Gaming the System: Narrative in Video Games
Instructors: Dr. Joshua Hussey; Dr. J. Stephen Addcox
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Office: Skiles 315 (Hussey); Hall 121 (9) (Addcox)
Office Hours: MWF 9-10:30am (Hussey); MW 8-10:30am (Addcox) or by appointment
11:05 am—11:55 am MWF Skiles 002 (B5, B6)
2:05 pm—2:55 pm MWF Skiles 002 (L5, L6)
3:05 pm—3:55 pm MWF Skiles 002 (E3, E4)
This course asks students to develop communication strategies through narrative analysis in a variety of interactive media and video games, as well as develop practical skills in presentation, collaboration and multi-modal design. To refine their approaches to LMC’s WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and non-verbal) communication modules, students will design and compose unique artifacts that respond to material on games and narrative theory. In order to provide a context for the production of these artifacts, this class will examine narrative and virtual ecosystems in a variety of media: we will address the book and the process of reading as a formal experience, but our primary area of emphasis will be the form, function, and experience of narrative in video games and other interactive media.
Note1: This class will have linked sections and will be team taught by Joshua S. Hussey and J. Stephen Addcox. Experience with games (design and play) is helpful but not required for this course.
Note2: While this class has specific content, the emphasis of the course remains on techniques of composition and rhetorical/argumentative strategies. All of our discussions and assignments will engage with Georgia Tech’s multimodal WOVEN communication (Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, and Nonverbal), which taken together in synergy, will better enable us to describe the material and digital worlds in which we exist.
- WOVENText (common e-book, Bedford/St. Martin’s)
- Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown Publishing, 2011. ISBN: 978-0307887436)
- Other readings available in T-Square Resources
- Personal Computer with enough performance to run a variety of games
- Blog software (WordPress through blogs.iac.gatech.edu)
- Steam and Steam account
- Inform 7 (Interactive Fiction software)
- Jorge Luis Borges, “Garden of Forking Paths” in Labyrinths. Ed. Donald Yates and James Irby. New York: New Directions, 1962.
- “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” Ian Bogost in The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Ed Katie Salen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. 117-139.
- “Historical Veneers: Anachronism, Simulation, and Art History in Assassin’s Creed II.” Douglas N. Dow in Kapell, M., & Elliott, A. B. R. (2013). Playing with the past: Digital games and the simulation of history. Available through GaTech’s online ebrary (catalog). Also available on T-Square Resources.
- “Learning and Identity: What does it means to be a Half-Elf?” Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- “Victorian SimCities: Playful Technology on Google Earth.” Patrick Dunae and John Sutton Lutz in Kee, Kevin B. (Kevin Bradley). Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History With Technology. GaTech ebrary.
- “Agency” (Chapter 5) in Janet H. Murray. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1999. 126-153.
- “Mordor, We Wrote.” Ken Levine. The New York Review of Video Games: Medium, 2014.
- “Winning isn’t Everything.” Ian Bogost. The New York Review of Video Games: Medium, 2014.
- “Simogo and the Modern Myth.” Polygon review of Year Walk, 2013.
- “Five Feminist Moments in the History of Video Games.” Anita Sarkeesian and Carolyn Petit. The New York Review of Video Games: Medium, 2014.
- “Towards a Theory of Choice Poetics” (Mawhorter, Mateas, Wardip-Fruin, Jhala: 2014). This paper presents possible structures for choice-based narratives in games. From Foundations of Digital Games 2014 conference.
- “The Semiotics of Time Structure in Ludic Space As a Foundation for Analysis and Design”. Craig Lindley. Game Studies Journal, vol 5, 2005.
- “Video Games are Better without Characters.” Ian Bogost. The Atlantic, 2015.
- “Natural Language, Semantic Analysis, and Interactive Fiction” (Inform 7 project). Graham Nelson. St. Anne’s, Oxford. Revised 2006.
Other Curiosities, Research, and Resources:
- Journal of Games Criticism. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2013-2015.
- Games Studies Journal. The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), 2001-2015.
- eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture. Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, 2007-2015.
- Foundations of Digital Games Conference. Site includes open access to presentation materials.
- Digital Media Program in LMC.
- VGs into wall-art: Drawings made by Zelda Enemies
- Ken Levine’s GDC talk, “Narrative Legos”
- The 100 best free online games on PC. PC Gamer, 2014.
