Games and Play

MDST3704: Game and Play
Professor Sean Duncan
Meets: MWF 1:00PM – 1:50PM or TR 11:00AM – 12:15PM
Fall, 2018

Games and play surround us. Whether as hobbies, entertainment, sports, instructional tools, or as simply as frameworks for looking at everyday life, games and play are fascinating lenses by which we can understand popular media through culture, politics, and social movements. In this course, students will begin to learn about the evolution of the field of “game studies” while also questioning what we think we know about “play.”

The course is divided into three key sections — Analysis, Design, and Observation. Students will first play games in the course and learn how to interrogate their own play, their own positions as players, as well as formally analyzing games. In the Design section, students will read and then implement prescriptive game design concepts, in order to understand both how games are made as well as discourses of design. In the last section of the course, students will engage in small Observation projects, leveraging what they’ve learned about games so far in order to understand gaming as it’s lived in everyday life.

While much of the course will rely on the existing literature based around digital games, there will be opportunities for students to discuss a wide range of things we call games (including board games, card games, playground games, and sports) and even things we typically don’t (writing, politics, and tending to one’s lawn).




Key course textbooks will include The Game Design Reader and Colleen Macklin and John Sharp’s textbook Games, Design, & Play. Other likely readings we will at least excerpt include — Brendan Keogh’s very new book A Play of Bodies, and Ian Bogost’s Play Anything. Students who have little game play or game design experience are welcome in the course, as are students who are interested in the design of games. This course attempts to cover research on games and play that can be beneficial for students who are interested in understanding media as well as for those who are interested in computation and the engineering of digital games.

Though the course will be significantly different in several ways, here is a syllabus from the Spring, 2018 section of MDST3704: Games and Play for reference.

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] virginia.edu.