English 239–Videogame Narrative



English 239                                                                         Videogame Narrative 

Dr. Richard Bower                                                            (Office L-218/ F-242)

Phone 294-8464                                                               BowerR(at)cayuga-cc(dot)edu (Except for private messages, I “reply all” to mail, so the entire class can stay informed.) 

Currently more lucrative than books or films, videogames are a multibillion-dollar industry.  An understudied and underdeveloped aspect of this industry is its literary and rhetorical design.  For example, consider the ongoing storytelling and game development issues described in Daniel Floyd’s 2008 video below:

From bards to novelists, from scriptwriters to video bloggers, the idea behind this course is that narrative underscores all media to some degree.  Through analysis and field exploration, this course will read and write our way into an understanding of videogame narration, where participants also practice thinking as game designers and ludologists.  Topics of study will include games as storytelling, interactive fiction, gamification, animation aesthetics, and avatars undertaking a hero’s journey.

Anchored in its New Media foundation, this course studies the language of gaming and serves as an option in the Writing Concentration and a Writing Intensive course (See College Catalogue).  Students should expect many writing opportunities in addition to a final project—a combined total of 15-20 pages.

Student Learning Outcomes: By course’s end students will be able to

  • Apply narrative techniques to game design,
  • Recall key vocabulary and concepts from game development.

Required Readings (available in bookstore):

  1. A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design (paper or ebook) by Anna Anthropy, Naomi Clark ISBN-13: 978-0321886927
  2. Ready Player One (paperback or ebook) by Ernest Cline  ISBN-13: 9780307887443
  3. Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG Edited by Wendy Despain  ISBN-13: 978-1568814179 
  4. Assorted online readings selected by instructor and students

Students in need of the CAS should talk with me the first week of class.  All student interests are welcome, and a diversity of opinions and projects will be encouraged.

Required Course Writings

(10%) Participation—Participants contribute web links relevant to course material; a concise written summary should describe the link and its importance. Participants also complete in-class writings, projects, and discussions.

(20%) Reading Response Assignments (min of 300 words; use at least one quote from the reading or reference class discussion):  these assignments use our readings, discussions, and your interests to respond to what you find useful for game writing or, in particular, for your final project.  As a suggestion in your response, you may agree with one statement and/or disagree with another statement made in class or through your reading.

(50%) Short Papers (300—600 words) Readings may be used in developing these essays on 1) designer philosophy, 2) game reviews, 3) gamer case studies, 4) genre analysis, and 5) creating character profiles.

(20%) Longer Project (5-10 pages depending on previous total written work)  Since this course is primarily intended for developing writers looking to practice video game studies, the longer project suggested is a GDD (game design document) or IF (interactive fiction using ChooseYourStory.com or Twine).  This project will demonstrate and be evaluated for the component skills learned throughout the course.  Considering that the creative storytelling and problem-solving skills are more important than handing in a masterpiece, with instructor permission a scholarly paper or a formal textbook review on game studies may be substituted.