The default final project for HNRS 353 is a 5-7 page analytical paper, which offers a critical interpretation of a videogame or of some phenomenon central to the social significance of videogames. You’ll need to do some outside research, using sources from established scholarly journals or books.
Your analysis should consider both the formal elements and the narrative elements of gameplay, and the dynamic between the two. Remember that form includes rules, interface, graphics, music and sound effects. And keep in mind that narrative is shorthand for a wide range of concerns, such as evocative symbolism, cultural assumptions, explicit or implicit ideological messages, and so on. And operating in the mix of gameplay and narrative is the game’s procedural rhetoric.
It is up to you to decide which game or games to examine for the final project. Aim for a richer, more contemporary game than you might find on the Atari or NES. The Nintendo 64 is probably the lowest threshold of what system would offer the most analytically satisfying project. (And there is a Nintendo 64 emulator, which you run on a PC using ROMs.) There are dozens of top-notch indie games you can write about too. A good source for discovering these games is Play This Thing.
A Note about Sources
The bare minimum number of scholarly sources considered for this research paper is three. Remember to think of your paper as entering into an ongoing conversation about videogames, either generally or more specifically in regards to a game title, a genre, or common issue in games. You need these three scholarly sources in order to understand how the conversation has developed thus far. Your own entrance into the conversation will be marked by clarifying or disagreeing with what’s been said before, or by exposing a critical issue that has so far been ignored. You may cite your sources in either MLA, Chicago, or APA style, as long as you are accurate and consistent.
As an alternative final project, I invite students to design their own (small) game, using some of the game development tools freely available online (MIT’s Scratch is perhaps the easiest to use, requiring no formal programming experience, while Inform makes it fairly easy to develop interactive fiction). The exact content and design of such a game is up to the individual student, though it should be a self-aware game that incorporates, reflects upon, and even challenges the principles we’ve discussed throughout the semester. If you choose to design a game, you should run your ideas by me sooner than later. You will also write an artist’s statement to introduce your game.
The final project is due Tuesday, May 17.