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Suggestions for a Game course

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Hey everyone. I'm teaching a Video game themed first year writing (composition and rhetoric) course next semester, and I'm looking for game suggestions to switch into my syllabus. 


A few things to explain. The course is really just that first year writing course that all freshmen are required to take, unless they did very well on the English AP exams. The focus of the course is on teaching the students critical reading and writing skills, as well as research strategies. They'll be playing games and reading about games, but this is not at all a Video game appreciation course, or a game design course, etc. The focus here is on how games are communicating meaning, how students can understand that meaning, and how they can, in turn, respond, as well as apply that to "real world" and academic forms of communication.  Also, as these are freshmen that more often than not will NOT have access to gaming PCs or x or y consoles, they will NOT be very talented gamers, and they will NOT have 15 hours to play a single game. This means that all games must 1) Be playable on low-end hardware--ideally browser based 2) be SHORT. 5-30 minutes is best. 3) be relatively easy to get through--a game like canabalt or swing copters is fine because the student can get "through" all of the content, even while failing miserably. A game like spelunky, however, would not work. I will expect my students to "beat" every game, so huge skill gates would sabotage the class. 4) Ideally, the games are free, or at least very cheap. The university supports me and is excited to see how the class is going, but is not going to give me any money. Further courses? Yeah, sure, if this goes well, but an inflated first year writing course? No way. So I don't really have a budget for this class and can't in good conscience, expect students to buy $200 of video games--especially when many are just trying to fulfill a requirement and have no interest in games. For example, while I would LOVE to have my students play something like Portal, the hardware requirement, skill requirement and amount of time it would take some students means that it simply is outside of the scope of this course. 


Here is a list of games on my list, or being considered:


Small Worlds (the platformer, not the social game)


The Marraige



Back tot he First Date


Swing Copters

Today I Die


Real Lives


Every Day the Same Dream



Cart Life

Depression Quest

The Graveyard

Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing

The Entertainment.

Papers Please (the most expensive game in the course)


As you can see, I am VERY open to what we're calling a game, and I completely favor narratives. It's a rhet/comp course, so obviously, this is interested in what games are SAYING through their gameplay (instead of being interested in the inherent beauty/art of the gameplay), as well as how that gameplay interacts with/creates narrative meaning.


I'm most interested in non-fiction games and didactic ones as well as games that SEEM to have no narrative meaning, but communicate a fairly explicit narrative idea (ie: Passage, The Marriage, Real Lives, The Graveyard) through the gameplay. I know you folks are much more away, collectively, of the tons and tons of games I've missed, so I'm hoping to see lots of great gems!

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Save The Date veers pretty strongly into visual novel territory (which is to say, it doesn't have a lot of gameplay to speak with), but it's definitely saying something, and the interactivity of it matters to the message, so I'll recommend you give it a look.

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Hello! I'm a grad student (literature, but dabbling in rhet comp), and I'm currently teaching a pop culture studies class that's wrapping up its gaming unit today. Here's what I have assigned so far:



  • Terror Aboard the Speedwell (we had just wrapped up a unit on horror films, so the thematic transition worked nicely)
  • Frog Fractions
  • QWOP
  • Sportsfriends (in class)
  • GTA V (in class)
  • Monopoly (in class, using it to explain the concept of persuasive games)
  • A collection of advergames (expanding the idea of what a persuasive game could mean)
  • Cart Life
  • The McDonald's Game


  • Clara Fernandez-Vera, Introduction to Game Analysis
  • Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games
  • Ian Bogost, Unit Operations


My department just went through the process of putting together a game-themed first year writing course that ran for the first time this semester and is currently working on getting a couple of proper games studies courses approved by the college. I might be able to put you in touch with the people who taught the pilot courses here.

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Man, people really seem into frog fractions. I've tried to use it in the past, but found that most of my students just bounce off of it. There isn't really much going on in the game unless you happen to be very widely familiar with the history of a variety of games. It's a lot of fun for the people who get it, but mostly tedious for those that don't. I was pretty bummed that more didn't enjoy it. Oh well.


I'll definitely check out the games listed, like Save the Date and Birdland, though I doubt I can make qwop or sportsfriends work (despite it being super awesome). 


@prettyunsmart: What advergames did you use? I'm especially interested in ones that got a particularly useful/productive response from your students. I'm also curious what reading you used from the Bogost books, as while they are marvelous, they are also a bit tedious to assign the whole book. I'm actually going to be using his later book: How to Do Things with video games, as it is very much an extension of Persuasive Games, but is infinitely more approachable (and, as each chapter/essay is pretty short, I can combine it with the rhet/comp readings and in-class essay-writing instruction). I'd definitely love to hear about the first year writing course. I can be contacted through gmail, jisaacdaniels (that should defeat spam spiders, right?), and I'm always happy to see what kind of materials people are using, and how they're aligning their course goals with the interactive segments. 


And for anyone else: please keep recommending games. The course won't start until January, and I can tweak my syllabus all the way up until then, pretty much.

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