Course Materials

In the US, sales of videogame have outpaced film sales. Given the immersive nature of videogames and their accessibility, kids and adults alike spend millions of hours engaged in playing videogames – alone, with each other, and with people they only know through play. Research is only beginning to catch up with usage.

Like new media throughout history, videogames have been alternately understood as the source of social problems like online aggression and social violence and in the next breath as the solution to a range of intransigent problems, particularly in education. In this course, we will explore issues of play, identity, online aggression, culture, and politics through the lens of contemporary interdisciplinary game studies scholarship.


Nina Huntemann and Matthew Thomas Payne (2009) Joystick Soldiers

T.L. Taylor (2006) Play Between Worlds

John Varley (1984) Press Enter

All other readings are on the website or listed as links below.


Zotero Group:



Assignments (graduate students)

In addition to the above assignments, graduate students will be required to:

1. do additional readings, as noted on the syllabus.

2. team teach one session of the class in collaboration with me.

3. complete a separate final project, to be negotiated in discussion with me.

Course Schedule

Week 1: 1.10.13 Play


Games: Assorted Board Games




Further Reading:


  • Ian Bogost (2011) How to do Things with Videogames
  • Alexander Galloway (2006) Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture
  • Linda Hughes (1983) “Beyond the Rules of the Game: Why are Rooie Rules Nice?” The Game Design Reader, 504-517


Week 2: 1.17.12 Do games make us better or worse?


Game: Eve Online (2003), Foldit (2008), Freerice (2007)





Further Reading:


  • Sam Anderson (2012) “Just One More Game,” New York Times Magazine, 8.
  • Mia Consalvo (2006) “From Dollhouse to Metaverse: What Happened when The Sims Went Online,” Gaming as Culture
  • Wu-Chang Feng, David Brandt, Debanjan Saha (2007) “A Long-Term Study of a Popular MMORPG,” Proceedings of the 6th ACM/SIGGCOM Workshop on Network and System Support
  • Ellen Seiter (2007) “Practicing at Home: Computers, Pianos, and Cultural Capital,” Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected
  • Mel White (2006) “Law and Disorder in Cyberspace: How Systems of Justice Developed in Online Text-Based Gaming Communities,” Gaming as Culture

Week 3: 1.24.12 Histories and contexts


Game: Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), Quake (1996)



Further Reading:

  • Pierre Bourdieu (1984) “Postscript: Toward a ‘Vulgar’ Critique of ‘Pure’ Critiques,” Distinction
  • Dmitry Epstein (2011) “The Analog History of the ‘Digital Divide,’” The Long History of New Media
  • Caroline Marvin (1990) “Inventing the Expert,” When Old Technologies Were New
  • Lynn Spigel (1992) Make Room for TV
  • Derek Van Rheenen (2012) “A Century of Historical Change in the Game Preferences of American Children,” Journal of American Folklore

Week 4: 1.31.12 Representing selves

Game: The Sims 3 (2009)


  • Tom Boellstorff (2008) “Personhood,” Coming of Age in Second Life, Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Beth Coleman (2012) “What is an Avatar?” Hello, Avatar!

Further Reading:

Week 5: 2.7.12 Cyborgs and militarization

Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)


  • Donna Haraway (1986) “Manifesto for Cyborgs,” Socialist Review
  • Randy Nichols (2009) “Target Acquired: America’s Army and the Video Games Industry,” Joystick Soldiers
  • “There’s a Soldier in All of Us,” Call of Duty: Black Ops Television Commercial,
  • John Varley (1984) Press Enter

Further Reading:

  •  Aaron Delwiche (2007) “From The Green Berets to America’s Army: Video Games as a Vehicle for Political Propaganda, The Players’ Realm, 91-109
  • Nina Huntemann (2009) “Interview with Colonel Casey Wardynski,” Joystick Soldiers
  • Joel Penney (2009) “’No Better Way to ‘Experience’ World War II’: Authenticity and Ideology in the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Player Communities,” Joystick Soldiers

Week 6: 2.14.12 Hostile climates

Game: Halo 4 (2012)


Further Reading:

Week 7: 2.21.12 Interaction

Games: Lord of the Rings Online (2007), World of Warcraft (2004)


  • T.L. Taylor (2006) Play Between Worlds, Chapters 1- 4

Further Reading:

  • “Interview with Morgan Romine, Ubisoft’s Frag Dolls” (2008) Beyond Barbie & Mortal Kombat
  • Searle Hub and Dmitri Williams (2010) “Dude Looks Like a Lady: Gender Swapping in an Online Game,” Online Worlds: Convergence of the Real and the Virtual. London: Springer-Verlag (available online, UO Libraries)

Week 8: 2.28.12 Videogames and competition: T.L. Taylor to visit class

Games: Starcraft (1998), League of Legends (2009)



