Computer Game Culture

Tuesdays, Spring 2005 -- 13:30-16:00 room 4A16 & 16:00-18:30 Lab3

T.L. Taylor ( (office: 3D18, phone: 7218 5035).
Teaching assistant: Jakob Andersen (

Description: This course will examine computer games from a cultural and sociological perspective. Rather than focusing on tasks like level construction, it will explore the ways culture, socialization, and values are a part of gaming. Using a variety of theoretical & methodological approaches (drawn from the humanities and social sciences) a range of topics will be discussed in an attempt to understand not only the internal workings and social dynamics of computer games, but their place in the broader culture. Topics include: community management and maintenance in games; social processes and interaction; games as communication spaces and virtual worlds; intellectual property and commodification in games, players as producers of game content, political/ideological analysis of games; gender and race in gaming; and design & values.

Format and Grading: Lectures, discussion, groupwork, classroom exercises. Midterm group presentation and final group paper with oral examination. The group presentation will be produced in collaboration with team members in and out of class sessions. Midterm assignment will be graded pass/fail. Final examination will be oral format and based on short (3-5 page) synopsis. Grading will be according to the 13-scale.

Literature: The course compendium should be purchased from the ITU Bookstore. Many articles are available online and linked below.

Afternoon Exercises -- Group Listing -- Midterm Presentations -- Exam Info -- Additional Online Resources

Course plan:

All readings are available in the course compendium. Where possible, online copies of all the articles have also been linked here.

Feb 1 - Intro & Methodology

Feb 8- Technology & Culture

Winner, "Do Artifacts Have Politics?"
Nissenbaum, "How Computer Systems Embody Values"
Lessig, selections from Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
Feb 15 - Styles of Play and the Status of "Fun"

Bartle, "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs"
Taylor, "Power Gamers Just Want to Have Fun?"
Mortensen, "Flow, Seduction and Mutual Pleasures"
Turkle, "Aspects of the Self"

Feb 22 - Women & Gaming
Bryce and Rutter, "The Gendering of Computer Gaming"
Kerr, "Women Just Want to Have Fun"
Schott, "'For Men': Examining Female Reactions to Nintendo's Marketing for GameBoy Advance SP"
Kennedy, "Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo"
March 1 - Other(ed) Players

Kuecklich, "Other Playings: Cheating in Computer Games
Consalvo, "Hot Dates and Fairy-Tale Romances"
Adams, "Not Just Rappers and Athletes: Minorities in Videogames"
Bogost, "Asynchronous Multiplay"

March 8 - Video: Gamers

March 15 - Mid-Semester Presentations

March 22 - Spring break

March 29 - Social and Communicative Aspects

Jakobsson & Taylor, "Sopranos Meets EQ"
Stald, "Meeting in the Combat Zone"
Ducheneaut & Moore "The Social Side of Gaming"
Sun, Lin, and Ho, "Game Tips as Gifts"
April 5 - Guest lecture: Julian Oliver

April 12 - Productive Players

Taylor, "Whose Game is this Anyway?"
Morris, "Co-Creative Media: Online Multiplayer Computer Game Culture" [O]
Postigo, "From Pong to Planet Quake"
Jenkins, "Interactive Audiences?"
April 19 - Management and Governance
Koster, "Declaring the Rights of Players"
Kim, "Killers Have More Fun"
Talin, "Managing Deviant Behavior in Online Worlds"
Castronova, "The Right to Play
Morningstar & Farmer, selection from "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat"
April 26 - Shared Game Space, Online and Off
Swalwell, "The History and Development of LAN Groups"
Flynn, Geography of the Digital Hearth"
Powell, "Space, Place, Reality and Virtuality in Urban Internet Cafes"
Herz, "The Bandwidth Capital of the World"
April 29 @ 15:00 - Synopsis due in exam office

June 6-8 - Exams