Course Call Number: GAMES-GT 402
Prerequisite(s): Games 101
Dungeons & Dragons (1974) remains one of the most unavoidable influences on authored games; concepts it popularized, from the mechanics of hit points and “leveling up” to themes of conflict-ridden exploration in detailed fantasy worlds, have spread from the tabletop role-playing games that flourished in Dungeons & Dragons’ wake to first-person shooters, massively multiplayer online games, and even games on social networks intended for mass audiences. In the roots of table-top roleplaying games we can also find the beginnings of other, less widely adopted currents of experience and design: collaborative storytelling structured by process and rules; game dynamics involving moral dilemmas intertwined with competitive and cooperative mechanics; asymmetrical power structures that assign participants very different roles and blur the line between player and designer; and many more. This course will examine the history, practice, and current state of the art of independent role-playing games, centering on non-digital roleplaying games played by two or more participants in person. Selected games will be played in class as well as assigned for out-of-class play, emphasizing works that explore themes, mechanics, and dynamics beyond the most familiar forms of fantasy role-playing game.
Upon completion of this course, the student will:
1) Have a deeper ability to comprehend and articulate the aesthetic form and properties of games, especially games involving creative and dramatic player contributions, as well as emergent dynamics that result from play.
2) Gain intellectual tools to critically analyze games and contextualize their impact and relevance in human culture by applying concepts from a range of disciplines including sociology, game design, and art criticism.
3) Have the opportunity for in-depth study of play dynamics and game mechanics that foster conflict and cooperation in groups, the collaborative creation of narratives, collective decision-making and conflict-resolution processes, and asymmetrical power structures.
4) Put the above learnings into practice by creating, testing, and refining a short-form roleplaying game that employs methods and themes similar to games studied during the course.