- Versu: platform for interactive stories with AI. Richard Evans, Emily Short, Graham Nelson.
Unit 1: Reading and Playing–Rule systems and theoretical approaches to games
Games: The Room and The Room 2 (iOS and Android)
Unit 2: The Narrative of Gaming–How stories are told through Procedure
Games: Year Walk (iOS or PC), The Walking Dead, Season One (PC, Console, Mobile), Coma (web)
Unit 3: Re-mediation and 1up!
Reading: Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Games: Elegy for a Dead World
Unit 4: Inform 7 game development
Games: Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
Blog Project (20%) [200 points]:
Throughout the semester you will create and maintain a videogames blog (http://blogs.iac.gatech.edu/). Over the semester, at intervals, you are required to write 8 posts of 500 words. A handful of these posts will have directed categories; others will be left to your critical imagination. All posts must include some kind of argument, research question, or purposeful statement that responds to a specific inquiry. They must all include research sources, print and online, and have formatted bibliographies at the end of each post. Embedded media is mandatory.
Unit 1: 2 posts on readings
Unit 2: 1-2 posts (including Project 2)
Unit 3: 2-3 posts (includes Retrogaming writeup and posts on Ready Player One)
Unit 4: 1-2 posts (commentary on Inform7 project)
Project One: Short essays (15%) [150 points]
—Two 500-word blog posts [45 points each];
—One extended revision of a post, re-rendered in essay form (800 words) [60 points];
Compose two 500-word blog posts prompted by the readings from Unit 1. Revise one of these posts into an 800-word essay, submitted separately.
Project Two: Multi-Modal Video Game Review (15%) [150 points]
Individual assignment. Students will write a multimodal review of a particular video game. The review should demonstrate both knowledge and familiarity with the game and its narrative components/mechanics. As a review, this project requires students to develop and articulate criteria that will then be used to craft an argument about how well the game presents its narrative. As a multimodal form, the review is required to include footage of the game in question and employ effective visual design to engage the reader. (Consult Polygon’s reviews of the PlayStation 4 and XBox One consoles for reviews that set a high bar for multimodal design.)
Project Three: “Retrogaming in the Archives” (10%) [100 points]
Group assignment. In Groups, at your scheduled time during the semester, visit the GaTech Archives. In the Retrocomputing center experience an old game from the manifest provided by Drs. Wendy Hagenmaier and Sherri Brown. Write a reflection about the game and the experience. Post this to your blog and link out to the archives. Sign-up for a library visit time and date here.
Project Four: Inform 7 Interactive Fiction (20%) [200 points]
Group assignment. Using Inform 7, compose a game that is built around a short narrative of some kind. Each group’s game should require players to interact with their environment in some way to either progress in the story or in the game space.
1. Unit 1: Project 1—15% [150 points]
2. Unit 2: Project 2—15% [150 points]
3. Unit 3: Project 3—10% [100 points]
4. Unit 4 : Project 4—20% [200 points]
5. Portfolio—10% [100 points]
6. Blog—20% [200 points]
7. Participation—5% [50 points]
8. Quizzes—4% [40 points]
9. Common Week Assignment—1% [10 points]
Final Grade Distribution (by points)
Course and Program Policies
Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program has common, program-wide policies regarding these areas:
- General Education Outcomes
- Learning Outcomes
- Evaluation Equivalencies
- Evaluation Rubric
- Participation in Class
- Communication Center
- Academic Misconduct
- Syllabus Modifications
- Week Preceding Final Exams (WPFE)
- Reflective Portfolio
You can access these common Writing and Communication Program policies here. You are required to acknowledge that you have read, understood, and intend to comply with these policies.
This course is designed to increase your abilities and competencies in a variety of communicative modes. Understanding how to write a proper essay is only one such mode of communication. The WOVEN acronym highlights the written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal forms of communication modalities that, as a student at Georgia Tech, you will explore in order to better understand the material world in which you interact as well as a better understanding of how to describe that material world. In all modalities you use—written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal—consider rhetorical factors such as purpose, context, audience, argument, and effective design. In practice, the WOVEN modes work synergistically, not separately.
