STS 145/HPS 163.

History of Computer Game Design:

Technology, Culture, Business

Winter 2005

Source: Softline 2 (March 1983). Front cover.
Instructor: Henry Lowood  Office: M 9.30-11; W 2.30-4, Green Library 321C
TA: Waynn Lue. Graders: Douglas Wilson & Galen Davis

T 2.15-3.30; Th 2.15-4.05

Cummings Art Building, Art2

Suggestions for Case Studies

First, please try to pick a topic of one of these types: a specific game, a series of games, a designer, or a game company. If you really want to write about a theme or topic, choose a case history topic accordingly, but don't pick an overarching theme without a focus on a particular case. For example, if you want to write about synaesthesia as a game design approach, pick a game like Rez or Dance, Dance Revolution as your case study and work in what you would like to say. If you want to write about controversies relating to the access children have to violence in media, you might pick DOOM or Grand Theft Auto.

If you wish, you can pick a group of closely related games, perhaps those by a single designer or a group clustered in terms of the evolution of a theme; for example, you might choose Id's first-person shooters as a case study and group "Castle Wolfenstein," "Doom," and "Quake" in one paper. Or, you might choose all the editions of Maxis' "SimCity" as a study of the simulation genre. If you prefer to focus on technology, a paper on the history of a 3-D game engine, a hardware development such as Nintendo's VirtualBoy or video console cartridge formats, networking technology used in multiplayer or massively multiplayer games, or game interface designs such as are found in RPG or RTS games might be interesting. Of course, in each instance, the idea is to pick a case, an example, of the topic and research its history thoroughly. If you are interested more in the business or social side of computer gaming, a study of a game publisher or a game-related entity such as the Professional Gamers' League is also fine.

All this said, it is just fine to pick one game title and focus on it, giving a thorough history of its development and significance. If you are not sure which game to choose for a topic, please speak with me, the TA, or the grader about what you think you might like to do, and we will try to help with choosing a specific game.

If you are at a loss for topics, perhaps you could check out the games available in the Media Center, Green Library, or have a look at the web sites and bibliographies listed under "Library" for this course. The Game Lab in the Media Center may also be of use to you in reviewing games that may be of interest. The list of games held by the Media Center is nearly complete; these games would be candidates for game-specific case histories. However, you are free to choose any topic of interest to you, as long as it fits the description of the second assignment. Still no idea what to write about? Consult with me or the TA, Rene Patnode. Write a short description of your topic to include with the first assignment.

Now, here are some specific suggestions:

* The historical evolution of a particular game controller, such as the joystick or game pad.

* Case studies of popular "mods," such as Day of Defeat. (We have had papers on Counter-Strike, so look at the Archives of earlier papers to see what has been written about it. You might have a new angle.)

* There have been very few papers on historical or military simulations. Such a paper could focus on a publisher such as HPS Simulations or a designer.

* There have been very few papers (if any) on popular wargames such as Eastern Front or Panzer General. Again, a case study of this sort could focus on a designer such Chris Crawford or Gary Grigsby.

* There have been numerous papers on sports games, but few papers on the design or technology of these games. A paper focusing on a technology such as motion capture would be interesting. Another interesting topic would be the relationship that a certain game series might show between games and other media, such as television (*cough* John Madden Football *cough*). It would also be interesting to have papers on sports games related to sports other than baseball or football, or those focused on strategy, such as Championship Manager or even Hooligans.

* Final Fantasy games and The Legend of Zelda have received exhaustive attention. Don't write on these games unless you have a specific angle you want to explore in your case history, and be sure to run it by us first.

* Arcade games and handheld games have not received much attention. In this realm, the angle of hardware development might be explored, such as videodisc games (Dragon's Lair) or VirtualBoy.

* "Games for girls," especially Purple Moon, have received some attention. However, I would be interested in getting more papers about other games of this sort, such as the Nancy Drew games by Her Interactive or "The Adventures of Josie Drew" project. A paper on female Quake clans would be interesting, too.

* Ethnicity and race as reflected in games has received only a little attention in past case histories. This could be explored either as a cultural or design issue. Perhaps even as a business/marketing issue with respect to a particular title.

* A history of older multi-platform games would be interesting, such as Rogue, Game of Life, even Breakout. It might be worthwhle to track the evolution of a game title across platforms and decades of game play. We have had only one or two case histories following titles across platforms.

* Surprisingly, we haven't had many papers on some of the major games series of the 1980s: The Infocom games, Scott Adams Adventures, Ultima, Dragon Warrior, Might & Magic, Wizardry, etc.

* LucasArts games and designers, such as Larry Holland, Tim Schafer, etc.

Just a few suggestions. There are many, many other possible topics.

HEL, 2 Jan. 2004, rev. Dec. 2004.