Game Cultures

MDST4559: Game Cultures
Professor Sean Duncan
Meets: MWF 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Fall, 2018

It has become quite difficult to ignore the key role that gaming culture has had in our understanding of digital games, analog games, and e-sports. While much of the early work in game studies focused on definitional arguments about what games are, a consistent trend in recent game studies literatures has been to focus on games as played by players, as lived experiences that connect with other media, and as sites of subcultural and cultural practice.

In this seminar, we will engage with “game cultures” in a variety of fashions — focusing primarily on online video game cultures, we will first consider games as facilitators of “metagames,” or social practices that arise out of gaming. Linked to this, we will assess and address meritocratic ideals that may arise from competitive gaming environments and their potential for shaping gamer discourse. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss race, gender, class, and sexual orientation within gaming spaces, and students will engage in semester-long research projects focusing on timely issues of interest in gaming culture. This is a capstone course for the Department of Media Studies, and all students will be required to complete a 15-20 page final research paper. There has been some confusion, but for Media Studies majors, this course is also on the department Diversity and Identity approved course list, even though this has not yet been reflected in SIS.

Potential course readings will feature a number of recent and exciting texts on gaming culture, ranging from Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux’s Metagaming to Adrienne Shaw’s Gaming at the Edge, Shira Chess’s Ready Player Two, and Chris Paul’s The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture is the Worst. Additionally, older classics in game studies such as Mia Consalvo’s Cheating and T. L. Taylor’s Play Between Worlds may be included. That’s a lot of books! So, while there are a great number of readings listed here, please note we will be reading selections of these books, and all of the texts listed here are currently available as free downloads for students via the University of Virginia library. I encourage any interested student to download and skim through some of these books before enrolling to get a sense of the critical approaches we’ll be taking to “game culture.”

If you have any questions about this or any other course (or anything else on this website), please don’t hesitate to email Dr. Duncan at his first name dot his last name [at]