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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: Design, Play and Games (DESI11166)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn 'Man, Play and Games,' Roger Callois outlines a paradox: games are deeply important catalysts for personal and social growth, but also "an occasion of pure waste: time, energy, ingenuity, skill and often of money" (1958:5-6). What, then, are we to make of the largest entertainment medium on the planet - a field of design equally at home in The Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, and the deep bunkers of the Pentagon's war planners? This course will explore 'play' as both our oldest form of culture, and our most bleeding-edge field of design. Exploring videogames in-depth, you are asked to critically analyse their meanings and affects, in order to understand how games both reflect and shape modern society.
Course description As Eric Zimmerman argues, we have entered the 'ludic century' (2009) - the age of games. Videogames are in the ascendant, dwarfing all other entertainment industries, grossing more than the film and music markets combined. As an arena for design, games constitute a meta-medium, drawing together a dizzying array of disciplines: from graphic design to costume, from animation to interior design, and from philosophy to economics. However, at the same time as they offer new creative and educational possibilities, 'gamification' also heralds a new, intensified wave of late capitalism. What are we to make of a cultural art form which descends from military technologies, one internationally recognised simultaneously as a Sport, a Fine Art and an 'addiction'? This course explores the forms and functions of analogue and digital games, and asks you to question the distinctions between playfulness and seriousness; leisure and labour; immersion and escapism; art and weapon. We will contextualise and deconstruct games with a view to understanding what games 'mean', and what games 'do' - emotionally, intellectually, phenomenally and culturally. Through lectures, seminars and game-prototyping workshops you will gain a fuller understanding of game mechanics, aesthetics and dynamics, and develop a capacity to critique ludic representations and design practices. Focusing on games as its object of study, this course will also reflect on the design implications of 'play' more broadly, and ask how you might adopt a playful attitude to your discipline.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 9, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 2, Formative Assessment Hours 0.5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) There will be two summative assessments at the end of this course. This will take the form of a 3500 word essay and a working analogue game prototype. Both of these tasks ask you to consider games in depth as articulations of social, cultural, political, philosophical or emotional concepts. Prior to this there is one point of formative assessment. Both summative pieces will be assessed according to the three equally-weighted learning outcomes.

Formative: establishing a research question and draft essay proposal (600words), as well as a preliminary Game Design Document for your intended practical submission. Formative deadline in Week 6, with feedback provided in 15 working days).

Summative 1 - 3500 word Essay (70%):
- Compare and contrast two games in terms of how their form and content addresses a chosen theme (emotional, conceptual or cultural issue)
- OR Identify a case study from your own discipline with which to explore playful/ludic approaches to design

Summative 2 - Card/Board Game Design (30%)
- Create a functional prototype that must articulate an emotion, concept or cultural issue through its mechanics
- This can explore your essay theme, or an aspect of your studio practice, and it may be composed of any material/medium
Feedback Feedback will be provided via the Learn 'feedback studio' system and through seminar discussions.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Evidence through rigorous research a critical awareness of complex conceptual frameworks, theories, and practices at the forefront of game design, and a nuanced awareness of the affordances and potentials of 'play' (RESEARCH)
  2. Apply deep critical analysis to games as cultural artefacts, evaluating how they are situated within broader design and cultural contexts, conducting innovative and original readings of their meanings, affects and effects (ANALYSIS)
  3. Demonstrate the ability to manage, discursively structure and concisely communicate an incisive research project in an advanced scholarly and creative manner, both textually and systemically (COMMUNICATION)
Reading List
Bogost, I. 2011. How to Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Callois, R. 2001. Man, Play and Games. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Dyer-Witherford, N., & De Peuter, G. 2009. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Flanagan, M. 2013. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Malkowski, J., Russworm, T. (Eds.), 2017. Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course shall contribute to the development of professional and personal skills through attending to all five SCQF Characteristics:

Characteristic 1 Knowledge and Understanding: students develop a critical understanding of the principal theories, concepts and principles of the discipline, using contemporary and culturally-situated examples and so engage current issues and developments at the forefront of Game Studies and Game Design.

Characteristic 2 Practice: Applied knowledge, skills and understanding. Students explore and employ a significant range of critical and practical skills informed by forefront developments in a cutting-edge medium.

Characteristic 3 Generic cognitive skills: in both assessments students apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to forefront issues and identify, conceptualise and define new and abstract problems and issues through both academic text and systems design.

Characteristic 4 Communication, numeracy and ICT skills: in writing and game design, students communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise as well as drawing on high-level ICT skills in the form of prototyping systems design.

Characteristic 5 Autonomy, accountability and working with others: in their essay, students must exercise autonomy and initiative, as well as demonstrate awareness of own and others roles and responsibilities as designers thinking contextually. In serious game design they work with others to bring about change, development and/or new thinking.
KeywordsGames,play,critical,theory,cultural context,simulation,narrative,immersion,systems,identity,ethics
Course organiserDr Merlin Seller
Course secretaryMr Aidan Cole
Tel: (0131 6)50 2306
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