video game

        Chapter Recommended reading Read Graeme Kirkpatrick, 2011, ‘The Aesthetic Approach’, pp. 12–47

      3. First person: new media as story, performance, and game

        Chapter Recommended reading Read Michael Mateas, 2004, ‘A Preliminary Poetics of Interactive Drama and Games’, pp. 19–33.

      4. The routledge companion to video game studies - Bernard Perron 2014 (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading Read Michael Nitsche, 2014, ‘Performance’, pp. 388–395.

  7. Session 5 8 items
    Gamers and Gaming Cultures In this first class focused on socio-cultural topics, we look at culture and subculture, gaming cultures from their inception, and cultural capital.
    1. Playing 1 item
      1. Evoland (Shiro Games, 2013)

    2. Essential Readings 3 items
      1. Resources of hope: culture, democracy, socialism

        Chapter Essential reading Read Williams, R. 1989 [1958]. ‘Culture is Ordinary’, pp. 3-18.

      2. Computer games and the social imaginary - Graeme Kirkpatrick 2013 (electronic resource)

        Book Essential reading Read Chapter 3: ‘The Formation of Gaming Culture’.

    3. Recommended Readings: 4 items
      1. Computer games and the social imaginary - Graeme Kirkpatrick 2013 (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading Read chapter 2.

      2. Raising the stakes: e-sports and the professionalization of computer gaming - T. L. Taylor c2012 (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading Read chapter 5

      3. Fans, bloggers and gamers: exploring participatory culture

        Chapter Recommended reading Read chapter 2, pp 37-60, Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching

      4. Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education

        Chapter Recommended reading Read Bourdieu, P. 1986. The forms of capital, pp. 241-258.

  8. Session 6 - Representation, Communities, and Intersectionality 12 items
    In this class we are going to discuss pressing and persistent issues surrounding intersectionality, particularly with regards with issues surrounding gender and race in videogames and the communities surrounding them.
    1. Playing 2 items
      1. Dishonored (Arkane Studios, 2012)

      2. Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare, 2009)

    2. Essential readings 4 items
      1. The virtual census: representations of gender, race and age in video games - Dmitri Williams, Nicole Martins, Mia Consalvo, James D. Ivory 08/2009

        Article Essential reading

      2. Race-Based Fantasy Realm - Melissa J. Monson 01/2012

        Article Essential reading

    3. Recommended readings 6 items
      1. Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: intersectional perspectives and inclusive designs in gaming

        Chapter Recommended reading Read Kafai, Y et al. 2016. ‘The Need for Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Design in Gaming'.

      2. Anger, Fear, and Games: The Long Event of #GamerGate - Torill Elvira Mortensen 12/2018

        Article Recommended reading

      3. Play between worlds: exploring online game culture - T. L. Taylor c2006

        Book Recommended reading Read chapter 4

      4. Digital culture, play, and identity: a World of Warcraft reader - Hilde Corneliussen, Jill Walker Rettberg (electronic resource)

        Book Recommended reading Read Corneliussen, H. 2008. ‘World of Warcraft as a Playground for Feminism’, pp.63-86.

      5. Digital Elves as a Racial Other in Video Games - Nathaniel Poor 09/2012

        Article Recommended reading

  9. Session 7 - Politics, Economies, Ideologies 10 items
    In this class we look at the political dimensions of videogames, and relationships between in-game economies and ‘real-world’ economies.
    1. Playing 2 items
      1. BioShock (Irrational Studios, 2007)

      2. Don't Get Fired (QuickTurtle Co., 2015)

    2. Essential Reading 3 items
      1. Neoliberalism and the media 2019 (electronic resource)

        Book Essential reading Read Meyers, M. 2019. ‘Neoliberalism and the Media: History and Context'

      2. Neoliberalism and the media 2019 (electronic resource)

        Book Essential reading Read chapter 6: Imperial City: Grand Theft Auto

      3. Games of empire: global capitalism and video games - Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greig De Peuter c2009

        Book Essential reading Read chapter 8

    3. Recommended reading 5 items
      1. The Game of Politics - Matthew Kelly 07/2018

        Article Recommended reading

      2. Video Games, Dystopia, and Neoliberalism: The Case of BioShock Infinite - Óliver Pérez-Latorre, Mercè Oliva 11/2019

        Article Recommended reading

  10. Session 8 - Games, violence and moral panics 8 items
    In this class we will unpack the classic debate surrounding video game violence and explore a history of moral panics.
    1. Playing 2 items
      1. Ultimate Doom (id Software, 1995)

      2. Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015)

    2. Essential reading 3 items
    3. Recommended reading 3 items
      1. Technical report on the review of the violent video game literature - APA task force on violent media 2015

        Document Recommended reading

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