Written communication. You need to write well, so this semester, you’ll work on written responses to literature as well as non-fiction reading and theoretical texts;
Oral communication. You need to speak well, so this semester, you’ll work on talking in class, and in small groups, using oral communication to organize a significant project;
Visual communication. You need to design well, so this semester, you’ll work on looking at ways image and text coordinate meaning;
Electronic communication. You need to use software well, so this semester, you’ll work on learning new capabilities of applications you already use, and streamlining project workflow to increase efficiency;
Nonverbal communication. You need to use nonverbal communication well, so this semester, you’ll work on (a) eliminating paralinguistic “ticks” (e.g., um, uh), (b) making eye contact with humans (not your mobile device, laptop, or the projection screen), (c) conveying vocal enthusiasm, and (d) using body language to communicate.
- Attendance is required. Students may miss a total of three (3) classes for T/Th, four (4) for M/W/F classes, or two (2) classes for M classes over the course of the semester without penalty.
- Reasons for absences. The attendance policy does not make any distinction about the reasons for your absences. Only absences officially exempted by the Institute (e.g., due to participation in official GATech athletics, to religious observance, to personal or family crisis and excused by documentation from the Dean of Students) will not be counted among your allotted absences. These exemptions are difficult to get.
- Responsibility for missed work. Students are responsible for finding out what they may have missed while absent from class and what policy the instructor has for making up missed work.
- Absence penalties. Each additional absence after the allotted number deducts one-third of a letter grade from a student’s final grade. Missing six (6) classes in a T/Th course, eight (8) classes for a M/W/F course, or three (3) classes in a M course results in automatic failure of the class.
- Students are expected to keep up with their own attendance record; see the instructor if you have a question about how many classes you have missed. The instructor’s record is the official record of your attendance in the class.
- We will use T-Square for this course. This syllabus, course calendar, assignment sheets, deadlines, and grades are available on your respective T-Square site;
- Digital Activities. The projects in this course are digital heavy and require skill working with a variety of media. While the instructors are available for tech support and troubleshooting, students are ultimately responsible for learning how to use the necessary technology. Georgia Tech has a wealth of resources for this purpose. For assistance with technology: Multimedia Studio, Communication Center, Lynda.com (a campus-wide subscription);
- In-class use of technology:
—Bring your laptops to every class. You may take notes on your laptop, but no web browsing or emailing is allowed (unless specified by the instructor)
—Switch off your mobile phone: no talking, texting, or social media use during class
Late work is not accepted in this course.
Revisions of Assignments
Revisions are accepted, but must be completed in accordance with the course’s Paper Revision Policy. Make sure to read the policy carefully and note all due dates before completing a revision.
Appointments for Individual and Collaborative Conferences
Please plan to visit our office hours at least once this semester for an individual conference. Drop-ins are welcome, but appointments made through email take priority. Dr. Addcox’s office hours are MW 8-10:30am; Dr. Hussey’s office hours are MWF 9-10:30AM.
Participation in Class
The Writing and Communication Program has a Program-wide participation policy. Active participation and engagement in class are required. Students who have not done the reading and/or who do not actively participate during the class period may be penalized for lack of participation. In this class, participation counts as 5% of your grade. Participation is assessed through: talking and paying attention in class, working in groups, or meeting with the instructor if you are anxious to participate verbally in class. We deplore lateness: tardies are taken into account for participation grade.
This class does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran. Alternative viewpoints are welcome; however, statements that are deemed racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, or otherwise discriminatory toward others in the class or outside the class will not be tolerated.
Georgia Tech’s Communication Center is located in Clough Commons, Suite 447. It is an excellent resource for all students (undergraduate or graduate) who want help with a communication-related project, from their multimodal assignments for English 1101 and English 1102 to graduate school applications, from engineering and science reports to oral presentations, from storyboards for videos to poster designs, from grant proposals to job cover letters and resumes. More information: communicationcenter.gatech.edu.
