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MMEDIA 3K03 Digital Games

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. David Murphy


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Monday 1:30-2:30 TSH 333

Course Objectives:

At the end of this course, students

-will have a solid grasp of game studies

-will be familiar with current issues in game culture

-will be able to create a twine game

-will be able to write a paper on a video game or related topic

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Due to a large amount of digital content, it is recommended that students have access to the internet and a smart phone or tablet. You will be expected to have played a portion of each game, so it can be discussed during class. Most games can be played for free using an internet browser, but a few can also be purchased on Steam. Steam titles will also be freely available in the Lyons New Media Center, located in Mills Library. Students need to book the gaming stations and PCs using their MAC IDs. When doing so, enter the course code as well as your name, so library staff know that you are using the facilities for our class. Readings for this course will be available on Avenue to Learn. 

Method of Assessment:

Midterm Examination  Feb. 9 25%
Twine Game  March 2 15%
Let's Play Presentation Weekly  15%
Participation Weekly  10%
Final Paper April 2 35%
Total    100%


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignments will be penalized 5% per day. Papers submitted a week after the due date may or may not be accepted at my discretion. If a legitimate problem conflicts with your ability to complete an assignment, please contact me to arrange an extension.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Week 1: Introduction

Jan. 5

Course overview

Presentation sign up

Week 2: A Brief History of Digital Games

Jan.10; Jan.12


Media Histories at MIT: Spacewar!, the first modern video game (length 13 minutes)

When Games Went Click: The Story of Tennis for Two (length 18 minutes)             


Yang, Robert. A People’s History of the First-Person Shooter (2012)  Part 1 and Part 2 

Games: Pong (1972) 

Week 3: Studying Game Narratives

Jan. 17; Jan. 19


Jenkins, Henry. "Game design as narrative architecture." (2004)

Murray, Janet. "From game-story to cyberdrama." (2004)


Cart Life (2011)

The Stanley Parable (2013)


Week 4: Studying Game Systems

Jan. 24; Jan. 26


Eskelinen, Markku. "The gaming situation.” (2001)

Zimmerman, Eric. “Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four naughty concepts in need of discipline.” (2010)


Tetris (1984)

Bejewelled (2001)

Week 5: Game Production

Jan. 31; Feb.2

Friedhoff, Jane. “Untangling Twine: A Platform Study.” (2013).

Whitson, Jennifer. “The ‘Console Ship is Sinking and What this Means for Indies.” (2013).

LIM (2012)

Even Cowgirls Bleed (2013)

Week 6: Midterm

Feb. 9


Week 7: Genre and Culture

Feb. 14; Feb. 16


Arsenault, Dominic. "Video game genre, evolution and innovation." (2009) 

Vanderhoef, John. “Casual Threats: The Feminization of Casual Video Games.” (2013)


Canabalt (2009)

Temple Run (2011)

Flappy Bird (2014)

Week 8: Reading Week

Feb. 19 – Feb.23


Week 9: Twine Party

March 2

Twine Games Due

Week 10: Politics and Rhetoric

March 7; March 9


Bogost, Ian. "The rhetoric of video games." (2008).

Mary Flanagan. Locating Play and Politics: Real World Games and Activism. (2007)


McDonald's Videogame (2006)

Papers, Please (2013)

Week 11: Representation and Diversity

March 14; March 16


Shaw, Adrienne. “On Not Becoming Gamers: Moving Beyond the Constructed Audience.”(2013)

Cowert, Rachel. “The Gamer Identity Crisis: Towards a Reclamation.” (2014). 


Papo & Yo (2012)    

Dys4ia (2012)

Week 12: Game Criticism

March 21; March 23


Keogh, Brendan. “Across Worlds and Bodies: Criticism in the Age of Video Games.” (2014)

Hawking, Clint. “Ludoonarrative Dissonance in BioShock.” (2007) 



Inside (2016)

Braid (2009)

Week 13: Artistic and Alternative Games 

March 28; March 30


Ebert, Roger. "Video Games Can Never Be Art." (2010)

Polansky, Lana. “Towards an Art History for Videogames.” (2016).


Passage (2007)

Diary of a Spaceport Janitor (2016)

Week 14: Gaming Futures

April 4; April 6


Zimmerman, Eric. “Manifesto for a Ludic Century.” (2013)

Goel, Vindu. “Ingress Has the World as Its Game Board.” (2016).

Games: You tell me?


Other Course Information:


“Let's Play” Group Presentation (20%)

(30 minutes)

Students will form groups of 2 and sign up for a week (week 3-14) and a game listed for that week to create a 30-minute presentation in total, including time for discussion (5-10 minutes). Teams will be required to record the experience of playing a game for the class, so please select a title you can access easily. If you would prefer to present on your own that is also an option.

***Each group will be required to discuss the game in the context of at least one listed reading or video for that week.

Presentations will be marked based on the following criteria:

1) Video Quality: images, commentary, and editing

2) Integration of weekly readings, including recurring issues from previous weeks

3) Discussion questions

Tips and Tricks:

Play as much of the game as possible and edit the footage together to showcase key points. Good Let’s Plays capture the overall experience of playing a particular title.

Remember to specifically mention the readings for the chosen week. Course content can be mentioned while playing the game, or summarized before asking questions.

Try to contextualize your experience in recurring theoretical debates discussed throughout the course. Recalling discussions from previous weeks also helps.

Avoid simply talking over footage taken from the internet. Be creative and have fun!

Twine Game (15%)

Due March 2. Submission in instructions will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

On February 2, there will be a brief tutorial on how to use twine, a free, easy to use text-based game making tool. Students will then design a simple Twine game inspired by the games and ideas discussed in class. Your game should include at least three branching points, and might take the form of an interactive fiction, an autobiographical vignette, an experimental text, or something else entirely.

Twine Games will be marked based on the following criteria

  1. Writing (spelling, syntax, grammar)
  2. Organization (branching points, links, and overall design structure)
  3. Content (scenario, plot, ect.)

Tips and Tricks:

Make sure not to get too complicated—good twine games give players the freedom to explore while also returning them to recurring settings. Avoid branching too far off from a main plot line.

Keep it short and sweet—the longer your twine, the more difficult it is to navigate.

Mapp out your story before writing to avoid trapping yourself in a branching point of no return.

Remember that good interactive fiction often gives the reader the illusion of having more choice than they think.

Be creative and have fun!

Final Paper (35%)

Due April 2 (Uploaded to Avenue to Learn).

6-9 pages; double spaced; 12 point font; 1 inch margins; MLA or APA citation style

You will have to write a paper on one or two (maximum) game(s) discussed this semester.

As this is a research paper, you will have to include secondary sources such as game reviews, journal articles, etc. Please note that if you want to write about a game that you presented on, it will have to be compared to another game listed on the course syllabus. You are required to cite at least 2 academic sources, including one source not included in the syllabus.

Please avoid citing Wikipedia as a direct source, and do your best to consult relevant game studies or humanities based journals. A list of recommended journals and more detailed instructions will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Papers will be marked based on the following criteria

Strength of Argument (25%)

Supported Research (5%)

Writing, grammar, spelling, syntax (5%)

Further instructions, including a list of suggested topics, will be posted online.

STEAM Account

Students are encouraged to open a Steam account if they don’t already have one and install Steam on their computer.

This can be done at


Some of the games on Steam can only be played on a PC. This means that Mac users have four options:

  • Accessing the games in in the Lyons New Media Center, located in the Mills Library.
  • Borrowing a PC from someone;
  • Using Apple’s Bootcamp to install Windows on their Mac

For more info, go to

However, you will need to have a copy of Windows in order to install it on your Mac.