Play Make Write Think

Week ahead: 7

7 2/25 Play either Mansions of Madness or Betrayal at the House on the Hill
2/27 Watch the first 15 minutes or so of the walkthrough of the Untitled Goose Game.

Ian Bogost “Don’t Play the Goose Game: Untitled Goose Game is fun. The problem is, all games are also work,” The Atlantic.

Optional additional reading: Ian Bogost “Video Games Are Better Without Characters: The real legacy of SimCity is its attempt—and failure—to make complex systems the protagonists instead of people,” The Atlantic

3/1 Side Quest 7: 3d print a game piece

Podcast episodes 5 & 6

We’ll discuss Mansions of Madness and Betrayal at House on the Hill in class today (Tuesday). We’ll also go over logistics for playing Fiasco and I’ll distribute dice and other materials you’ll need.

On Thursday we’ll discuss Untitled Goose Game, and in particular Ian Bogost’s assertion that “playing a game is a chore. That’s the big problem with video games: To enjoy them, you have to play them. And playing them requires exerting the effort to operate them. Games are machines, and broken ones at that. The player’s job is to make them work again.” Untitled Goose Game became such an unexpected hit last year, Bogost argues, because it offers “a counterintuitive way out of the quandary of game-play’s fundamental aggravation: Someone has to play the game, but that someone needn’t be you. It might even be more fun not to play the game than to play it. Untitled Goose Game is a game about work’s ubiquity in the guise of a game about leisure’s frivolity. And like all labor, the best way to get it done is to farm it out to others. Let the memers honk their geese so you don’t have to.”

Your next side quest will require that you visit the TechLab and 3d print some sort of game piece.

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.

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.