Georgia Tech supports students through ADAPTS (Access Disabled Assistance Program for Tech Students). Any student who may require an accommodation for a documented disability should inform me as soon as possible or as soon as you become aware of your disability. Anyone who anticipates difficulties with the content or format of the course due to a documented disability should arrange a meeting so we can create a workable plan for your success in this course. ADAPTS serves any Georgia Tech student who has a documented, qualifying disability. Official documentation of the disability is required to determine eligibility for accommodations or adaptations that may be helpful for this course. Please make sure I receive a Faculty Accommodation Letter form verifying your disability and specifying the accommodation you need. ADAPTS operates under the guidelines of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Visit: Smithgall Student Services Bldg, Suite 210 on 353 Ferst Drive
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call: 404-894-2563 (V); 404-894-1664 (TDD); 404-894-9928 (fax)
One serious kind of academic misconduct is plagiarism, which occurs when a writer, speaker, or designer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, images, or other original material or code without fully acknowledging its source by quotation marks as appropriate, in footnotes or endnotes, in works cited, and in other ways as appropriate (modified from WPA Statement on “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism”). If you engage in plagiarism or any other form of academic misconduct, you will fail the assignment in which you have engaged in academic misconduct and be referred to the Office of Student Integrity, as required by Georgia Tech policy. We strongly urge you to be familiar with these Georgia Tech sites:
- Honor Challenge — http://www.honor.gatech.edu/
- Office of Student Integrity — http://www.osi.gatech.edu/index.php/
- Process for academic misconduct — http://www.osi.gatech.edu/plugins/content/index.php?id=15
Dead Week/Week Preceding Final Exams (WPFE) for English 1101/English 1102
- This course includes no quizzes or tests during the WPFE. All quizzes and tests will be graded and returned or available for review on or before the last day of class preceding final exam week.
- No new assignments will be given in the WPFE. The only work during the WPFE is work related to the portfolio, which is on the syllabus from the beginning AND worked on during the semester before the WPFE.
- All course work (including projects, assignments, and participation) other than the portfolio will be graded and returned or available for review on or before the last day of classes.
- This course has no final exam. In lieu of a final exam, this course has a required portfolio.
- Students will work on portfolios periodically throughout the semester.
- The portfolio will be completed during the WPFE, both in class and out of class. The portfolio will be due on T-Square during this course’s scheduled final exam period.
Reflective Portfolio for English 1101 and English 1102
You will work on your portfolio throughout the semester and complete it during the WPFE. The portfolio will include revised examples of your best WOVEN work products and your reflections about the processes to create and revise them. Your portfolio counts as 10% of your final grade.
This syllabus—especially the course calendar—may be modified as the semester progresses to meet course outcomes and address the needs of members of the class.
Statements of Understanding
Please find this document in your course T-Square Resources. Read, sign, and return to your instructor.
Introductions. Discuss syllabus.
HW: Ted’s Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling”
Secondary source options:
1. Chiang, Ted. “Mobile Technologies and New Narratives of the Self.” Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA. 30 Sept. 2014. Web. Recorded presentation available at SMARTech: http://goo.gl/nYQMUx
2. Popova, Maria. “‘Tip-of-the-Tongue Syndrome,’ Transactive Memory, and How the Internet is Making Us Smarter.” Brain Pickings.Web. 9 Dec. 2014 Available at http://goo.gl/w6V0Wl
3. Travis, Alan and Charles Arthur. “EU Court Backs ‘Right to be Forgotten’: Google Must Amend Results on Request.” The Guardian. 13 May 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. Available at http://goo.gl/Q25njd
Common Week Story: Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling”
In-class exercises. Videogames lab.
Reading and Playing: Rule Systems and Theoretical approaches to games
– Return Statements of Understanding (find in T-Square resources)
– Diagnostic assignment due for Common Week. In-class reflections.
– WOVENText readings (Sections 2.2 “@Tech: Expectations for College Communication,” 3.48 “Multimodal Synergy”);
– “Agency” (Chapter 5) in Janet H. Murray. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1999. 126-153.
– Set up blogs.
– Start playing The Room (iOS and Android)
– Discussion: Jorge Luis Borges, “Garden of Forking Paths” (also on T-square resources)
– Examples from: Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style (in class)
– Class visit and presentation from Drs. Wendy Hagenmaier and Sherri Brown (Library)
– Discussion: The Room.
– Lab: OULIPO games.
MLK, Jr. Holiday. No class.
**Project One Blog post 1 due.**
**Lab writeup (Quiz 2) due.**
– Continue discussion of postmodern language games
– Discussion: “Learning and Identity: What does it means to be a Half-Elf?” Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
– Begin playing The Room 2
– Results of Exquisite Corpse game here: Trolls galore!
