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GS222 – Special Topics: Videogames, Aesthetics, Culture

From the earliest 2D games (Space Invaders, Pong, Pac-Man) to the open environments of Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft, this course examines the worlds, characters, and narratives of videogames.

Videogames are a medium constituted by technical, aesthetic, and cultural compromises.
Videogames are a medium constituted by technical, aesthetic, and cultural compromises.

Instructor(s)

Assistant Professor Scott Krzych email

As systems of play, games produce meaning through the establishment and exploration of complex rules. The reliance on arbitrary rules distinguishes videogames from other aspects of life (Why does Mario have three lives?), even as the advancement of graphic engines and modes of interactivity increasingly break down divisions between game and world. Accordingly, this course examines the various ways in which videogames intersect with and borrow from other modes of play, performance, and artistic/cultural/political expression.

The course begins with a survey of videogame history and the major concepts/debates surrounding the emerging field of game studies. We then consider the aesthetic intersections between videogames and cinema, both in popular forms of “machinima” and in more experimental practices. Finally, we examine at the various ways in which videogames operate throughout popular culture: in the emerging field of “persuasive” or political games, as allegories of digital culture, and as agents in the development of individual and collective identity.