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Why Take this Course?

Q: Why take this class as an English major?
A: Gaming and game development have become a teaching strategy in K-12 education. In addition, a handful of students left the Spring 15 class with the skills to write narrative for games. An introduction to the SJSU Game Development club was also immensely useful in making industry contacts.
Q: What if I’m more interested in the creative writing aspect of gaming?
A: You’ll have a chance to flex those creative writing muscles! We have a couple of assignments that encourage creativity in designing a game on a team and then individually. Your ability to write narrative form will be incredibly instrumental to your team and another major project in the course.
Q: What if I’m from a visual discipline? How will my skills as an artist be helpful?
A: Like the creative writers, your skills as a visual artist are incredibly instrumental in designing games. Narrative is encapsulated in both the written word and the visual. Your ability to represent visual language to your teammates and for your own project will be enhanced by the skills you’ve learned in your major.
Q: What if I’m a beginner gamer or have never done any gaming?

A: That’s just fine! We start with a novel because literature is the entrance point for many students. The novel, House of Leaves, is weird, not only in its narrative, but also because the physical novel materially manifests the complexity of storytelling and narrative. (Plus, there’s 3 versions of the novel — which one will you acquire?)

Q: What if I’m an expert gamer? Can this class really teach me something?
A: Yes! Come share your gaming experience. But, you’ll also find that you’ll be asked to differentiate play from critique to provide a deeper understanding of your gaming experience. Take a look at previous gamers’ game designs.

Course Description

English 108
Spring 2019, San José State University

T/R 1:30-2:45pm

Hashtag: #108games

Upper Division Standing Required

This course studies the relationship between literary narrative theory and games, especially plots that branch and fork to produce different stories with different endings. From experimental writing to video games, how have game/books changed or reinvented the possible spaces of narrative? How can knowledge of narrative possibilities (theory) enrich our understanding of games?  This course surveys a wide variety of interactive narrative material, including print, film, and software, engaging students in analyzing and attempting to create branching narrative structures.

Course topics include:

  • branching narratives, branching fiction, interactive fiction
  • Narratology
  • comparison of multiple “editions” of the same work (House of Leaves)
  • cinematic video games
  • storytelling games
  • puzzle games

Our classroom, xxxx, has 20 MacBook Air laptops to use during class time for anyone who needs one.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLO)

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to read closely in a variety of forms, styles, structures, and modes, and articulate the value of close reading in the study of literature, creative writing, or rhetoric.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to write clearly, effectively, and creatively, and adjust writing style appropriately to the content, the context, and nature of the subject.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to develop and carry out research projects, and locate, evaluate, organize, and incorporate information effectively.

Additionally, this course will address the following goals:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate games and narratives based on branching.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to discuss the variety of narrative possibilities for texts and games.

Blavatar image copyright by Mark Kriegsman, “Adventure Map (1987, hand-drawn)