Final Project

You have a choice of what kind of final project you want to pursue for HNRS 353: either a more conventional research paper or a videogame of your own design. In either case, the project is due by Thursday, May 9.

Paper Guidelines

The default final project for HNRS 353 is a 7-8 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. You can look at a big budget console game or a more modest indie game.  A good source for discovering these games is Play This Thing. Steam is also a good source for inexpensive indie games (<$10). Some recent independent games worth looking at include Papo y yo, Journey, Fez, Proteus, Dear EstherLimbo, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Howling DogsBraid, The Binding of Isaac, The Graveyard, The Path, and many others.

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.

Game Guidelines

You can also choose to design a game for HNRS 353. The point of the game is very specific, for it should be a meta-game, that is, a game that itself comments upon other games or some aspect of other games. It need not respond to a specific game; your meta-game can comment upon a genre of games, a general game mechanic, the platforms used to play games, the game industry, or even on the players that play games. In short, you are going to develop a small game that somehow demonstrates hyperawareness of the world of games.

You are able to work in groups of up to three people for this project, though it’s fine to work individually as well.

The Tools

  • Game Maker 8 (8 bit fun, think the original Legend of Zelda)
  • Scratch (build a game like assembling the pieces of a puzzle)
  • Playfic (write interactive fiction online)
  • Stencyl (more complicated than Scratch, for Flash games)
  • Twine (branching interactive stories)
  • Kodu (designed for elementary school kids, but we can use it too)
  • Unity (3D game engine, not for beginners)
  • GameSalad (Mac only, basic version is free)
  • Construct2 (create HTML5 games with no programming experience)

Artist’s Statement

In addition to the game itself, you must also write an artist’s statement that explains and reflects upon the game. Even if you design a game as part of a group, every individual in that group must submit a separately written artist’s statement.

Your artist’s statement is a 3-4 page essay that outlines the goals of your project. You should consider the following questions (not necessarily all of them or in this order): What were you trying to achieve? What effect or meanings were you after? What subtextual meanings were you trying to evoke? Why did the project take the form it did? Explain your design decisions: why you did what you did and how those choices meshed with the themes or goals of your work?

I’ll be looking for evidence that you’ve absorbed and thought about many of the issues we discussed throughout the semester regarding play, games, point of view, platforms, procedural rhetoric, countergames, and so on.

Finally, conclude your artist’s statement by evaluating how your project lived up to your initial goals. What difficulties and epiphanies occurred along the way as you created your project, and what would you do differently next time?