Video Games as Popular Literature    English 265, Fall 2015

·               Instructor:  Angi Caster, M.A                     . E-mail: (206)-592-4059

·               Office:  Bldg. 5,  Rm. 108; office hrs.— M-Th 12-1:30 pm  and by appointment


TEXTS =  class website!!! http://videogame.highline.eduMONSTERS (ed. Blake & Cooper, 2012)

+ virtual texts, online, new each weeks 4-10.  Students are expected to find, read, print (if necessary)  & know  linked texts online.

Yeah, your old, white female professor/grandma gamer has slavishly prepared for this class:  Dragonage Inquisition (155 hrs.)

 watching unhappily while my friend killed Wookies in Star Wars, The Force Unleashed, and the Assassin  “ looking awesome” in A3.  

 My personal favorites are Persona 3 & 4, Star Ocean,  Ratchet & Clank’s 3 adventures (not the FPS), another 266  hrs. on Final Fantasy X, X-2, XIII

and shooting myself (and  allies)  in  Red Faction.   I loved running over pedestrians and fire hydrants in GTA 4 (& even tho' I am a feminist,

 gleefully used prostitutes to up my health bar). Videogames have characters, plots, backstory, moral ambiguity—they are Lit!!!

I do not have the advantage of having had a controller in my hand since the age of  2, like you, my students!  Thus, the true creators of this course are YOU,

 students who grew up with and love these games, “games” which the general public, higher education, and my generation have put down (denigrated, marginalized, ghettoized).

  “Game” means a ‘trivial, childish pursuit unworthy of study’ (even though U.S. computer and video game software sales generated $10.5 billion in 2009 and:

·         The world-wide video game industry grew 9% in 2013 and now exceeds $76 billion with projections it will reach over $86 billion by 2016.

·         The European market for games is almost $20 billion.

·         Japan and China lead the pack when it comes to iPhone/iPad games.  Russia is also a major user, ranking #6 in the world.

·         The games industry in India grew 16% in 2012, to $227 million.

·         91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone

·         56% of people own a smart phone

·         50% of mobile phone users use mobile as their primary Internet source

·         80% of time on mobile is spent inside apps or games

In fact, I argue that not only are rpg’s and fps’s the 21st c. version of pop lit, but Bioshock, Assassins’ Creed, Deus X and Heavy Rain qualify as Classic Literature! 

You may want to add Elderscrolls Skyrim. . or FFVII.

 Grading : How big is your blade? 1000 pts. total

350 pts                                                                                              pts = oral and visual (group) presentation (content & group participation)

 150  pts.=  participation in-class (attendance, quizzes, discussion, individual ppts, posters).  This can be creative:  see below .

300 pts. =  3 exams emphasizing literary vocabulary applied to games  (weeks 3, 7 and 12)

 200 pts. =  your response to readings

Pts... to…….. letter grade (detailed chart on web)

 900-1000 pts.:   3.5-4.0..A       810-890 pts.:     2.6-3.4…B  

750-800 pts. :    2.0-2.5  C         700-749 pts.:  1.5-1.9  D   620-699  pts.:     0.7-1.4 D-  Below 615 pts.:   0.0..F 

Rubrics are provided for every assignment & we will have a practice exam.  Notice that demonstrating

 your knowledge in this class is varied—from visual to written, from oral to online.  Creativity is rewarded,

and in past classes students have earned participation pts. when they: 

·         Came dressed in Navy whites & with WWII Russian medals in a group presentation on arguments re: military training via vgames

·         cross-dressed & demonstrated fetishism (like whips and leather...) relevant to gaming & Japanese morality as different from US

·         provided Japanese language translations for hentai, yaoi, etc. relevant to game diversity

·         created an original aria (think opera) satire & sang it in class.....

·         created a video of cosplay in an original narrative satirizing stereotypes in videogames, including cross-dressing

·         HONORS: paired up on extra ppt projects, such as Education & Vgames, or Autism & Vg

·         YES, you can get extra credit for actually playing--BUT only if in groups (either before class or at someone's home or in Videogame

 Club on campus) w/written description & photo shots.  I can arrange to be here at 7 am for playing.

This course meets both Humanities A.A. and Diversity/Globalism degree requirements and  will teach you how to: 

1.  Think Critically            2.  Communicate Effectively   

3. Develop Information & Visual Literacy        4.  Reason Quantitatively (think statistics)

5.   Demonstrate Civic Responsibility in Diverse Environments

…AND you will learn to….


