Course Description

CTS 172: Video Games and Culture (4)
(cross-listed between ENL & STS 172)

Rather than treat “videogames and culture” as two distinct categories that play off one another, in this course we will examine the community histories and material practices that have evolved alongside videogames as a mass medium, cultural commodity, and digital technology.

We will challenge the seemingly self-evident differences between play and production, leisure and labor, form and function, and freedom and control through a quarter-long investigation of the concept of “metagaming.” Metagames are the games we play in, on, around, and through videogames. From the most complex player practices to the simple decision to press start, just as there are no videogames without culture, there are no games without metagames. And although the term “metagame” has a long history–from Cold War mind games in the 1940s to countercultural role-playing games in the 1970s to collectable card games in the 1990s–the concept has taken on renewed importance and political urgency with the rise of social media, streaming video, and sharing services in the twenty-first century.

From speedrunning The Legend of Zelda to making a living playing League of Legends and from modding miniature computers in MineCraft to laundering money through Team Fortress 2, in this class we will document and theorize histories of play through the concept of metagaming and a rigorous engagement with academic disciplines such as media studies, games studies, software studies, platform studies, and code studies. We will also put these theories into practice by close playing videogames, commentating competitions, documenting tournaments, hacking hardware, modding software, and making metagames together.

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