Course Calendar

Winter 2021 / Syllabus for EDUC 5863, Digital Games & Learning

Class 1 [Wednesday January 13]
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).

Game Definition generator created by Molleindustria. 

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

Class 2 [Wednesday January 20] Contagion!

In a plague-ravaged land, ignorance reigns supreme.” – Contagion (game)

Can games, simulations and modelling prepare us for uncertain futures? Could these games have been useful prior to COVID-19? How do people learn differently in games? How do games provide alternative ways of thinking about ‘knowledge’ while critiquing traditional educational epistemologies and forms of ‘learning’ assessment?

  1. de Castell, S. & Jenson, J. (2007). Digital Games for Education: When Meanings Play. Intermediality, (9), 113–132.
  2. Jenson, J. , de Castell, S., Thumlert, K. & Muehrer, R. (2016). Deep assessment: an exploratory study of game-based, multimodal learning in Epidemic. Digital Culture & Education, 8(1), 20-40. (Read 21-27, ‘skim’ rest for main ideas).

“Contagion is set in a futuristic world, Pyramidea; a socially stratified city-state on the verge of a terrible epidemic. As the name would suggest, Pyramidea is a large vertically partitioned city divided into three segments, each of which serves as the home and starting point for one of the game’s three main characters. The pyramid itself purposely invokes the metaphor of a socioeconomic hierarchy, setting the stage for the conflicts the players will encounter on their journey through the various layers of the city.”


Production 2: Games and Learning

Class 3 [Wednesday January 27] 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.

Production 3:

Class 4 [Wednesday February 3] 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). What does Bogost mean by procedural rhetoric?

  1. Bogost, I. (2011). How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (read entire book with particular close reading of the Introduction and first 10 chapters).

Doing Things: What are these people doing?
Indigenous Futures Video Game Design Project 

Production 4:

Class 5 [Wednesday February 10] 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 (designer interviews if you wish) Use rest of book as game design resource (for now, just run through chapter headings).

In Class: ‘Playcentric Game Design Workshop Game’

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

Production 5:

Winter Reading Week [Wednesday February 17]  No Class Meeting

Play Some Games!

Class 6 [Wed.February 24]  Games & Sociocultural Learning Theory
Gee’s ‘Learning Principles’

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 and Playful Constructivism 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. 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).

Watch / make connections to the reading(s): James Paul Gee’s Learning Principles

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

Production 6: Learning Principles

Class 7 [Wednesday March 3] From Play to Design and Making

How does Burn ‘push back’ in relation to claims about games and learning (including Gee)?  Explore and evaluate his critiques of games as e-learning education tools – and identity alternative ways of thinking about games, play and learning.

  1. Burn, A. (2016) ‘Liber Ludens: Games, Play and Learning’. In Andrews, A, Haythornthwaite, C, Fransman, J, and Kazmer, M, The Sage Handbook of e-learning Research, 2nd edition. London: Sage.
  2. New York Times (2014): Twine: The Video Game Technology for All

Twine Tutorial

Class 8 [Wednesday March 10] Extending Domains of Play and Making: Critical Game Design

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.  Flanagan, M. (2009). Critical Play – Radical Game Design. MIT Press.  Chapter 1 (Skim Intro) & Chapter 8 Designing for Critical Play
  2. Parry, R., Howard F., & Penfold, L. (2020): Negotiated, contested and political: the disruptive Third Spaces of youth media production, Learning, Media and Technology. Skim for Main Ideas.
  3. This War of Mine – Gameplay Trailer

Production 7:

Class 9 [Wednesday March 17]  Representation and Games Studies

Identify the theoretical lenses and methodological tools Brock is using to critique Resident Evil 5.

  1. Brock, A. (2011). ‘When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong’: Resident Evil 5, Racial Representation and GamersGames and Culture, 6, 5, 429-452.


Class 10 [Wednesday March 24] Post-Colonial Theory & Games Studies

  1. Mukherjee, S. (2018). Playing Subaltern, Games and Culture, Vol. 13(5) 504-520.


Class 11 [Wednesday March 31] No Class Meeting

Work on Games!

Class 12 [Wednesday April 7] Game Show

‘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 April 11th