Alexander R. Galloway
Associate Professor
Department of Media, Culture, and Communication
New York University
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Game Studies
(Languages of Communication: Electronic Media)
E38.2088.001, Spring 2005
  Class Time: Mon 7:15pm - 9:25pm
Class Location: 25 West 4th, room C-14
Office Hours: T/Th, 2-3:30pm or by appt.

The goal of this graduate seminar is to develop a critical approach to the medium of the video game. We will examine the concept of "play" using methods from literary criticism, cultural anthropology, poststructuralism, and cinema studies, then look at approaches to the philosophy of action, ludology, and theories of machinic and gamic visuality. Themes will include simulation, social realism, and war games. The seminar will include screenings and require game play.

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January 24 — Course Introduction

January 31 — Play
Johan Huizinga, "Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon," Homo Ludens, pp. 1-27.
Roger Caillois, "The Definition of Play" and "The Classification of Games," Man, Play, and Games, pp. 3-36.
Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight," The Interpretation of Cultures, pp. 412-453.
Greg Costikyan, "I Have No Words and I Must Design."

Games: Tekken, Metroid Prime, Half-Life, Halo.

February 7 — Nonlinearity, Ludology
Espen Aarseth, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, pp. 1-75, 97-128.
Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths," Labyrinths, pp. 19-29.
Nick Montfort, "The Pleasure of the Text Adventure," Twisty Little Passages, pp. 1-35.

Games: Adventure, Warcraft

(Extra readings: Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, "Chapter 26," Rules of Play; Jesper Juul, "Games Telling stories? A brief note on games and narratives"; Markku Eskelinen, "The Gaming Situation"; James Carse Finite and Infinite Games.)

February 14 — Formal Criticism
Aristotle/Horace/Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism.
Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse, pp. 25-32, 227-237.
Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, pp. 71-128.

(February 21 — Holiday, no class)

February 28 — Poststructuralism: Narrative, Authorship
Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text.
Roland Barthes, "Death of the Author," Image - Music - Text, pp. 142-148.
Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?," Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, pp. 113-138.

Games: Ico, Shenmue, Myst

March 7 — Poststructuralism: Play
Sigmund Freud, On the "fort/da" game, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, pp. 10-17.
Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," Writing and Difference, pp. 278-293.
James Hans, The Play of the World, pp. ix-xiii, 1-24.
Alexander Galloway, "Gamic Action, Four Moments."

Game: The Sims

(Extra reading: Maurice Blanchot, "The Absence of the Book," The Gaze of Orpheus and Other Literary Essays, pp. 145-160; Jacques Derrida, "To Speculate—On 'Freud,'" The Post Card; Jacques Derrida, Dissemination [selections].)

(March 14 — Spring break, no class)

March 21 — Counter-Gaming: The Politics of Play
Henry Jenkins, "Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces," From Barbie to Mortal Kombat, pp. 262-297.
Bertolt Brecht, "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting," Brecht on Theater, pp. 91-99.
Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed.

Games: Pencil Whipped, Sissyfight, Team Up, Orisinal.

March 28 — Counter-Gaming: Artist Game Mods
Anne-Marie Schleiner, "2 Reviews--Untitled Game and Ego Image Shooter."
Florian Cramer, "Discordia Concors:," INSTALL.EXE - JODI, pp. 68-79.
Josephine Bosma, "Jodi and the Cargo Cult," INSTALL.EXE - JODI, pp. 91-94.
Eddo Stern, "A Touch of Medieval."
Peter Wollen, "Godard and Counter-Cinema," Readings and Writings, pp. 79-91.
Alexander Galloway, "Counter-Gaming."

Games: Adam Killer, untitled game, r/c.

April 4 — Interpretation: Ideology and War
Julian Stallabrass, "Just Gaming: Allegory and Economy in Computer Games."
Anne-Marie Schleiner, "Velvet-Strike: War Times and Reality Games."
James Der Derian, "War as Game."
Brian Sutton-Smith, "Play and Ambiguity," The Ambiguity of Play, pp. 1-17.

Games: America's Army, Kuma\War, SOCOM.

April 11 — Interpretation: Realism
André Bazin, "An Aesthetic of Reality," "La Terra Trema," and "Bicycle Thief," What is Cinema? Vol. II, pp. 16-60.
Fredric Jameson, "The Existence of Italy," Signatures of the Visible, pp. 155-229.
Alexander Galloway, "Social Realism in Gaming."
Gregory Bateson, "A Theory of Play and Fantasy," Steps to An Ecology of Mind, pp. 177-193.

Screening: Bicycle Thief.
Games: Special Force, Under Ash, NARC, State of Emergency.

April 18 — Informatic Coding
Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," Discipline & Punish, pp. 195-228.
Lev Manovich, "The Automation of Sight: From Photography to Computer Vision," Electronic Culture, pp. 229-239.
Philip Agre, "Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy," The Information Society.
Michael Hardt, "Withering of Civil Society."

Game: Civilization III.

April 25 — Learning the Algorithm: Civilization III
Lev Manovich, "The Forms," The Language of New Media, pp. 212-285.
Ted Friedman, "Civilization and Its Discontents: Simulation, Subjectivity, and Space."
Alexander Galloway, "Allegories of Control in Civilization."
Maurizio Lazzarato, "From Capital-Labour to Capital-Life," ephemera v4, n3 (2004).

Games: Civilization III, Dance Dance Revolution.

May 2 — Gamic Vision
Carol Clover, "The Eye of Horror," Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (Williams, ed.), pp. 184-230.
Steven Shaviro, "Regimes of Vision: Kathryn Bigelow, Strange Days," Polygraph 13, pp. 59-68.
Vivian Sobchack, "The Scene of the Screen: Envisioning Cinematic and Electronic 'Presence,'" Electronic Media and Technoculture (Caldwell, ed.), pp. 137-155.
Alexander Galloway, "Gamic Vision."

Screening: Strange Days.

(Extra reading: Paul Willemen, "The Fourth Look," Looks and Frictions.)

Friday, May 6th — All papers due

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Readings and Screenings: Thorough coverage of the week's required reading in advance of class is of utmost importance. Readings should be brought to class for discussion. Special screenings will be scheduled for viewing the films.

Games: All students are required 1) to play and win the game Civilization III prior to April 18, and 2) to select one additional game from the syllabus and critique the game in class. A number of game titles and gaming consoles are available for use in the departmental media lab.

Discussion: Each week, two students will be responsible for discussion questions. The week's discussion leaders will email me questions (one page maximum) on or before the Friday prior to class, and I will redistribute them to all students. Each student will lead discussion twice during the semester.

Writing: Each student should write a total of 16-20 pages for the semester, preferably split into two shorter papers of 8-10 pages each. Suggested paper topics will be provided, but students are also encouraged to create their own topics. All papers should demonstrate a close reading of the required materials (texts, games, films) and exhibit a method of critical analysis.

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Course Reader.
Atari/Firaxis Games, Civilization III.
Espen Aarseth, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature.
Aristotle/Horace/Longinus, Classical Literary Criticism.
Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text.
Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed.