MDST4510 — Spring, 2022

This course is a senior-level experience geared around the design of play — learning how to design and iterate designs, focusing on games and other playful media considered broadly. In this class, students will gain experience developing multiple games for multiple platforms (both digital and physical; ranging from video games to tabletop role-playing games), while also critically evaluating game design discourses. Each section of this course will focus primarily on a different genre of game (interactive fiction, platformer, role-playing game, VR game, augmented reality game, etc.) or a different use of games (for learning, for political persuasion, for entertainment) with connections made to other genres.

For this section, we will focus on educational play conceived quite loosely — using games and playful media, we will engage with stories and systems to create games and playful systems intended to help teach, to help learn, to drive awareness for an issue, or to provide political commentary. As we develop our skills in designing within this loose genre of games, we will also be engaging with game studies literatures regarding the tensions between narrative and game systems, designer discourses on game design, as well as critical discourses on learning with media.

In the first half of the term, students will design multiple games in small groups, utilizing a multiple development environments. In the second half of the term, students will individually or in pairs pick one of the prototypes/design environments they dabbled in during the first half of the term, and flesh it out into a complete prototype. Throughout, we will engage with “educational” games considered quite loosely — we’ll look at games intended to be used in schools, games that had entertainment intent that were repurposed for learning, games that serve as political screeds, games that attempt to promote social issues.

Course readings will draw from some of these texts (in full or in selections):

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second  Edition: Revised and Updated Edition: Gee, James Paul: 9781403984531:  Amazon.com: Books
The Infinite Playground | The MIT Press

No previous experience with programming or game design is assumed for this course, though students with computational experience will be pushed to utilize those experiences in their designs. All students will be expected to delve into game design in multiple ways as well as critically evaluating gameplay throughout the term. Students will need to be comfortable playing each others’ games as well as sharing creative work throughout the term; while no previous experience is necessary, students will need to be comfortable both providing and receiving critique on playful designs throughout the term.

As this is a capstone course, the end of the term will involve students creating and sharing a full, playable prototype and this will be the bulk of the student grade (along with a short written component that connects the design experience back to course readings). Students’ designs will need to be justified with appeals to existing research (which you will encounter throughout the term), but will be tailored to you and your interests. Students will have the opportunity to find and choose topics that matter to them, and explore those in these final projects. Students can see this as an opportunity to “flesh out” ideas encountered in other Media Studies coursework and to make something implementable for their own individual media portfolios.

For further information, please contact Dr. Duncan at sean.duncan@virginia.edu.