ENGL 794
Winter 2012
Professor O'Gorman


Game Design (25%)
Game Development (40%)
Seminar Presentation + Notes (15%)
Blog (10%)
Participation & Attendance (10%)

MAJOR ASSIGNMENT 1: Game Design - 25% (15% group project, 10% essay)

Due February 15

This project requires you to design an interactive "game," drawing on the various technologies (Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, biofeedback, geolocation, CAVE) presented during the workshop on January 18. The term "game" is used loosely here to describe an engaging interactive experience in which users are asked to complete a clear set of tasks based on specific rules and possibly a narrative. Examples will be provided in class and during the workshop. The goal of this project is to "translate" course readings and concepts into an artifact or environment, an "object-to-think-with." With this in mind, your design must incorporate course readings and concepts as integral components of the game. What would Heidegger do with Virtual Reality and a heart-rate monitor? What would Bernard Stiegler do with a GPS tracker hooked up to a mobile brain wave visualizer? Obviously, you are being asked to develop a "blue sky" design for something that may never be implemented. But the design must not be entirely science-fictional. Note that you must include at least one graphic, table, or illustration to help visualize your project, which you will present to the class on February 15.

Students will work in groups of 3 for the design component, but each student must submit a separate essay, which will be graded individually, based on the following: 1) obvious presence of course readings and concepts in game design; 2) ability to accurately describe the game in appropriate technical terms; 3) effective use of class readings to "theorize" the game as you describe it; 4) effectiveness of graphic component used to illustrate game.

MAJOR ASSIGNMENT 2: Game Development (Group Project 25% + Individual Essay 15%) - 40%
Iteration 1 Due March 14
Final Iteration Due March 28
Project Exhibition March 30 in Critical Media Lab
Final Essay Due Friday, April 4

As noted for the first project, your major assignment for this term is to create a "game" that relies on various biofeedback and visualization technologies. Whereas the first project is merely a design, the final project involves a full implementation. These projects will be presented in the Critical Media Lab Mobile Unit at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Waterloo, from May 27-30, 2012. Working in the same groups as the first project, you will design and implement a game, following the same instructions as the first project, minus the "blue sky" component. You must therefore consider the feasibility of fully implementing such a project given the short time-frame of the course. You will be offered technical support and time to work in class, but you must maintain a realistic objective, and base your design on the constraints oftime, resources, and expertise.

Some students may have an opportunity to develop their project in collaboration with N. Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick Lemieux, or one of our workshop participants, including Charles Faresso of Christie Digital, Colin Ellard of UW's RELIVE VR Lab, and Sean Doherty, a geographer/health scientist from Wilfrid Laurier.

As with the first project, you will work in groups, but your essay will be graded individually. For the essay component, you may want to document how individuals interacted with your project on the March 30 exhibition. As with the first essay, you must include at least one graphic. The essay will be graded on the same components as those outlined for the first project. The game itself will be graded on the following: 1) centrality of course readings and concept in game design;2) clarity of game concept (conceptual playability); 3) technical execution (mechanical playability).

NB: Document your project construction on the group blog.


Each student will prepare a presentation based on the reading(s) for that week covering key points, terms, and points of contention or discussion. Your presentation should be as attentive to stimulating discussion as it is to the theatrics of powerpoint. This is not simply a summary of the reading, although you must give a comprehensive overview of the text; instead, the goal of the presentation is to "translate" the weekly reading so that it is relevant within the context of previous and future course readings and assignments. You should make use of audio/visual materials of your choice to enhance the quality of the presentation. Don't just present the text (and most especially, don't just read notes from a page) -- engage your colleagues in a discussion of the issues.

In preparation for the presentation, each student will write and submit a set of reading notes based on the instructions below. Ideally, you should be taking notes like this for each course reading (see my interview with Stiegler on UW-Learn to find out why). The readings in this course are not meant to be forgotten at the end of the term. You should leave the course with key concepts that you can employ in writing, design, and thinking for the rest of your life. Taking notes ensures that the readings have a better chance to be stored in your internal hard drive, where they participate actively in your individuation.
My recommended note-taking method is as follows:
1. Do the reading.
2. As you read, underline or outline passages that you feel are of significance. What is significant? Anything that will help you explain the reading to others, anything that reminds you of other readings, anything that coincides with popular culture and current events.
3. Transcribe the significant passages in a text document, along with bibliographical information and page number.
4. Under the transcribed passage, write a comment about why it is significant (see #2, above).

You will be graded primarily on the substance of your comments, but the form of the notes (bibliographical information, proper transcription) will also be taken into account.

Post portions of your notes to the blog if you want feedback from your colleagues (and a better participation grade).

Grade Breakdown:
Comprehensiveness (did you cover the most important parts of the article?): 5%
Relevance (did you relate the reading to other course readings or current events?): 5%
Notes (based on critera above): 5%

Blog (10%)
Each group of students will be responsible for keeping an active Wordpress blog. Do not underestimate the importance of this part of the course. You are asked to keep a detailed blog of your course activities, documenting the construction of your projects, responding to readings, reflecting on course discussions, and writing about current events that relate to items discussed in class. The blog will be graded on the quality of your project documentation (clear descriptions, use of images and video, etc.) as well as your use of course readings to discuss the ongoing projects. You will also be graded on discussion of course readings and other posts related to course content. These blogs will be presented as part of the term-end exhibition at the Critical Media Lab. Please note that each student is graded individually for his/her blog participation. Do not rely on your blog-mates to carry the load.

Class Discussions | Workshops | Attendance

This is an hands-on course that combines theory and practice in a studio envrionment. It won't work unless students participate in discussions and critiques, contribute to their blogs, and take an active role in class workshops.