Semester(s) Offered: Fall
Credits: 4
Course Call Number: GAMES-GT 104, GAMES-UT 104
Taught By: Jesse Fuchs

This survey course covers a selection of the computer games that were produced and played in the United States in the 1980s. While developers often started out in their bedrooms mailing out individual disks in ziplock bags, development and publishing companies sprung up from their early success; when the console game industry of the early 80s crashed in 1983, the relatively high-end computer game market continued to innovate and sometimes even prosper, albeit with a more narrowly targeted idea of its customers. The most popular games of the era retailed for an average of $30 – $40 (around $70 – $90 in today’s money), often with stylish, lush presentation (thick manuals, cloth maps, scene-setting “feelies”) that often doubled as a physical form of copy protection. Cultivating an aura of expense and quality allowed American game designers to project pop personas, explore new ways of creating meaning via play, and add genuine depth to game worlds.

The political, cultural, and technological context of the United States in the 1980s provides a lens to analyze a corpus of games that, while often forgotten in contemporary American games culture, has imposed a powerful influence over our practices, and remains a rich ore of quirky ideas and never-explored byways to mine. The course encourages students to play games critically, to understand different game design strategies as well as the technological constraints that often led to them, and to develop an understanding of the ways in which European, Japanese and American games diverged through the 1980s.

This course is directed to students of game design and game studies, as well as those with an interest in the study of video games as a cultural form and/or digital media history and development.

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1) Play critically, discuss and understand the games that formed the basis for different American games movements from the late 70s through the beginning of the 90s.
2) Understand how different socio-economic and cultural contexts can influence the design and development of video games.
3) Understand how rapidly changing and context-specific constraints of hardware, interface devices, processing capabilities, and software influenced design and development of games during this period.
4) Understand and discuss the similarities and differences between the American games of this period and those developed in Europe and Japan.
5) Identify the features of specific game developers to construct a sense of what authorship means in the context of digital games.
6) Gain an understanding of what kind of games you enjoy, what kind of games you don’t, how other people felt at the time and now, and why you have those preferences.