Our game log assignment is inspired by a study about the value of blogging about games, published in the International Journal of Learning and Media (Zagal and Bruckman 2011). The researchers Jose Zagal and Amy Bruckman argue that writing repeatedly about the same game in an online community can help players understand games more deeply on multiple levels, including:
- understanding videogames as cultural artifacts that circulate widely in the world;
- understanding individual videogames within a network of other games and genres;
- understanding the dynamic between videogames and the technological platforms on which they’re played; and
- understanding how videogames are structured, patterned, and designed—and how to make sense and interpret those structures and patterns
Furthermore, Zagal and Bruckman find that blogging about games:
- improves enjoyment of video games;
- provides a vehicle for expression, communication, and collaboration; and
- facilitates deeper understanding of video games (14)
What to Write about
Each entry on your game log should be about 300-400 words. Record tentative ideas, interpretations, and surprising observations. Make connections among and between the multiple levels described above. Analyze narrative and formal elements and the interplay between the two. Apply theories that come from our own readings or that you’ve encountered in other classes at Davidson.
What Not to Write About
Don’t write a game review. Don’t focus on the game’s difficulty. Or how “fun” it is. Avoid the language of marketing. Don’t write about the game as if your goal is to persuade or dissuade someone from playing it.
Where to Write
You will create your game log on your Davidson Domain, where you will create a new WordPress blog devoted specifically to FMS 321. If you’re new to Davidson Domains, here’s a short video introduction. After you have a domain and blog set up, share the URL with me.
Game Log Procedure
The general procedure is this: you’ll play three games (PC/console, casual, your choice) independently this semester, with at least three 30-minute sessions for each game. After each 30-minute session, you’ll write in your game log, as described above.
The stakes for each successive post increase as follows:
- The first post for each game is totally open-ended.
- The second post for each game aims to connect the game to other ideas you’ve encountered in this class or others.
- The third post requires actively digging around for some new research or insights about the game or any phenomena connected to the game. Include a link and a citation for this research. Some possible sources include Game Studies, Games and Culture, and Well Played.
With every entry be sure to do the following:
- Give your post a snappy descriptive title. Please don’t include your own name in the title.
- Use screencaps and other media to illustrate what you’re writing about. Use captions to contextualize your media.
- Use the tags in WordPress to tag your post with the game that you’re playing and any other useful keywords (such as the game’s genre, platform, other games you mention, etc.)
- Also use tags to specify whether your entry is for Console, Casual, or Free Choice.
There are three checkpoints this semester:
- By Friday, February 2, you need to have posted the first game log for each of the three games.
- By Friday, March 2, you need to have posted the second game log for each of the three games.
- By Friday, April 13, you need to have posted the third game log for each of the three games.
- By Monday, April 23, your final, reflective blog entry is due.
At each checkpoint, I will ask you which of your three posts you want to share with the rest of the class. I will repost that entry on our class blog. To be clear: I will read and grade all of your game log entries, but one post from each round will appear on our course site as a “featured” post.
As April 23 approaches, spend some time reading through your classmates’ game log entries. Explore by author, tag, or category. Try to get a handle on what themes other people write about, what they notice, what connections they make to our course material, what outside resources they pull in. Then in an approximately 300-400 word post on your own blog, write a reflection on what you find. Link back to at least 5 specific blog posts by other FMS 321 students. Emphasize (friendly) questions you have for other people, how these posts shift your own thinking about games, and how the ideas in these posts are worth revisiting.
The Game Lab is located in the south basement in Chambers, across from Studio M. Within the lab is a videogame station with a PS2, PS3, PS4, and Xbox One. There’s also a PC with Steam and a few games installed.
You can borrow games from the lab to play. These games are college property and should be treated the same as a library book. If you want to take the game out of the lab, please tell me. Otherwise, keep the games in the lab. The games on reserve include:
PS2: Half-Life, Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts
PS3: Bayonetta, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Ico, Portal 2, Red Dead Redemption, Shadow of the Colossus, Skyrim
PS4: Call of Duty: Black Ops, Fallout 4, Grand Theft Auto 5, The Last of Us, Life is Strange, Metal Gear Solid V, Tomb Raider, Horizon Zero Dawn
In addition, I am willing to loan out some classic PS2 games from my personal collection, including Rez, Primal, Psychonauts, God of War, Katamari Damacy
I’ll evaluate individual entries on your game log according to this rubric:
3 – Exceptional. The entry is readable, with clearly expressed ideas. It’s thought-provoking, going beyond what we talked about in class or what you’ve discussed in previous entries. It’s connective, making connections to material from this class, other classes, other games or texts, or historical or contemporary events and culture. It’s media-rich, using relevant images, video, or audio to complement your writing. Finally, it’s progressive, in the sense that it moves your thinking about this game—or other games—forward.
2 – Good. The entry is readable but lacks full development of new ideas. Instead of thought-provoking, it’s predictable. Fewer connections are made between the game and other material or phenomena. There’s no media, or if there is, it’s disconnected or gratuitous.
1 – Insufficient. The entry retreads previous posts or discussions without adding anything new. It’s mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives.
0 – No Credit. The entry is missing or late.