  • T.L. Taylor (2012) “Computer Games as Professional Sport,” Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Games
  • T.L. Taylor (2006) Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture, Chapters 5-6

Further Reading:

Week 9: 3.7.12 Sexuality

Deadline: Draft bibliography

Games: Second Life (2003), Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009)


  • Derek A. Burrill (2008) “Masculinity, Structure, and Play in Videogames,” Die Tryin’: Videogames, Masculinity, Culture
  • C.J. Pascoe (2007) Dude! You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

Further Reading:

  • Mary Gray (2009) Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America
  • Lori Kendall (2002) “Hanging out in the Virtual Locker Room: BlueSky as Masculine Space,” Hanging out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online
  • C.J. Pascoe (2007) “Making Masculinity: Adolescence, Identity and High School,” Dude! You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

Week 10: 3.14.12: Armed Resistance

Game: Dear Esther (2012), Wolfquest (2007)



Further Reading:

  • Hilde Corneliussen (2008) “World of Warcraft as a Playground for Feminism,” Digital Culture, Play, and Identity
  • Mary Flanagan (2008) “Design Heuristics for Activist Games,” Beyond Barbie & Mortal Kombat
  • Jack Linchuan Qui (2009) “Places and Communities,” Working-Class Network Society
  • Ea_spouse (2004) EA: The Human Story,
  • Amanda Lange (2010) “Why Can’t We Make Another Shadow of the Colossus?” Second Truth Blog,
  • Jonathan Belman and Mary Flanagan (2010) “Designing Games to Foster Empathy,” Cognitive Technology 14(2)


Week 11: Dance Central, Rock Band, and Chocolate (date TBA)



  1. Attendance: This course is designed for motivated, respectful students who do all the readings and attend classes. You are responsible for asking questions if you don’t understand something. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to get materials covered during that session from a classmate and to make sure you understand what was discussed in your absence.
  1. Participation: This course will be run as a seminar. What that means is that much of class time will be devoted to discussing the assigned readings and related ideas. In order to fully participate, you will need to have completed the readings. Please pay attention to what others are saying. Listen carefully to other students and address what they have to say.
  1. Getting to Class Late and Leaving Early: Late arrivals and early departures distract and disrupt class. I find them especially annoying. If you know that you have to leave early, let me know before class and please leave the classroom quietly.
  1. Assignments and Extensions: All assignments are listed on the syllabus and will be announced well before they are due. If you know ahead of time that you can’t turn an assignment in on time, please talk to me about this before the due date. Requests for extensions after a due date will be given only in exceptional circumstances and must include (a) one typed, double-spaced page explaining the reason for missing the deadline, and (b) supporting documentation (e.g. an official doctor’s note). Any such written request must be received by us no later than one week after the missed due date. In addition, any assignments that are accepted after the due date may suffer a significant grade penalty.


  1. Grades: I really want you to do well on your assignments. The best advice I can give for doing well on assignments is to visit me during office hours to ask questions when you are working on an assignment or reviewing material. If you have questions about a grade, please see me as soon as you have received the grade to get further feedback. Theseare the circumstances under which I would change a grade: (a) if I have made an error, or (b) if I have failed to hold you to the same standard as everyone else. If you believe that you have received an undeserved grade, you should make your case in writing to me within two weeks of receiving the grade.


  1. Incompletes: A notation of “incomplete” may be given in lieu of a final grade to a student who has carried a subject successfully until the end of the quarter but who, because of illness or other unusual and substantiated causes beyond the student’ s control, has been unable to take or complete some limited amount of term work.


  1. Students with disabilities: If you will need accommodations in order to meet any of the requirements of this course, please let me know as soon as possible.


  1. Academic Misconduct: The University Student Conduct Code (available at defines academic misconduct. Students are prohibited from committing or attempting to commit any act that constitutes academic misconduct. By way of example, students should not give or receive (or attempt to give or receive) unauthorized help on assignments or examinations without express permission from the instructor. Students should properly acknowledge and document all sources of information (e.g. quotations, paraphrases, ideas) and use only the sources and resources authorized by the instructor. If there is any question about whether an act constitutes academic misconduct, it is the students’ obligation to clarify the question with the instructor before committing or attempting to commit the act. Additional information about a common form of academic misconduct, plagiarism, is available at


  1. Discriminatory conduct (such as sexual harassment): The University will not tolerate discriminatory conduct. It poisons the work and learning environment of the University and threatens the careers, educational experience, and well being of students, faculty, and staff. Such behavior will not be allowed in this classroom.


  1. Announcements: Any changes to the syllabus, class cancellations, or other matters pertaining to the class will be posted on blackboard. You should check this site at the beginning of each week.
  1. Inclement Weather: in the case of snow, please check the course website for information about class cancellations.

For further information about university policies, please see the UO Student Conduct Code.


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