Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of Games and Play (PGSP11455)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The course provides an overview of the emerging anthropology of games and play. Topics will include video games, but will also cover themes surrounding human and animal play much more broadly. We will consider especially the relationship of play and games to ritual and labour as well as the general role of play in human societies.
This course will study theoretical and ethnographic works on games and play to ask the following questions: Is play a human universal? What special kinds of communication does it afford? Why are games compelling, and how do they vary cross-culturally? How are new technologies changing the landscapes of human play and gaming? And how do games and play relate to classical anthropological domains such as ritual, co-operation, and the social construction of worlds?
Weeks 1-3: definitions, classical theories, and modern game design.
Key readings: Caillois, R. (2001) Man, Play, and Games; Huizinga, J. (1938) Homo Ludens; Bateson, G. (1955) Theory of Play and Fantasy; Koster, R. (2004) A Theory of Fun for Game Design; Tekinbas & Zimmerman (2005) Game Design Reader; Malaby, T. (2007) Beyond Play; Graeber, D. (2015) Utopia of Rules.
Week 4: Play and Ritual
Indicative Readings: Turner, V. (1982) From Ritual to Theatre; Malinowski, B. (1922), Argonauts of the Western Pacific; Trobriand Cricket (Film)
Week 5: Imaginary Worlds?
Indicative readings: Overing, J. (1990) The Shaman as Maker of Worlds; Berger & Luckmann (1966) The Social Construction of Reality; Laycock, J. (2015) Dangerous Games.
Week 6: Rules and Roles
Indicative readings: Goffmann, E. (1974) Frame Analysis; Moore, H. (2012) Avatars and Robots; Graeber, D. (2015) Utopia of Rules.
Week 7: Digital worlds
Indicative readings: Malaby, T. (2009) Making Virtual Worlds; Boellstorff, T. (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life; Kendall, L. (2002) Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub
Week 8: Simulating War
Indicative Readings: de Landa, M. (1991) War in the Age of Intelligent Machines; Lakoff & Collier Infrastructure and Event; Baudrillard, J. (1988) Simulacra & Simulations. Debord, G. Game of War
Week 9: Games, Culture, Globalization
Indicative Readings: Rollason, W. (2011) We are Playing Football; Walker, H. State of Play
Week 10: Review
Students will be introduced to a number of general theoretical works and broad key questions on play. We will then investigate a series of more concrete examples from ethnographic and other sociological literature. Opportunity will be provided to discuss, play, and reflect on certain games as part of the students' theoretical development.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate extensive, detailed knowledge of the cross-cultural variety of forms of play and games.
- Show critical understanding of the work of theorists of games and play, and evaluate their arguments.
- Critically analyse particular games or game genres in terms of their design, cultural context, and social significance.
- Present their experiences of participation in games to advanced and professional audiences, with strong theoretical context.
- Present their ideas on games and play in a clear, original manner, in written or oral form.
|Caillois, R. (2001) Man, Play, and Games.|
Huizinga, J. (1938) Homo Ludens; Bateson, G. (1955) Theory of Play and Fantasy.
Koster, R. (2004) A Theory of Fun for Game Design.
Tekinbas & Zimmerman (2005) Game Design Reader.
Malaby, T. (2007) Beyond Play; Graeber, D. (2015) Utopia of Rules.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Students will develop advanced oral and written presentation skills, as well as analytical essay writing.
Students will gain a nuanced appreciation of the role of play and playfulness in life at large, and will start to develop the ability to turn this appreciation into action ¿ applying knowledge of games and playfulness to career and life activities.
They will have a broad understanding of the current state and future directions of theories of play.
Students will learn to apply new intellectual and reflexive perspectives to their existing engagements with games and play.
|Course organiser||Dr Tom Boylston
|Course secretary||Mr Dave Nicol
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485