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

Schedule of Lectures

Please prepare for lectures and guests by completing the reading assignments. All students should complete readings by the date listed in the Schedule of Lectures, excepting those noted as OPTIONAL. The reading load will become a burden if you do not keep up.

Articles listed as being "available in Coursework" are in PDF format and found on our Coursework page under "Course Materials."
If you do not have a reader for this format, Download the free acrobat reader here: .

Two books are available for purchase in the bookstore:

1. Barry Atkins, More Than a Game: The Computer Game as Fictional Form. (Manchester and New York: Manchester Univ. Press, 2003).

2. Brad King & John Borland, Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003).

These two titles are used throughout the course and are cited as More Than a Game and Dungeons & Dreamers.

Week I. Introduction/Origins

January 4. Introduction to the Class/Doing Game Research
Henry Jenkins, "Art Form for the Digital Age," Technology Review (Sept.-Oct. 2000). Available here:

Brian Sutton-Smith, "The Toy as Machine: Video Games," pp. 57-75 in his Toys as Culture (New York: Gardner Press, 1986). Available in Coursework.

January 6. The Open Culture of Early Computer Games

Steward Brand, "SPACEWAR: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums," Rolling Stone (7 Dec. 1972). Available here:

J. M. Graetz, "The Origin of Spacewar!," Creative Computing (1981). Available here:

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 1-8.

Graham Nelson, "46. A Short History of Interactive Fiction," "47. Realities and Origins," "48. A Triangle of Identities," and "49. Structure," from The Inform Designer's Manual, 4th ed. (2001. 1st ed., 1994) Available here:

Week 2. Origins of Console-based Games

January 11. The Closed Console

Geoffrey R. Loftus and Elizabeth F. Loftus, "Why Video Games Are Fun," pp. 10-42 in Mind at Play: The Psychology of Video Games (New York: Basic Books, 1983). Available in Coursework.

January 13. Pong and Atari

GUESTS: Al Alcorn and Steve Mayer.

Al Alcorn was co-founder of Atari and circuit designer for Pong. For some information about his career, see

Steve Mayer was a co-founder of Atari and co-designer of the Atari 2600 (VCS).

Try out a Java simulation of the original Pong here:

Week 3. The Business

January 18. After the Crash

Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Grieg de Peuter, "Electronic Frontiers: Branding the 'Nintendo Generation', 1985-1990," Chap. 5, pp. 109-27 in Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 2003). Available in Coursework.

David Sheff and Andy Eddy, "Sonic Boom," Chap. 15, pp. 349-89 in Game Over: Press Start to Continue. (Wilton, Ct.: GamePress, 1999.) Available in Coursework.

January 20. Game Business Boot Camp

GUEST: Bill Swartz, Founder and managing director of Mastiff. Bill's previous experience includes his roles as marketing manager for Koei America, as part of Koei's development group, and then over a period of 12 years as managing director of Activision Japan.

Greg Wilcox, "Did You Know? [Interview with Bill Swartz]," Digital Press: The Video Game Database (Dec. 2003). Available here: (Link is to Google cache.)

Simon Carless, "Lost In Translation--Japanese and American Gaming's Culture Clash" (2004). Available here:

Week 4. First-Person Shooter

January 25. The Impact of Doom and Quake

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 87-116

January 27. Competitive and Professional Cybergaming

GUESTS: Dennis "Thresh" Fong, former DOOM and Quake champion widely acknowledged as the first prominent professional gamer; Craig 'Torbull' Levine, Team Manager of Team3D, the Counter-Strike champions at World Cyber Games 2004; Frederic Descamps, Ultimate Arena.

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 117-141; 199-210; 229-237; 243-250.

Week 5. From Competition to Performance

Feb. 1. Sports Games

GUEST: Matt Householder, Director of Product Development, Flagship Studios. Matt's career spans more than two decades. He has contributed to coin-op, console, and computer games as programmer, artist, designer, creator, writer/editor, producer, and talent scout, most recently to both Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction at Blizzard North. He will talk about his work on the "Game Series" by Epyx, including Winter Games as producer, World Games as designer and Producer, and California Games as creator, designer, and producer.

* * * Assignment 1 DUE. Short Essay due Feb. 1 via Coursework * * *

Feb. 3. High-Performance Play

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 210-219.

More Than a Game-- pp. 27-54.

