COM427: Game Studies

Department: Department of Communication
Institution: NC State University
Term: Fall 2007

Games are pervasive activities in the contemporary culture and are starting to be seriously studied as an emerging academic field. Games are intrinsically social activities, and therefore very relevant to understand contemporary communication, society, and culture. Although the first computer games were mostly single-player activities, the Internet allowed the connection among millions of users in virtual environments that simulate the traditional Role Playing Games (RPGs) online. Multiuser domains (MUDs) and massively multiuser online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) are actually complex social environments, and laboratories for social negotiations. With the popularity of cell phones, these games are being brought into physical spaces, transforming the whole city into the game board.

This course explores the inter-relations among mobile technologies (cell phones, PDAs), location-based activities, and playful/social spaces. It investigates three main areas with the ultimate goal of finding interconnections between games and culture. The first part of the course is dedicated to the definition of basic gaming concepts. We will define games as social, spatial, playful, and (non)narrative activities. Then, we will explore the history of games as social environments, with particular emphasis on MUDs, as predecessors of hybrid reality/location-based gaming. In the final section we will look into mobile gaming, exploring and defining different types of games which use the physical space as the game environment, such as pervasive games, location-based games, and hybrid reality games. Along the course, we will discuss possibilities for these games to be used beyond pure entertainment, drawing connections among gaming, education, art, and other location-based activities.

The overarching goal of this class is two-fold. First, it will help students to draw connections between games and the creation of social networks via the analysis of games as social and spatial activities. Second, students will apply these concepts to the definition of mobile and location aware gaming. Broadly, the course focuses on identifying how mobile, location aware and wireless interfaces influence communication and society, changing perceptions of urban spaces.