Play Make Write Think

Week ahead: 5

5 2/11 “Introduction” and “Games” from Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson
2/13 Superbetter, chapters 1 & 2
2/16 Side Quest 5: Sunday Sketches

Podcast episodes 1 & 2

On Tuesday, we’ll discuss Steven Johnson’s Sleeper Curve and his argument about games. These sentences from the introduction particularly resonate with the sort of arguments I’d like you to think about constructing for your podcast episodes:

The approach followed in this book is more systemic than symbolic, more about causal relationships than metaphors. It is closer, in a sense, to physics than to poetry. My argument for the existence of the Sleeper Curve comes out of an assumption that the landscape of popular culture involves the clash of competing forces: the neurological appetites of the brain, the economics of the culture industry, changing technological platforms. The specific ways in which those forces collide play a determining role in the type of popular culture we ultimately consume. The work of the critic, in this instance, is to diagram those forces, not decode them (9).

How does Johnson “diagram forces” in these pages, rather than “decode” them?

I’ll also bring in some board games for us to look at in conjunction with Johnson’s article. I’m going to ask you to play one of these games from the SDL game lending library within the next couple (I added the library to our texts and services page, with information about check out).

On Thursday, we will probably continue our discussion of Johnson some and also discuss Superbetter.

Podcast Organizing

If you know you want to be in a specific group with someone else in the class, add your names to the group list in the podcast planning document. Anyone who hasn’t signed up for a specific group will be randomly sorted into groups on Thursday.

The first two episodes are due in just over a week, so two groups need to sign up for the first episodes in that planning document too and we should schedule a time to meet this week. Because it is especially difficult to be the first to publish episodes, I will grade the first two with extra leniency — in case that encourages you to take the plunge and claim one of the first two spots.


Week Ahead: 4

4 2/4 Gone Home: A Story Exploration Game
2/6 Ian Bogost “Media Microecology” and “Empathy” from How to Do Things with Videogames
2/10 Side Quest 4: Combophoto

On Tuesday, we’ll spend the bulk of the class discussing Gone Home, which you have been playing this week and liveblogging as you go. We’ll probably spend some time discussing whether Gone Home is a game or a story and whether it’s a game or a puzzle. Officially, Gone Home is classified in the genre “walking simulator,” so we’ll probably spend a bit of time thinking about what that genre entails. It would be helpful if you ask yourself before class what is the game’s purpose and audience too. We’ll also continue, hopefully wrap up, naming the podcast and establishing the other baseline rules we’ll need.

On Thursday, we’ll discuss two chapters from Ian Bogost‘s How to Do Things with Videogames. Bogost is a professor of game design on the other side of town, at Georgia Tech and also publishes very smart essays frequently in The Atlantic magazine. (We’ll most likely read a few of these essays later in the semester.)

Follow up from Thursday


In class on Thursday, we decided on some rules for the podcast:

  • Episodes will be 10-15 minutes in length
  • Each episode will focus on one game, though it’s acceptable to mention another game in order to make a comparison (perhaps another game mentioned in an earlier podcast episode)
  • Each episode will analyze the rhetorical situation of the game under consideration.
  • Each episode will use concepts and terms from the essays by Jane McGonigal, Mary Flanagan, Ian Bogost, and others that we’ve read and discussed this semester. I’ve started a Google doc in our shared folder where we can crowdsource a list of definitions and terms to explore this semester.

Any other rules we need to add?


We made a list of title suggestions and then narrowed that list down to 7. Vote below from among the finalists for your favorites by checking boxes below, or add a comment on this post and suggest another title if one has occured to you since Thursday. You can pick more than one, but don’t pick more than 3.

Podcast Title
Vote for your favorite titles

Week ahead: 3

3 1/28 Introduction to Critical Play” from Critical play: Radical Game Design by Mary Flanagan
1/30 Podcast brainstorming and planning
2/3 Side Quest 3: Liveblogging Gone Home

In class on Tuesday, we’ll discuss Mary Flanagan ‘s introductory essay and compare it to the essays we discussed last week by Jane McGonigal. The goal will be to come out of that discussion with a definition and a list of some key ideas that we are interested in exploring over the course of the rest of the semester with regard to games.

Before class on Thursday, I’ll put up a Google doc in a folder that I will share with each of you, with examples of podcast bumpers from previous semesters and some links to potential music for our bumpers. I will also share some sample cover images. We’ll spend the class period making key decisions about what our podcast series will sound like.