– WOVENText Sections 2.17-2.21
– Discussion: “Historical Veneers: Anachronism, Simulation, and Art History in Assassin’s Creed II.” Douglas N. Dow in Kapell, M., & Elliott, A. B. R. (2013). Playing with the past: Digital games and the simulation of history. Available through GaTech’s online ebrary. Access through catalogue. Reading also available in T-Square Resources.
– Discussion: The Room 2
**Project One Blog post 2 due.**
– Unit 1 wrap-up
– Peer review
The Narrative of Gaming: How stories are told through procedure
– Start playing Year Walk
– Discussion: What makes an effective video game narrative?
– Project 2 Assigned
– “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” Ian Bogost (handout also on T-Square)
– WOVENText 35-37
– Developing a vocabulary of video game narrative
– Read Espen Aarseth, “A Narrative Theory of Games” [Handout on T-Square]
**Project One Essay due (revision of previous post; paper submission)**
– Narrative in the Myst franchise
– Read Emily Yoshida, “Lost to the Ages”
– Play Coma in class
**Blog Post 3 due**
Progress reports (instructor) due.
– Begin playing The Walking Dead. Lab04 available on T-Square.
– Morality and Decision-Making in video game narrative
– Read Andrew Weaver, “Mirrored Morality: An Exploration of Moral Choice in Video Games” [handout on T-Square]
– Read “My Four-Year-Old Son Plays Grand Theft Auto 4”
– Watch Elders Play GTA 5
– Draft of Project 2 Due (Post as a distinct entry on your blog)
– Lab 4: The Walking Dead
– Peer Review Discussion
– Discussion of The Walking Dead
**Blog Post 4 due**
– Debrief: Discussion and Reflection on video game review
**Project 2 Due (Submit Blog link on T-Square. Create a separate post from the draft.)**
**First Drop Deadline (with W).**
Re-mediation and 1up!
– Ready Player One, 1-100
– Ready Player One, 101-147
– Ready Player One, 148-199
– Lab: Elegy for a Dead World
– **Blog post 5 due: covers a topic from Ready Player One**
– Ready Player One, 200-303
– Elegy for a Dead World
– Ready Player One, 304-349
– Elegy for a Dead World
Final Withdrawal Deadline
– Ready Player One, 350-372
– Elegy for a Dead World
**Project Three due: “Retrogaming in the Archives” write-up**
M [03.16] – F [03.20]
Spring Break. No classes.
Inform 7 Development
– Begin playing Zork I (Download Zork I here.) Instructions on how to play the game using DOSBox can be found here. Mac users can use Boxer to run the DOS/Windows version of Zork I.
– Look at Storyspace (Michael Joyce, J. David Bolter): historical hypertext software.
– Language as rooms: conceptual, virtual. Think about Mary Oliver’s poem “August” as a textual “room.” What are the distinctive features that create her imagined space?
**Blog post 6 due: covers a topic in Ready Player One**
– Contemporary examples of IF games (Device6, The Sailor’s Dream)
– Emily Short, “Introduction to Interactive Fiction”.
– Reference materials for IF: 1) on coding, 2) on puzzles.
– Inform 7 Manual.
– Syntax Document Inform 7.
– Standard Rules by Graham Nelson: “The Standard Rules, included in every project, define the basic framework of kinds, actions and phrases which make Inform what it is.”
**Each collaborative group register via the Inform 7 Project survey: http://b.gatech.edu/1OyPQ2v**
– Discussion, Zork
**Blog Post 7: discusses Elegy for a Dead World and Zork**
– IF work
– IF work
– Project Work day
**Last day for (optional) Paper Revision consultations.** (Paper Revision Policy)
– IF work
– IF work
– Project Work day
**Optional Paper Revisions due** (Paper Revision Policy)
Final workshop for IF games. Reflections.
**Blog Post 08 due: Reflection on Inform 7 project**
M [04.20] – F [04.24]
Portfolio work in class.
M [04.27] – F [05.01]
Finals week. Portfolios due by the end of your section’s Final Exam Schedule.
MWF 11:05 April 29 (Wed) 8:00am-10:50am
MWF 2:05 April 29 (Wed) 11:30am-2:20pm
MWF 3:05 April 29 (Wed) 2:50pm-5:40pm