Talmadge Wright, "Creative Player Actions in FPS Online Video Games: Playing Counter-Strike," Game Studies 2, no. 2 (Dec. 2002). Available here:

Week 6. Cultural Spaces

February 8. The International Scene (esp. Germany and Korea)

Ernest W. Adams, "Eurostylin': An American Game Designer in Europe," from Game Developers'Conference 2000. Available here:

Michelle Levander, "Where Does Fantasy End? Why All of South Korea is Obsessed with an Online Game Where Ordinary Folks Can Be Arms Dealers, Murderers ... and Elves," Time Magazine 157, no. 22 (June 4, 2001). Available here:

Feb. 10. Gender & Computer Games: "Unstable Alliance"?

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 141-147

Henry Jenkins, "'Complete Freedom of Movement': Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces." Available here: Orig. published as pp. 262-297 in From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, eds. Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998).

Rebecca L. Eisenberg, "Girl Games: Adventures in Lip Gloss." Orig. published in Ms. Magazine (Jan. 1998). Available here:

Stevie Case, "Women in Gaming," (2004). Available here: ttp://

Anne-Marie Schleiner, "Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender Analysis of the "3rd Person Shooter/Adventure Game with Female Heroine" and Gender Role Subversion in the Game Patch." Updated version. Available here:

Week 7. Maturity and Growing Pains

Feb. 15. The Game Industry as the New Hollywood

GUEST: Bing Gordon, chief creative officer and executive vice president, Electronic Arts. Janet Murray, "Lord Burleigh's Kiss," Hamlet on the Holodeck. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997) -- pp. 13-26. Available in Coursework.

Feb. 17. The Violence Issue

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 173-198.

Paul Keegan, "Culture Quake," Mother Jones (Nov.-Dec. 1999). Available here:

Gerard Jones, "Violent Media is Good for Kids," Mother Jones (28 June 2000). Available here:

Week 8. Serious Games

Feb. 22. Military Gaming and Simulation

Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood, "Theaters of War: The Military-Entertainment Complex."

More Than a Game -- pp. 86-110.

Mark Pesce, "The Trigger Principle," FEED Special Report (Feb. 3, 2000). Available here:

Feb. 24. Games as a Medium: Entertainment & Communication

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, "Computer Games," in: Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999) -- pp. 89-103. Available in Coursework.

Alexander R. Galloway, "Social Realism in Gaming," Game Studies 4, no. 1 (Nov. 2004). Available here:

Week 9. How Games Came to be a Narrative Medium. Or did They?

March 1. Real-Time Storytelling: A Case-Study of Blizzard

GUEST: Bill Roper, former Vice-President of Blizzard Entertainment (North) and director of Blizzard Entertainment, now CEO of Flagship Studios.

More Than a Game -- pp. 1-26; 55-85.

Warren Spector, "Remodeling RPGs for the New Millennium," Game Developer (Feb. 1999). Available here: . (Site requires free registration.)

* * * Assignment 2 DUE. Short Essay due March 1 via Coursework * * *

March 3. Adventure, Role-Playing Games, and Storytelling

Including GUEST mini-lectures by Galen Davis & Douglas Wilson.

Janet Murray, "From Additive to Expressive Form," Hamlet on the Holodeck. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997) -- pp. 65-94. Available in Coursework.

Chris Crawford, "Flawed Methods for Interactive Storytelling," Interactive Entertainment Design 7 (1993-1994). Available here:

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 11-81; 220-228.

Week 10. Virtual Worlds

March 8. Games of Life: Life, A-Life, Sims

John Horton Conway, "The Fantastic Combinations of John Conway's New Solitaire Game 'Life'," Scientific American (1970): 120-23. Available here:

Ted Friedman, "The Semiotics of Sim City," First Monday 4, no. 4 (April 5, 1999). Available here:

More Than a Game -- pp. 111-137, 138-156.

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 237-243.

March 10. Massively Multiplayer Games from MUDs to the Present

Richard A. Bartle, "A Voice from the Dungeon," Practical Computing (December 1983): 126-130. Available here: If you have time, take a look at other early papers on networked MUDs in Bartle's web archive, especially "MUD Advanced Project Report" (1983), here:, and the background on this report here:

Julian Dibbell, "A Rape in Cyberspace, or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society," Imaginary Realities 2, no. 4 (April 1999). Available here: (Originally written in 1993, this essay is also available as a chapter in Dibbell's book, My Tiny Life.)

Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat," in: Cyberspace: First Steps, ed. Michael Benedikt. MIT Press, 1991. -- pp. 273-301. Available in Coursework.

Dungeons & Dreamers -- pp. 148-170; 220-228.


Nicholas Yee, "The Norrathian Scrolls: A Study of Everquest." Available here: Read the short introductory sections and follow your interests in looking over the wealth of survey data and responses.

*** Case Study due March 15 ***

- Henry Lowood, 24 Nov. 2004