  • examine traditional and contemporary ideas about human nature and its challenges
  • participate in a variety of ways of examining human experience  

     consider issues from multiple, diverse perspectives especially engendered & cultured

·         analyze, interpret, and evaluate argumentative, symbolic, and/or narrative writing, art, or other media  demonstrations of art, culture, and/or ideas and how they influence modern life

  • effectively communicate your own experience and thinking
  • collaborate with others in a diverse environment
  • understand and use the vocabulary of literary  analysis

 COURSE OUTLINE:   every week  we will:  

Mon-Tu =  powerpoints: visual evidence of videogames for themes (weeks 1-2 themes chosen by Angi; weeks

 3-10 themes chosen by students) Wed-Th =  discussion of assigned Monsters &  online readings + new lit term vocab  

Fri, after Week 2 = assessment =  quizzes, exams, audience evaluations, Response Jrnls due online @ 3 wk. intervals (10/11; 11/11; 12/9)  

Weeks 1 – 3  (9/28 – 10/16):  Caster gives argument for Videogames as cultural & literary art form; survey of students' preferences;

overview of  genres of RPG, puzzle, 1st-person shooter, platforming, action/adventure, multiplayer, pc & platforms, sport narratives, handhelds

, guest speaker/players.  Limnal response vs analysis.  How to do research & find readings.  Discussion themes:  violence , ratings, gender,

 technologies, globalism & diversity (esp. Japanese influence).   Sample response papers & practice exam.  Explore website & Interfaces.

  What is “Literature” anyway? History & context of gaming & related genre (graphic novels, manga & anime); reading packets.

 Establish groups, themes and topics,  who will present what, when.  Turn in 1st Response Journal/ppt. on Monday 10/12.

 EVERY FRIDAY WILL BE A 5-min. students’ response in groups of 4 to Caster lectures.  Groups will vary until you choose your tribe.

Weeks 4-8, 10 (10/19 – 11/26):  student-run group presentations will focus on a literary theme/term .) and use the games as evidence.

  Class interests will determine content but could include cross-cultural comparisons, mythologies, mmorpgs & community,  virtual reality,

 metaphor, symbolism, 1st person shooters (gender, violence) , GTA (anti-hero, racism), ratings, issues of power/control of youth, race,

 social class , etc.   In your group’s week, on M, Tu, & Fri, student groups will run class, lecture, provide readings, use ppt, give quizzes

 (& grade them)  BEFORE your group’s week, send Angi your reading list links (plan on a total of about 20 pg. or so with variety in

 source and including at least 1  scholarly journal).   On Wed. & Thurs..  Angi will lead  discussion & audience evaluations.

 10/16 is Prof Day, no school for students;  Wed.  11/11 is Vets' day--no school.  Online Exam #2 (100pts), due Sun. nite.

 Turn in 2nd response jrnl Fri. 11/11 online

Week 11 (12/2-12/6):  Review & Discussion.  Practice exam in class.  

Week 12  = last day of normal class is Mon., 12/8—3rd Response jrnl due online, and Final (Exam # 3--150 pts) is

  Tues. 12/15,  8 - 9:50 am in computer lab. 

Attendance:  This course demands participation & collaboration via attendance, email, website . Come see me or email me if you will be absent--and if you are freaking out!

   Email another student for work missed and check the required discussion web frequently (you must post on web weekly).  

Talk to me if there are problems at home or work this fall. 

 Privacy: Highline's FERPA policy does not allow faculty to discuss student's progress with other people, including family members.

 This policy includes underage students, who are treated as adults (parents have signed a form as part of Running Start package);

hence, “objectionable” materials are protected by Constitutional Freedom of Expression .

 Extra Credit: Will be given for research efforts at approved events outside of class, such as films or other videogame-related media

 or experiences, like Sakuracon  which, alas, is in spring.  One option is videogame multiplaying which students may arrange outside

of our classroom hours.  (but NOT simply clocking hrs. playing!).  Purpose of extra credit is to extend connections, showing that what

we do in Eng 265 is reflected in the “real [?] world” outside academia.  5% of grade,max.   Documentation  must include oral sharing ,

videotaping or photographs.  Go on a tour of Digipen? See art exhibits?  Check w/Angi.

 Ethics:  The worst academic offenses in western culture are cheating and plagiarism. That means, for this class :

Don’t copy phrases or sentences from book, articles or the Internet into your papers or onto a website or ppt  without showing "   "

and  citing source (Author, Title, Publisher, Date, etc.).   AND, do not let someone else do work for you. The consequences for cheating

 and plagiarism can be as serious as failing the course & being kicked out of college.  . No more than 20% of any paper may be quoted material. 

*** Please provide me with a Letter of Accommodation from the Office of Access Services  if any of  the following conditions apply to you:

 If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability; if you have emergency medical information to share with the instructor;

or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated.  [Access Services is located in Building 6 in the Student Development Center.]

Oct 16Professional faculty day

Oct 19Last day to withdraw, no W on transcript

Nov 11Veteran's Day Holiday

Nov 20Last day to withdraw officially

Nov 26-27Thanksgiving Holiday

Dec 14Last day of classroom instruction

Dec 15-18Final exams