Let’s Play Project

Overview

Two of our goals for Electronic Literature are the following:

  • Engage in intellectually valuable discussions about creative expression and technology
  • Evaluate how conventional literary and aesthetic categories apply to new media environments

With these goals in mind, you will create a Let’s Play-inspired video analysis of a work of electronic literature.

What is a Let’s Play video? For our purposes, the definition provided by Wikipedia serves us just fine:

A Let’s Play (commonly referred to as an LP) is a style of video series documenting the playthrough of a video game, usually including commentary by the gamer. A Let’s Play differs from a video game walkthrough or strategy guide by focusing on an individual’s subjective experience with the game, often with humorous, irreverent, or critical commentary from the gamer, rather than being an objective source of information on how to progress through the game.

Keep in mind that a Let’s Play video for our purposes is an analysis not a review. A review tells someone why they should or shouldn’t buy something. An analysis tells us why something matters.

Review Analysis
Subjective response Subjective response informed by history and theory
“This is interesting” “This is important because…”
Provides information Provides perspective

The Works

What do we mean by a “work” of electronic literature? Our definition of electronic literature is expansive, but it generally means a creative work invested in language, meaning, or storytelling that takes advantage of the unique properties of digital environments.

You could select a work from the unofficial canon of electronic literature: volume one, volume two, or volume three of the Electronic Literature Collection, an anthology curated by the Electronic Literature Organization.

The ELMCIP Knowledge Base and Electronic Literature Directory also provide listings of electronic literature works and authors.

A number of digital artists and writers have online portfolios of their work. Consider the work of the following:

Finally, consider that there is overlap between electronic literature and narrative-driven (as opposed to action-driven) games, such as Twine works, interactive fiction, and visual novels. You can find such literary-oriented games on sub-Q, Reading Digital Fiction, and on itch.io. There are also app-based interactive stories, such as 80 Days and Sorcery!

The Tools

The heart of a successful Let’s Play is the screencast, which captures what’s on your screen along with your commentary. There are many options for recording screencasts. The important thing is to use software that captures both video (the screen) and audio (your voice). Some software can record webcams as well as the screen, so that your face appears as a thumbnail in the corner of the screen. That’s not necessary for this project, but feel free to be fancy if you want. Here are a few tools to consider. If you have other suggestions, please share and I’ll add them to this list.

  • Open Broadcaster Software (free and open source)
  • Apple Quicktime (Mac only, there’s a New Screen Recording option under File)
  • Adobe Captivate (in some computer labs)
  • Screencast-O-Matic (web-based and free up to 15 minutes in length)

You can also record your interactions with the work separately, and overlay your audio later as a voiceover. If necessary, you can go the ultra lo-tech route and simply have a friend use a phone to record your screen. The only catch with this method is that I will literally refuse to watch your video if it’s in portrait mode. Shoot in landscape mode.

Criteria

In order to meet the criteria for Satisfactory, your Let’s Play video must meet the following criteria:

  1. A script or outline is shared with masample@davidson.edu as a Google doc by 5pm on Friday, October 6. This document should cover main ideas of the Let’s Play, including a claim or argument about the work, plus evidence to support that claim.
  2. The video is a minimum of 5 minutes and covers an especially dense or rich section of the e-lit work.
  3. The video includes a claim or argument about the work, plus evidence to support that claim.
  4. In addition to critical commentary, the video features other hallmarks of Let’s Play videos such as humor, irreverence, or hyperbolic reactions.
  5. The video integrates perspectives or theories from at least two of the readings from the syllabus.
  6. You ought to do some minimal editing of the video, for example, adding titles or the name of the work.
  7. By 5pm on Friday, October 13, the finished Let’s Play video is uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. Tag it with #DIG220 #ELIT #DAVIDSON and any other tags that make sense to you. Embed the video into your a blog post with the category “Let’s Play.” Remember that you can easily embed videos onto your site simply by pasting the URL on a line all by itself.

In order to meet the criteria for Sophisticated, your Let’s Play video must meet all of the above criteria plus the following:

  1. The video integrates at least two scholarly sources beyond what we’ve read for class.
  2. The video reaches higher levels of originality and synthesis of course material.
  3. The video uses more effective rhetoric and style to advance its argument.

Credits

Portions of this assignment were inspired by Tim Welsh’s Let’s Play Critically! Video Essay assignment