Dr. Aaron Delwiche (firstname.lastname@example.org)
COMM 3344: Games for the web (Interactive multimedia)
Course meeting times:
T + TH 2:10
- 3:25 (RCC 400 /402)
Office Hours: M + F 10:30-1:30T + TH 9:30
Office: Laurie 363
A staple of nerd subculture for almost three decades, role-playing
games have taken on new life in the era of networked computing. High-speed
connections, sophisticated graphics and powerful microprocessors have
paved the way for massively multiplayer games (MMOs) such as City
of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies, and Second Life.
The popularity of these virtual environments
is staggering. At any given moment, at least 90,000 players are
interacting with one another
in Norrath -- the fictional world of Everquest. With game characters
and virtual objects fetching thousands of dollars on eBay, sweat
shops have been set up in developing nations to service this
micro-economy (Dibbell, 2003). According to one recent study, the
world of Everquest
is the 77th richest “nation” on the planet with a per-capita
GNP that outstrips China and India (Castranova, 2002).
In recent months, we have seen the emergence of second generation
MMOs characterized by stunning visuals, improved artificial intelligence,
and game dynamics that appeal to a broader variety of playing styles.
One of these games, World of Warcraft, sold 250,000 copies in November
2004. It was the most successful PC game launch in history, outstripping
the sales of Halo 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Half-Life
Of course, MMOs are just one subset of a much larger videogame
industry. From home gaming consoles to arcade-based machines,
gamers are confronted with a staggering array of choices. As
more individuals turn to interactive media for entertainment,
television and film audiences are dwindling. In 1999, “total
videogame software and hardware sales in the U.S. reached $8.9
billion, versus $7.3 billion for movie box-office receipts” (Poole,
2000, p. 6). Clearly, videogames are here to stay.
In this course, we will conduct an ethnographic study of the behaviors,
cultural practices, and motivations of MMO gamers. Along the way,
we will play and critically analyze a variety of videogames. In addition
to exploring game mechanics and video-game aesthetics, we will investigate
sociological and psychological dimensions of virtual worlds as well
as social controversies surrounding game violence and gender representations.
We have three objectives:
1. to explore themes of cyberculture studies through sustained interaction
with other residents of World of Warcraft
2. to understand the behaviors, cultural practices, and motivations
of MMO players through the use of ethnographic methods
3. to develop a critical vocabulary for analyzing all types of videogames
Prior technical and gaming experience is not required for this course.
Course requirements and materials
Readings will be drawn from the course packet and from two assigned
- Communication 3344-1: Games for the web
- Richard Bartle (2003) Designing virtual worlds. Berkeley: New Riders Games.
- Vernor Vinge and James Frenkel (2001) True names:
And the opening of the cyberspace frontier. New York: Tor Books.
- World of Warcraft game software ($45)
- World of Warcraft monthly subscription ($15/month. First month is free.)
The course packet, which costs $___, is available
Paw Prints on the third floor of Coates Library. You are responsible
for all assigned readings, even if they are not addressed during
Throughout the semester, we will spend a significant amount of time
in World of Warcraft. This virtual world is an ideal location for
studying on-line gamers, cyberculture, and videogame aesthetics. A
significant amount of class time will be spent in the game-world,
but you are also expected to devote at least five hours a week to
ethnographic research within World of Warcraft. To ensure that everyone
spends enough time in the virtual world, two group gaming sessions
will be held between 6:30 and 9:00 on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
You are expected to attend at least one of these sessions each week.
You are welcome to play the game on the lab computers
when other classes are not using the facilities, and you may also
be able to
install the game on your personal system. If you want to install
the game on your home system, it must meet basic
If your computer is more than two years old, your graphics card may
not be capable of rendering this three-dimensional environment. If
this is the case, you will have to access the game via the lab machines.