In class the next week, on 2/4, you’ll need to have played through Gone Home by the time we meet so we can discuss it together. Your side quest this week will entail liveblogging your game play.

Week Ahead: 2

2 1/21 The Landlord’s Game” 99% Invisible podcast

What exactly is a game?” from Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

1/23 “Introduction” from Superbetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal

Play Depression Quest

1/26 Side Quest 2: What’s in your bag?

Before class on Tuesday, you should listen to the episode of 99% Invisible about the game Monopoly and read the chapter by Jane McGonigal that begins our theoretical discussion of what a game is and why they are powerful learning tools. We’ll spend most of class on Tuesday discussing and analyzing these two texts. As you listen to “The Landlord’s Game,” you should also pay attention to how the podcast episode is structured and listen for what they do to make a compelling podcast.

In Thursday’s class, we’ll read the beginning of the book Superbetter, also by McGonigal. We’ll talk about her insights into Post-Traumatic Growth in class. You should also play the online text game Depression Quest. Be prepared to discuss both your experiences playing the game and your sense of the game’s rhetorical situation — especially what are its purpose, audience(s), and genre. How is the game structured in order to achieve its purpose?

Over the weekend complete the second Side Quest, which is another kind of self-portrait, like the avatar. This time you’ll create a self-portrait by showing us what’s in your bag.

Welcome to Play Make Write Think

I look forward to working with you this semester.

Your homework to complete before we meet again on Thursday, January 16:

  • Read over this website very carefully as it constitutes the syllabus for this course. Note that the Syllabus page includes a number of subpages, covering such topics as: how to contact me; the course learning outcomes; the texts you need; attendance, participation, and other policies; and how you will be graded. There is also a calendar of readings and assignments; and posts describing the major assignments (podcast episodes, Fiasco role-playing game, and creating a game and designing a Kickstarter-style proposal for its further development) and minor assignments this semester.
  • Add this site to your bookmarks. Make certain that you can find your way back here, because you’ll be spending a lot of time visiting these pages over the course of this semester.
  • Respond to this simple survey so I can get some basic contact information and get to know you a little bit better.
  • Sign up for a basic, free WordPress site. (See further information below about choosing a name for your site.) Note: If you already own a domain and server space, come talk to me to determine whether you can use that instead of creating a site on
  • Leave a comment on this post asking a question about the syllabus. Put the URL for the WordPress site you created in the “website” line on the comment form. If you want to receive an email every time a new post goes up on this site, check the “Subscribe to site” box before you submit your comment.
    Reply to this survey form, which both asks some basic information I’ll need in order to manage communications with you and also asks some questions that will help me get to know you a little bit better.
  • Read Andrea Lunsford, “Rhetorical Situations” and “Reading Rhetorically” from Everyone’s an Author.  Note that link will take you to the PDF that I’ve uploaded to our electronic course reserves, so you will need to login with your Emory netid and password to access the document.

A little more on naming your WordPress site

You can choose a URL based on some version of your name (i.e., or if you’d like. Using a version of your name has the advantage that you will be building a digital identity on the web based on your name, which can be really helpful. On the other hand, it also means that this site that you’re building will likely come up near the top of web searches for your name, so consider whether that is something you would like.

If you don’t want to publish your coursework on a site with a version of your name, you can also use some sort of pseudonym for your domain name.

It is also perfectly acceptable for your domain name to be a short word or phrase that is easy to remember and spell, and which speaks to some interest of yours or an aspect of your character (for example: my friend Audrey Watters, a noted educational technology scholar and researcher publishes a site called; Tanine Allison, a professor of Media Studies here at Emory who just published her first book entitled Destructive Sublime: World War II in American Media, uses as her domain name; or one of my favorite art and design blogs is called If you’re going to choose a title or phrase as your domain name, make sure you think about it very carefully so you don’t show up on one of those lists of the most unfortunate domain names ever, like the design firm called Speed of Art that ended up with a domain name that sounds like it’s about flatulence in a swimsuit. Note that in the case of your site, you’ll be publishing a page that’s a subdomain of, so if Audrey Watters were in this class her site might be called

Header image credits

Detail from "Dada Scrabble" by Flickr user romanlily


1. No score-keeping.

2. Making up words is fine, as long as you create interesting definitions for them.

3. Starting new words that do not connect to other words is fine. That can be a good way to occupy unused board space.

It was the most fun I've ever had playing Scrabble, at any rate.