Video games had entered in our daily life as one of the most popular form of digital entertainment. Due to its popularity, video game creates an industry which is worth of the USD $54 billion (2008) worldwide. It tops both the movie and music industry in term of market value. Video game is also the subject of intense research activities within the academic world in the recent years. This course aims to facilitate the students to have deeper understanding of this new form of digital media by studying its history, industry, social impact, and the creative process of making video game. . The course is designed with the above mentioned four perspectives in mind.
1.) Historical perspective: Video game has colourful history. Starting from the day of “Pong” with nothing more than few pixels on screen per second to the current incarnation with millions of polygon per every 0.02 second , many talented people made their very best effort in order to make this progress and create this industry. Those are the pioneers in this industry and each of the pioneers has their own interesting story that is still worth of learning. We will follow the footsteps of those pioneers and share with their stories. In the class, we will talk about the the historical events like the introduction of “Pong”, rise of Mario (Nintendo), PS2 and Sony, Xbox and Microsoft, development of online games and many others. The stories not only illustrate the fascinating adventures of those creative people involved in the industry and they also illustrate business strategy in this highly competitive market. Student will study the history of video games through assigned readings and by actually playing some of the classical video games.
2.) Industry perspective: Video game business is a global business worth of USD $54 billion annually. It is a serious business by any scale. In studying video business, we discuss the famous business cases within video game industry. Famous cases include the rise of Nintendo, SONY strategy on PS and PS 2, Microsoft development of XBOX, and many other cases. Student will be asked to select one of those cases and make a detailed study. They will present their finding in a group presentation.
3.) Social Impact: Like all forms of popular media in our society, video games have been the subject of frequent controversy. A large number of studies had been conducted in order to determine its impact on children and adolescents. The positive impact of video games include it improves a player manual dexterity and computer literacy. E.g. The US Navy is using video game to train their helicopter pilots. It achieves very good result in term of cost saving and makes those pilots more adaptable to ever-increasing computer centric operational environment.
The negative impact of video games is usually related to the amount of time that a player spent on video games per week and the type of content used in video game. Studies* had shown “Adolescent girls played video games for 5 hours/week, whereas boys averaged 13 hours/week”. The same study also pointed out that teens who play violent content video game for extended periods of time:
- Tend to be more aggressive.
- Are more prone to confrontation with their teachers.
- May engage in fights with their peers.
- See a decline in school achievements.
Video games are also frequently criticized for too narrowly using only violence, sexual themes, consumption of drug/alcohol/tobacco, and profanity as the elements of game themes even though all of these can be found in all forms of entertainment and media. The critics of video games often include parent’s group, politicians, and organized religious group. The gaming industry responses to those critics by establishing video game content rating organization. One of such organizations in North America is Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The organization rates video game software for certain age groups and with certain content warnings. In some other countries, e.g. China, the regulator limits the amount of the consecutive hours a player can any online video game to be 3 hours and the player must take a break after 5 hours of consecutive hours of playing.
However all those critics and regulation to video games has their own criticism and controversy against them too. The social impact perspective of this course tries to discuss the social and ethical impacts of the video games and guides the students to analyze and criticize controversy issues on video games.
4.) Creativity perspective: The reason we like games is simply we like to play. The reason that games are appealing to us is because games can give us good play through a form of challenge. Games pose interesting challenges for us to overcome and we have very enjoyable experience by overcoming the challenges. There are many types (genres) of challenge (video game) that appeal to different people. Broadly speaking, we have games challenged us on spatial reasoning, on pattern recognition, on sequential reasoning, on numerical reasoning, on resource management, and on social reasoning. They are translated into First Person Shooter (FPS), Board Games, War Games, Role-Play Games (with computer helping the number crunching ), Strategy Games, and Games like “The Sims”. We are going to discuss those genres and dissect the structure within typical commercial games. We will take a hand on approach to teach the students about the design of one of typical genres of video game: the Role Play Game (RPG). It will include writing a story for the game, design the game characters, design the encounter events in the game, and the game rule system. The students will eventually create a paper prototype of their own design which is playable for other students to determine how good their design is.
5.) Try more actively to seek funding in either school level or university level to facilitate the students to visit new media exhibition locally. The purpose is helping them to articulate the importance of interactivity in video game design.
* Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P., Linder, J. & Walsh, D. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.