CMS.300 | Fall 2011 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Videogame Studies


1   Introduction to the Course  

Play / Playfulness

Meaningful Play

Magic Circle

Play as Contest

2 2 Defining Games Huizinga, John. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Roy Press, 1955. (Humanitas, Beacon Reprints in Humanities). ISBN: 9780807046814.  
3 3 Defining Games (cont.) Caillois, Roger. Man, Play and Games. University of Illinois Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780252070334. [Preview with Google Books]  
4 Games as Digital Media

Buy at MIT Press Murray, Janet. “From Additive to Expressive Form.” Chapter 3 in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780262631877.

Galloway, Alexander R. “Gaming Action, Four Moments.” In Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture. 1st ed. University of Minnesota Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780816648504.

4 5 Games as Cybertexts

Aarseth, Espen J. “Introduction: Ergodic Literature.” In Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780801855795. [Preview with Google Books]

Ryan, M. -L. “Beyond Myth and Metaphor: The Case of Narrative in Digital Media.” Game Studies 1, no. 1 (2001).






6 The Social Contract of Games

Buy at MIT Press Sniderman, S. “Unwritten Rules.” In The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Edited by E. Zimmerman and K. Salen. MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262195362.

Myers, D. “Play and Punishment: The Sad and Curious Case of Twixt.” In Proceedings of the [Player] Conference. Edited by S. Mosberg Iversen. Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008.

Unwritten rules vs Written Rules



5 7 Cheating Buy at MIT Press Consalvo, Mia. Chapter 4 in Cheating. Gaining Advantage in Videogames. MIT Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780262033657. [Preview with Google Books]


Gaming Capital


Unwritten rules vs hard / soft rules

8 Player Experience: Agency Buy at MIT Press Murray, Janet. “Agency.” Chapter 5 in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780262631877.



Embedded / Emergent


6 9 Games as Narrative

Juul, Jesper. “Games Telling Stories? – A brief Note on Games and Narratives.” Game Studies 1, no. 1 (2001).

Buy at MIT Press Costikyan, G. “Games, Storytelling and Breaking the String.” In Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media. Edited by P. Harrigan and N. Wardrip-Fruin. MIT Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780262083560.

7 10 Player Experience: Immersion

Buy at MIT Press Murray, Janet. “Immersion.” Chapter 4 in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780262631877.

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály. Chapters 3 and 4 in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row, 1990.


Transitional Objects

Liminal Space




11 Types of Players

Bartle, Richard. “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDS.” Journal of MUD Research 1 (1996).

Yee, N. “Motivations of Play in Online Games.” Journal of CyberPsychology and Behavior 9, no. 6 (2006): 772–5.

Achievers / Explorers / Socializers / Killers


Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

8 12 Hardcore vs. Casual Players

Buy at MIT Press Juul, Jesper. Chapter 1 in A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. MIT Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780262013376. [Preview with Google Books]

Baker, N. “Painkiller Deathstreak: Adventures in Videogames.” The New Yorker, August 9, 2010.

Casual vs Hardcore Players

Casual Games

Mimetic Interfaces (Game Space)

Socially Embeddable

13 Identity Turkle, S. Chapter 7 in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. Simon & Schuster, 1997. ISBN: 9780684833484. Persona vs. Avatar vs. Player Character
9 14 Representation

Consalvo, M., and T. Harper. “The Sexi(e)st of all: Avatars, Gender, and Online Games.” In Virtual Social Networks: Mediated, Massive and Multiplayer Sites. Edited by Panteli. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009, pp. 98–113. ISBN: 9780230229280.

Williams, D., N. Martins, et al. “The Virtual Census: Representations of Gender, Race and Age in Video Games.” New Media and Society 11, no. 5 (2009): 815–34.

15 Games as Systems

Hunicke, R., M. LeBlanc, et al. “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.” (PDF)

Buy at MIT Press Church, D. “Formal Abstract Design Tools.” In The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Edited by K. Salen and E. Zimmerman. MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262195362.


Participatory  Interactive / Agency




Scripting the Interactor

Diegetic / Non-Diegetic

Operator / Interactor

10 16 Fictional Worlds

Buy at MIT Press Juul, Jesper. “Fiction.” Chapter 4 in Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262101103.

Klastrup, L. “A Poetics of Virtual Worlds.” Presented at the Digital Arts and Culture, Melbourne, 2003.

Fictional World / Fiction

Virtual Worlds


Incoherent Worlds

Persistent Representation

17 Games as Simulations

Frasca, Gonzalo. “Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology.” In The Video Game Theory Reader. Edited by Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron. Routledge, 2003, pp. 221–37. ISBN: 9780415965798.

Aarseth, E. J. “Doors And Perception: Fiction vs. Simulation in Games.” Presented at the Digital Arts and Culture, Copenhagen, 2005. (PDF - 2.0MB)

Simulation vs Representation

Manipulation rules

11 18 Game Spaces

Buy at MIT Press Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture.” In First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. MIT Press, 2004, pp. 118–30. ISBN: 9780262232326.

Buy at MIT Press Nitsche, M. Chapter 1 in Video Game Spaces: Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Worlds. MIT Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780262141017. [Preview with Google Books]

Videogame space: rule-based, mediated, fictional, play, social

Embedded vs Emergent Narrative

Evocative Narrative Elements

Evocacive Spaces


19 Games as Performance

Buy at MIT Press Boal, Augusto. “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In The New Media Reader. Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Monfort. MIT Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780262232272.

Frasca, Gonzalo. Videogames of the Oppressed. 2004.

12 20 Value Systems

Flanagan, M., D. C. Howe, and H. Nissenbaum. “Values at Play: Design Tradeoffs in Socially-Oriented Game Design.“In Proceedings of CHI 2005. ACM Press, 2005, pp. 751–60. (PDF)

Buy at MIT Press Bogost, Ian. “Procedural Rhetoric.” Chapter 1 in Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. MIT Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780262026147. [Preview with Google Books]

13 21 Game Aesthetics Camper, B. “Retro Reflexivity: La-Mulana, An 8-bit Period Piece.” In The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Edited by Bernard Perron and Mark J.P. Wolf. Routledge, 2008, pp. 169–95. ISBN: 9780415962827. [Preview with Google Books]  
22 Criticism and Journalism

Gillen, K. “The New Games Journalism.” Kieron Gillen’s Workblog.

Dutton, N., M. Consalvo, T. Harper. “Digital Pitchforks and Virtual Torches: Fan Responses to the Mass Effect News Debacle.” Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers 10.0 Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2009.

14 23 Game Culture: Communities

Buy at MIT Press Pearce, Celia, and Artemesia. Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. MIT Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780262162579. [Preview with Google Books]

Jakobsson, M., and T. L. Taylor. “The Sopranos Meets EverQuest-Social Networking in Massively Multiplayer Online Games.” Presented at the Digital Arts and Culture, Melbourne, 2003. (PDF)

24 Game Culture: Violence

Kutner, Lawrence, and Cheryl Olson. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. Simon & Schuster, 2008. ISBN: 9780743299510. [Preview with Google Books]

Goldstein, Jeffrey. “Immortal Kombat: War Toys and Violent Video Games.” Chapter 3 in Why We Watch: The Attractions of Violent Entertainment. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780195118216. [Preview with Google Books]


Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2011
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
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