Final Project

You have a choice of what kind of final project you want to pursue for FMS 321: either a more conventional research paper or a videogame of your own design. In either case, the project is due Wednesday, December 7.

Paper Guidelines

The default final project for FMS 321 is a 7-8 page analytical paper, which offers a critical analysis and interpretation of a videogame—or of some phenomenon central to the social significance of videogames. You’ll need to do outside research, using sources from established scholarly journals or books.

Your analysis should consider both the formal elements and the narrative elements of gameplay, and the dynamic between the two. Remember that form includes rules, interface, graphics, music and sound effects. Keep in mind that narrative is shorthand for a wide range of concerns, such as evocative meaning, cultural assumptions, explicit or implicit ideological messages, and so on. And operating in the mix of gameplay and narrative is the game’s procedural rhetoric, the way a game makes an argument through its processes.

It’s up to you to decide which game or games to examine for the final project. Aim for a richly textured contemporary game or a modest but innovative indie game. You can use one of the games you’ve blogged about (and the game logs can even serve as the basis for some of your argument).

The bare minimum number of scholarly sources for this research paper is five. Think about your paper as entering into an ongoing conversation about videogames, either generally or more specifically in regards to a game title, a genre, or common issue in games. You need these five scholarly sources in order to understand how the conversation has developed thus far. Your own entrance into the conversation will be marked by clarifying or disagreeing with what’s been said before, or by exposing a critical issue that has so far been ignored. You may cite your sources in either MLA, Chicago, or APA style, as long as you are accurate and consistent.

Game Guidelines

Or, you can design a game for FMS 321. The game ought to be a meta-game, that is, a game that itself comments upon other games or some aspect of other games. In the same way a research paper enters into a scholarly conversation, think of the meta-game as entering into a conversation with other games. The meta-game need not respond to a specific game; your meta-game can comment upon a genre of games, a general game mechanic, the platforms used to play games, the game industry, or even on the players that play games. In short, you are going to develop a small game that both demonstrates hyperawareness of the world of games and expands what Anthropy calls our “vocabulary of ideas” about games.

You are able to work in pairs for this project, though it’s fine to work individually as well.

The Tools
  • Game Maker 8 (8 bit fun, think the original Legend of Zelda)
  • Twine (branching interactive stories)
  • Scratch (build a game like assembling the pieces of a puzzle)
  • Playfic (write interactive fiction online)
  • Stencyl (more complicated than Scratch, for Flash games)
  • Pico-8 (a “fantasy console”—costs $15)
  • Kodu (PC only, designed for elementary school kids, but we can use it too)
  • Unity (3D game engine, not for beginners)
  • GameSalad (Mac only, basic version is free)
  • Construct2 (create HTML5 games with no programming experience)
Artist’s Statement

In addition to the game itself, you must also write an artist’s statement that explains and reflects upon the game. Even if you design a game as part of a group, each individual in that group must submit a separately written artist’s statement.

Your artist’s statement is a 3-4 page essay that outlines the goals of your project. You should consider the following questions (not necessarily all of them or in this order): What were you trying to achieve? What kind of intervention does your game make into the world of games? What effect or meanings were you after? What subtextual meanings were you trying to evoke? Why did the project take the form it did? Explain your design decisions: why you did what you did and how those choices meshed with the themes or goals of your work?

I’ll be looking for evidence that you’ve absorbed and thought about many of the issues we discussed throughout the semester regarding play, games, point of view, representation, procedural rhetoric, countergames, and so on.

Finally, conclude your artist’s statement by evaluating how your project lived up to your initial goals. What difficulties and epiphanies occurred along the way as you created your project, and what would you do differently next time?

I’ll evaluate the game using this criteria:

  • Unexpectedness (the extent to which the game defies expectations or produces surprising results or reactions)
  • Craft (the care put into the digital composition of the game)
  • Intention (the sense of intentionality and deliberateness of the game)
  • Theme (the level of engagement with concepts from this class)
  • Argument (the degree to which your game has something meaningful to say about the world of games)