Course Calendar

Fall 2019 Syllabus for EDUC 5863, Digital Games & Learning

Class 1 [Tuesday September 10]
1pong Introduction to Digital Games & Learning

  • Syllabus Tour (Course Narrative)
  • Expectations for Assigned Readings

1. Zimmerman, Eric. (2013).  Manifesto for a Ludic Century (Published Web Document).

Games or Social Media? Study says… 

Games 1 2019 _FALL Slide Deck

Class 2 [Tuesday Sept 17] How to Do Things with Videogames

Meta Text: As you read, create a concept mind-map/annotation system: Identify new terms, collect key quotes and diagram big ideas and take-away points and examples from Bogost’s reading (along with your own critical reflections, personal connections, and ideas for making and “doing things” with games).

Bogost, I. (2011). How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Read Entire Book).

Doing Things: Watch: Indigenous Futures Video Game Design Project 

In Class: Sketching a ‘social media game’ (using Bogost ideas) based on short video clips: Black Mirror, 8th Grade.

Optional Resources: Re/Search: ‘What’s Doing?’ and ‘Going On’ in Open Access Journals, Websites and Non-Academic Resources (Journalism).

Kotaku / Gamasutra / First Person Scholar / Feminist Frequency / NYMG / Game Studies

Games 2 FALL_2019_ Slide Deck

Production 2:Doing Things’ Game Analysis

Class 3 [Tuesday Sept 24] Serious Play & Play Rhetorics: Beyond ‘Gamification’ and the ‘Schooling’ of Play

Meta Text: As you read, create a concept mind-map/annotation system: Identify new terms, collect key quotes and diagram ideas/take-away points (along with your own critical reflections, personal connections, ideas for making). How do the rhetorics of play (article 1) connect or align with game design production pedagogies (in article 2) or link up with previous reading?


  1. Nolan, J., & McBride, M. (2014). Beyond gamification: Reconceptualizing game-based learning in early childhood environments. Information, Communication & Society.
  2. Thumlert, K., de Castell, S., & Jenson, J. (2018). Learning through game design: A production pedagogy, The 2018 European Conference on Games Based Learning Book: ACPI Press.

Fun Resource:  Stenros, J. (2017). The Game Definition Game, Games & Culture, Vol. 12(6) 499-520. Skim through an identify key ideas/tensions! See also this fun Game Definition generator created by Molleindustria. 

In Class: ‘The Hack a Game Game’

Production 3: Serious Play

Class 4 [Tuesday Oct 1] Learning through Game Design: Playcentric Design

Meta-Text: Identify Features and Elements of Games / Game Design Processes (rules, systems, mechanics, etc). As we will be designing games (prototypes) in class (using non-digital materials), sketch down any interesting ‘premises’ for possible games as they arise (as you interact with the text!)…


  1. Fullerton, T. (2014). Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovation Games, NY: Taylor & Francis: Chapters 1-3 closely on Design (skim designer interviews if you wish) Use rest of book as game design resource (for now, just run through chapter headings).
  2. Watch: Jennifer Jenson: Learning through Game Design

In Class:Playcentric Game Design Workshop Game’
+ Reflecting on what and how you learned and designed in the workshop (getting meta).

Later:  You’ll need to get together in your final project groups for this one – discuss the readings, and come up with some provisional/working direction (general map) and provisional ideas for the game that you are going to design/prototype (final project).

Production 4: ‘Get Meta’ / Project Proposal (due Nov 1 lastest!)

Class 5 [Tuesday Oct 8] Philosophies of Games & Play (Foundations)

Meta Text: As you read, create a concept mind-map/annotation system: Identify new terms, collect key quotes and diagram ideas/take-away points (along with your own critical reflections, personal connections, and map tensions among the ideas and claims about play and games). Above all, focus on those moments that highlight the significance of play and games on society and culture, art, critical thinking and learning (broadly conceived).


