You will have a broad understanding of the cultural, technological and social backgrounds of games and their context in today’s human interaction. Included but not limited to the arts, business, education and entertainment.

You will possess a wider understanding of the roles that games play in society and how to assess them by the means of a critical perspective that stems from diverse artistic and utilitarian disciplines.

By playing, analyzing and thinking about games, this course is going to help you attain a critical understanding of games and gamic practices as a natural occurrence in human life.

You will also learn how to articulate a coherent analytical discourse about the subject and to express it graphically.



-Assignments: 60% (30% 1st, 30% 2nd)

-In-class presentation: 15% (2nd part of semester)

-Continuous Assessment: 25% (participation, which should be based on the weekly readings NOT your opinions ;)

-Please note that NTU requires a minimum student attendance in order to pass the course.




1- Course introduction, basic rules

2- The need to play | Ancient pastimes | Playing as learning

3- The games Spectrum and the feedback loop: non-digital to digital and back again

4- Serious games: Technology, the Military & the Economy (They all play games)

5- Ludus and Paidia | Games and Toys | The old debate

6- Maps, Abstraction and Representation

[Midterm Assignment Announced]

7- Games as Architecture / Space




8- Mid Semester Review of Assignments

9- Games as Soundscapes / Aural Spaces

10- Games as Visual / Fine Arts

11- Games as art / Artistic interventions using Game Engines | What's next?

12- LAN Shop Visit


Final Assignment Announced


13-Final Review


Please refer to a particular week.

-Johan Huizinga | Homo Ludens | Chapter 1

-Roger Caillois | The Definition of Play, The Classification of Games

Understand the notion of magic circle and the space where gamic activity occurs. Write a paragraph or two providing examples where the magic circle might break or have its boundaries blurred.

Diagrammatize a few game examples based on Caillois' categorization. Emphasize the areas where the concepts intersect.



Ian Bogost | Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism | Chapter 1

-Understand the basic notion of 'unit operations'. Identify the basic unit operations in 2 of your favorite games (one digital and one nondigital)

-Take any of these games and do a quick mockup reinterpreting it in a digital environment, while adding one or more properties, unique to the digital realm. Avoid plain and uninsightful literal translations. A couple descriptive paragraphs or diagrams should suffice.



Play Darfur is Dying ; Mc Donald's Game ; Phone Story ; September 12 . Understand Re-Mission ; America's Army ; Fold.it . Select one of these games and write one or two paragraphs focusing on the game's effectivity (or lack thereof) in conveying a compelling message by the means of engaging gameplay.

Read The Playful and the Serious. Reflect, in a couple paragraphs, on Serious Games as elements of education and social change. Refer to the Rodriguez's reading of Huizinga.

See Jane Mc Gonigal's TED speech. Write a short answer to: Can we "save the world" by playing games online?


 Read the following articles: 1-Privacy scandal haunts Pokémon Go's CEO 2-Pokémon Go needs a code of ethics 3-Pokémon Go is not a fad but a beginning

-Gonzalo Frasca | Ludologists love stories, too

Games are impacting over more aspects of human interaction than just entertainment. After reading the above texts, write one or two paragraphs on the relationship between ludology, narratology and which you think, are blind spots of game research.

In parallel, devise and sketch a conceptual framework that could be used to study games in a more encompassing way, given current trends both in games and society.



Jesper Juul | A Certain Level of Abstraction AND

Chaim Gingold | Miniature Gardens & Magic Crayons: Games, Spaces, & Worlds OR

Jason Begy | Interpreting Abstract Games: The Metaphorical Potential of Formal Game Elements

Understand diagrams and their use in communication: See further info here. Diagrammatize a single critical process that occurs in one of your favorite games. It is absolutely necessary that time is expressed in your diagram.



Georgia Leigh McGregor | Gamespace: Play & Architecture in Videogames | Chapter 3

Alison Gazzard | (Re-)Positioning the Senses: Perceptions of Space in 3D gameworlds

Write two paragraphs on the relationship between Games and Architecture. Illustrate your post with 3 screenshots of your favorite in-game places side by side with AFK referents.


1. Analyze

Analyze a videogame of your choice in a graphical manner. Use at least 5 concepts discussed in class to frame your study and refer to the concepts in a comprehensive fashion.

Choose your game carefully: be insightful about which concepts you want to analyze and how does the game portrays such concepts. You may also choose more than one game in order to make a comparative analysis.

Do not use games that have been previously analyzed in the readings (or in case you have (or want) to, use different parameters of analysis).

Focus on the game's processes and/ or unit operations and express them graphically. Remember to keep written text to a minimum.

2. ReThink

Once the analysis has been done, present a ludic scenario which imagines the replacement or subversion of 3 key existing processes and/or unit operations and/or the introduction of new ones.

In case you opted for a comparative analysis, you may swap processes and unit ops from one game to another and elucidate the outcome(s).

These scenarios should also be presented graphically. Note: Be efficient, avoid generating unnecessary elements and don't work unnecessarily. Remember that being efficient is not being sloppy, though. I expect to see good quality ;)

3. Present

The document should be a 90×60 cm. poster which you should print and bring to class (Please don't mount them!). The arrangement of the graphic elements and the document's hierarchy is entirely up to you.

We will discuss and critique the submissions on the class after the break.

If in doubt or if you need help, don't hesitate to contact me.


Make a team of 5. If unwilling to, or unable, I will make the teams. Each team will do a short (45 minutes) presentation of the week's topic and come up with a few game examples based on the weekly theme to be played/ displayed/ discussed in class. The order in which each team will be presenting (and therefore the theme) will be aleatory.



Jan Krikke | A Chinese Perspective for Cyberspace?

Steffen Walz | Toward a Ludic Architecture | Playspace: The Kinetic Dimension



Alexander Galloway | Gaming: Essays On Algorithmic Culture | Ch. 5: Countergaming

Ian Bogost | How to do Things with Videogames | Intro/ Art/ Music/ Transit



LAN Shop Visit | Oasis Cafe | PoMo Basement.


Devise an innovative game that uses a digital platform. It can be an art game or a commercial one, the focus should be on innovation. If your game was to be produced, the player should be able to have a unique experience.

Reflect on how games such as Braid, Portal, Rez or other games we have seen in class have been able to break molds and deliver original experiences. Use the concepts discussed in class to frame your game and make a design document in the form of a poster that you will print and bring to class.

See The Four perspectives of Game Design, Creating a great design document or The Anatomy of a Design Document and use the one that suits you best as a guideline.

Focus on having a strong concept and prioritize your ideas.

Feel free to email me should you have any doubts.



Final project critique

Nanyang Technological University | School of Art, Design and Media

Instructor: Luis Hernandez Galvan | luis.h [at] ntu [dot] edu [dot] sg