Terrence E Schenold
Each colloquium examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework. A list of topics is available from the CHID office.
In his recent book Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Alexander Galloway includes an epigraph from Hans Magnus Enzensberger on new media that frames the dominant view about digital games today: "The new media are oriented towards action, not contemplation; towards the present, not tradition."While this view has explanatory power in a very general sense when applied to digital games, it can play all too easily into the very tired and reductive moralisms which have inhibited inquiry and haunted the cultural assumptions about the medium since its creation: the playing of video games is either an unproductive escapist pastime of little or no intellectual consequence, or worse yet, an active corruption of culture in general and youth in particular. Galloway and others have done compelling scholarship on games that reveal this as a misguided interpretation, but they have done so primarily by crafting innovative theories and concepts about gaming in general without really bearing down on any of the games themselves. In light of these two issues ”the commonsense tendency to view games as primarily unreflective action, and the generalized theory-oriented beginnings of game studies” there seems to be a need for an engaged consideration of the interpretive and imaginative dimension of digital games, and particularly the genre most resistant to prevailing theoretical models: the roleplaying game (RPG). To this end, this seminar will be anchored by a collective gaming experience of 4 monuments in the history of the fantasy RPG: Quest for Glory, Ultima VII, Final Fantasy VII, and Morrowind, and framed by critical readings from game studies and new media studies, including essays by Espen Aarseth, Ian Bogost, Alexander Galloway, James Paul Gee and Jesper Juul, among others. These readings and game experiences will hopefully give us some concrete purchase on the efficacy of current theory, but also “and more importantly “a way to talk about and imagine this genre that engages some larger questions: What is the nature and what are the qualities of the imaginative work created and supported by the experience of digital roleplaying games? What philosophical insights can this increasingly popular art form offer contemporary notions of digital mediation? What is unique about the way in which the RPG configures and affects the imaginative experience?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
As a seminar, most sessions will consist of short mini-lectures or demonstrations followed by discussion. My role as instructor is to provide a productive critical context for the course content and to act as resident expert on that design, facilitating inquiry and discussion towards the goal of producing new insights.
Regular access to a computer that meets the following minimum requirements: a. OS: Windows 98SE/ME/XP b. CPU: Pentium III 800Mhz or better c. Mem: 256 MB+ d. Video: nVidia GeForce2 series +or ATI Radeon 7500 series+ e. Space: 2 GB free
Class assignments and grading
The work of the class will consist of weekly discussion of the readings and game experiences, writing and sharing a short analytical prÃ©cis on a critical essay or book chapter of choice, proposing a digital RPG mini-canon with rationale in which you talk through the significance of the games you chose to foreground, and a research project of your own design.