  1. Huizinga, J. Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon.In K. Salen and E. Zimmerman (Eds.) The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (pp. 96-120). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  2. Caillois, R. The Definition of Play and the Classification of Games. In K. Salen and E. Zimmerman (Eds.) The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (pp. 122-155). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Recommended Resoure: Jensen, H. G. (2103). Making Sense of Play in Video Games: Ludus, Paidia, and Possibility Spaces. Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture. 2013; 7 (1), pp. 69-80

In Class: ‘Card Decks’, ‘Ideation Games’ & Exploring Final Project Directions
Reality Ends Here: (USC Game linking ideation decks with making/design challenges)

Production 5: Huizinga, Play and Games (Due after Reading Week)

Fall Reading Week [Tuesday October 15]  No Class Meeting

Play Some Games!

Class 6 [Tuesday Oct 22] Digital Games, Sociocultural Learning Theory and Gee’s ‘Learning Principles’

Meta Text: As you read, create a concept mind-map: Collect key quotes and diagram ideas/annotations and draw relations between the readings – and previous articles (along with your own critical reflections and personal connections). How can Gee’s Learning Principles, Playful Constructivism, and Narrative/Role Play modeling help us rethink learning (in and outside of games) and help us design ‘good games’?

  1. Gee, J.P. (2007). Are Video Games Good for Learning? In Worlds in Play: International Perspectives on Digital Game Research. New York.
  2. Watch – and take notes / make connections to the reading(s): James Paul Gee’s Learning Principles
  3. Marone, V.  (2016). Playful Constructivism: Making Sense of Digital Games for Learning and Creativity Through Play, Design, and Participation. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, 9(3).

    In Class: ‘The Narrative Game Game’: Linking story with simulation and modelling;  and narrative with immersion and interactivity.

Production 6: Learning Principles

Class 7 [Tuesday Oct 29] Extending Domains of Play and Making: Critical Game Design and Interactive Fiction

Exploring the affordances of twine for ‘doing things’ with games: critical games, empathy games, interactive fictions/adventure games, and simulation/modelling and situated learning (‘serious games’).


  1.  Skain, R.L. (2019). Teaching digital fiction: integrating experimental writing and current technologies, Palgrave Communications volume 5, Article number: 13. Download article or Link to Open Access Journal.
  2. Flanagan, M. (2009). Critical Play – Radical Game Design. MIT Press. Skim Chapter 1 (Intro) for main ideas / Read Chapter 8 Designing for Critical Play
  3. This War of Mine – Gameplay Trailer

In Class: Download Twine 2.0 (Twine Workshop)

Looking at Models: Rebuilding Mogadishu (a Twine Game from Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya, by York BHER graduate student).

Resource: Full Text: Critical Play – Radical Game Design

Production 6: Twineworks (Due Nov 12)

Class 8 [Tuesday Nov 5] Grand Theft Auto(Ethnography) and Critical Digital Literacies (Counter-Hegemonic Machinima /Art)

Guest Speaker: Paul Darvasi “Grand Theft AutoEthnography”

Production 7: Cultural Studies: Games Analysis (due by November 26)

Class 9 [Tuesday Nov 12]  Cultural Studies of Games: Gender, Race and Class (Intersectional Perspectives on Games, Game Culture and Game Industries)

Readings: Short Chapters from: Kafai, Tynes, & Richard (Eds.) (2016). Diversifying Barbie & Mortal Kombat: Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Designs in Gaming. Pittsburgh PA: ETC Press.

Read introduction by Kafai, Richard & Tyne (pp. 1-10) and the following short Chapters: 1, 2 & 13.

  1. Chapter 1: Cross, K (2016) Press F to Revolt: On the Gamification of Online Activism.
  2. Chapter 2: Nakamura, L. (2016) Putting our hearts into it: Gaming’s Many Social Justice Warriors and the Quest for Accessible Games.

Production: (see 7 above)

Class 10 [Tues Nov 19] Post-Colonial Theory and Games Research


Production: (see 7 above) (due November 26th)

In Class Project Work: (Second Half of Class)

Class 11 [Tues Nov 26] No Class Meeting
(Work in Groups on Final Games Project)

Production 7 due by Nov 26th (then work on final game project!)

Class 12 [Tuesday Dec 3]

‘Work-in-Progress’ Project Presentations: Present your game as a work-in-progress – to model and share ideas – and to receive critical feedback from the rest of class (offering support, ideas, suggestions, tweaks, touch-ups for your final project)

Final Game Design Projects Due by December 10th