Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Course activities for "(Gaming) Homer," the online UConn course in Spring 2009

This is a post in a series about my UConn course, CAMS 3208 "(Gaming) Homer." I will offer the course in Spring 2009 in an online, heavily game-enhanced form, and I will have a few spots available for non-UConn students. E-mail me ( if you’re interested in getting onto the waiting list. General information on registration and fees may be found here. Note that it's too early to register as of this writing--but I'll be sure to notify readers here when registration becomes available!

How should I teach Homeric epic as a video game? Let me know what you think of what I’ve got planned, and about any ideas you’ve got for gaming-related activities!

I can think of three activities that I think would set this course far apart, and that will illustrate Homeric epic in a really interesting way: in-game discussion sections, gameplay labs, and in-game discussion-interviews with game-developers.

In-game discussion sections on the one hand are only a way to get some kind of synchronous discussion going: to have the whole class in one place at the same time, even if that place is LOTRO’s version of Rivendell. At the same time, it will be possible to demonstrate certain play dynamics and experiment in an informal way with how different facets of the narrative experience of the specific game, and of narrative gaming in general, work. Adventuring together, with the interactions availably with the game and with each other, will give students the ability to analyze things like quest-structure and grinding very closely.

What I call in-game labs will be more targetted in-game experiences in specific games, some of the single-player variety and others of the multi-player (both versus and co-op). The idea will be to carry out a specific experimental assignment, like “Finish the first level of Halo 2 three ways, and analyze the experience as a story.”

Third, we’ll get a chance to talk to some of the people who work with these games everyday, and ask them questions that we’ve drafted beforehand about how they tell stories and how they think about their task and about their audience. Students will collaborate in small groups to write-up reports on these discussion-interviews.

Another idea I’ve had, but need help fleshing out, is to have students make observations of what goes on on several different internet boards of gaming communities, and write reports about how the storytelling of the games brings about (or fails to bring about) certain kinds of community, just as the Homeric epics were vital in the constitution of the early communities of Archaic Greece.