New Media Course
From Samus to Mario, Princess Zelda to James Sunderland, Jill Valentine to Master Chief, mainstream video games have offered gamers an array of male and female characters. In this course, we will analyze these various portrayals of gender. Do games always portray a masculine hero saving a damsel in distress? Do some games offer an alternative to this archetypical situation? We will examine a wide range of avatars and supporting characters within the context of storylines, digital environments, and paratexts such as cover designs, promotional materials, and strategy guides. Our investigation, however, will not be limited to character construction and narrative structure. We will also discuss gender assumptions about gamers, question the gender politics of online gaming, and think about how an avatar’s gender affects player-avatar identification.
Class Participation (20%) You are required to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned materials. There will be ample time for discussion, and it is important for me to hear you speak on a daily basis. If class is dismissed early because no one has anything to say, everyone’s participation grade will be lowered.
Comprehension Quizzes (5%) Throughout the semester, you will receive pop quizzes that gauge your comprehension: Are you doing the reading? Do you understand the reading? Are you watching the assigned clips? If you miss a quiz due to absence, you will receive a zero and there will be no make-up quizzes. I will drop your lowest quiz grade.
Midterm and Final Exams (10% each) The exams for this course will test your knowledge of assigned readings and viewings and you ability to use these materials to think critically about mainstream video games.
Gamer’s Blog (20%) Because reading a video game requires actually playing it, you will be responsible for playing a game (or games) to its completion over the course of the semester. You will select your game(s) from a provided list. Each week, before midnight on Sunday, you will blog a 250- to 300-word reflection on gender issues in your game (12 total).
Presentation (10%) You will be responsible for a 10-minute presentation on one or multiple paratext(s) connected to the video game you have selected. Potential paratexts include cover art, advertising, websites, fan fiction, spin-offs, sequels, film versions, strategy guides, etc.. We will discuss paratexts and this presentation in more depth later in the semester.
Final Paper (25%) You will write one 5 to 6 page paper that will be due at the end of the semester. This paper will present a formal analysis of the game you played throughout the semester and use at least 2 or 3 scholarly sources to help you make an argument about your game. You may also incorporate non-scholarly sources as well. You are welcome to use assigned readings as well as material from your blog and your presentation; however, the final paper should come together as one cohesive piece of writing.
Wed, 1/16: Introductions
Mon, 1/21: How Do We ‘Read’ Video Games?
Wed, 1/23: Gendered Games
Mon, 1/28: Gendered Characters
Wed, 1/30: Constructions of Masculinity
Mon, 2/4: Alternate Masculinities
Wed, 2/6: Paratexts
Mon, 2/11: “But our Princess is in Another Castle!”
Wed, 2/13: Lara Croft and Samus Aran
Mon, 2/18: First-Person Games and Player-Avatar Identification
Wed, 2/20: Third-Person Games and Avatar Objectifictation
“Lara is an avatar; she is not just viewed, she is played … Her sex-doll proportions appear to confirm her compliance with existing cinematic models of objectification … yet the passivity and castigation integral to such models has to be reconciled, in some way, with Lara’s explicitly sadistic and penetrative appetites.”Diane Carr, “Playing with Lara”
Mon, 2/25: Student Presentations
Wed, 2/27: Student Presentations
Mon, 3/4: Student Presentations
Wed, 3/6: Midterm Exam
Mon, 3/18: Monsters & Enemies
Wed, 3/20: Birdo/Birdetta: LGBT Issues
Mon, 3/25: Street Fighter II
Wed, 3/27: Player-Added Narratives and Content
Mon, 4/1: Easter Monday (**No Blog Post Due**)
Wed, 4/3: Massively Multiplayer Online Games
Mon, 4/8: Creating Your Own Character
Wed, 4/10: Gender Roles in Virtual Space
Mon, 4/15: Online Harassment
Wed, 4/17: Fan Art and Cosplay
“Every message is the same. I’m always either fat and ugly, or a slut.”Quote from “Fat, Ugly or Slutty,” a website devoted to the “creepy, disturbing, insulting, degrading and/or just plain rude” online messages sent to female players
Mon, 4/22: Gender and Video Game Movies
Wed, 4/24: The Gaming Industry
Mon, 4/29: Final Exam (**Last Blog Post Due**)
Wed, 5/1: Conclusions
Final Papers Due: May 6, 2013 by Midnight
Emailed and saved in MSWord as a .doc or .docx file.