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EN397 Game Theory: Interactive and Video Game Narratives

Convenors: Tim Leach, Gonzalo Garcia


The module will focus on studying the narrative traditions of video games, making narrative connections between their basic origins in the 1970s to their contemporary presentations, taking into account the impact these narratives now have (with over 2.2 billion gamers worldwide).

The module will aim to provide students with an understanding of how these narratives fit into the wider scope of contemporary narrative productions (for example, understanding counter-culture elements in independent games publishing, or examining the way in which the internet has transformed the impact of gaming narratives), as well as the practice of said narratives, taking into account unique characteristics in the medium, such as player choice, gameplay mechanics, linear storylines, limited interactions and cheat codes. Along with the primary materials, the module will engage with theoretical concerns involved in digital spaces – reflect on the evolution of various discourses presented in contemporary digital spaces, and their interplay with real life, their responses to current politics, as well as the way they have been presented in contemporary fiction (both in writing about games as popular culture, as well as novel adaptations of games) and criticism in journals such as Game Studies or the archives of Nightmare Mode.

This is a 15 CAT module, and will run in Term 2.

This module is for 3rd years only.


Non-assessed YouTube Channel Presentation and Broadcasts

Assessed 5000 words either of a) Gaming Narrative (playable story) or b) a script for a Broadcasted Essay and critical analysis of topics related to games narrative or c) a Written Essay and critical analysis about topics related to games narrative.

Seminars: Thursdays 3.00 - 4:30pm and 4:30-6.00pm


The class will be divided into production teams with the aim of creating collaborative games narrative-related content. Your team will be expected to produce a short piece of content every two weeks. Basic equipment will be provided.

The readings marked 'excerpt' will be provided to you. With this reading, there will be game suggestions according to the topic at hand. These will be marked in the booklet provided. You do not need to own any games, though familiarity with the medium would be of great help.


Week 1: Assessing Narrative Tropes in Gaming Worlds

-Julian Mcdougall and Wayne O’Brien, Studying Videogames, New York: Columbia University Press, 2017 (excerpt)

-Other media: Anita Sarkeesian, Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games (video series on YouTube).

Week 2: Creating a Compelling Character: A Critical Analysis of Agency

Michael Salmond, Video Game Design: Principles and Practices from the Ground Up, London: Bloomsbury, 2016. (excerpt)

Week 3: Methodology of Plot Structure

Souvik Mukherjee, Video Games and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books, AIAA, 2015 (excerpt)

Week 4: Consistent and Persistent Digital Spaces

-Vincent Miller, Understanding Digital Culture, London: Sage, 2011. (excerpt)
-Richard A. Bartle, MMOs from the Inside Out: The History, Design, Fun and Art of Massively-multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, New York: Apress, 2015. (excerpt)

Week 5: Politics, Violence and Participation in Digital Mediums


-Diane Marczely Gimpel, Violence in Video Games, Abdo: Minneapolis, 2013 (excerpt)
-Gerald A. Voorhees and Joshua Call eds., Guns, Grenades, and Grunts: First-Person Shooter Games, New York: Continuum, 2012. (excerpt)

-Other media: DOOM Resurrected, Documentary About DOOM, Youtube Series

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Indie Games and the Art of Interactive Personal Narratives

-Raph Koster, Theory of Fun for Game Design, Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media, 2013 (excerpt)
-Bernard Perron and Mark J.P. Wolf, eds., The Video Game Theory Reader 2, London: Routledge, 2009 (excerpt)

Week 8: The Uncanny, Horror, and Death

Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny, London: Penguin Classics, 2003 (excerpt)

Week 9: Writing Fiction About Video Games

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One, London: Random House, 2011.

Week 10: From Novel to Video Game Script: A Critical Analysis of Narrative Adaptation

Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish, London: Gollancz, 2008.


- Michael Marshall Smith, Only Forward, London: Harper Voyager, 2015.
- David Wong, John Dies at the End, London: Titan Books Ltd., 2011.
- Gareth Schott, Violent Games: Rules, Realism and Effect, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
- Diane Marczely Gimpel, Violence in Video Games, Abdo: Minneapolis, 2013.
- Karen Collins, Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008.
- Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Jonas Heide Smith and Susana Pajares Tosca, Understanding Video Games, London: Routledge, 2016.
- Graeme Kirkpatrick, Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011.
- Mark J.P. Wolf, ed., The Medium of the Video Game, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.
- Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form: Revised and Expanded Second Edition, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
- Evan Amos, The Game Console: A History in Photographs, San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2017.
- Vincent Miller, Understanding Digital Culture, London: Sage Publications Ltd., 2011.
- Danielle Newnham, Female Innovators at Work: Women on Top of Tech, New York: Apress, 2016.
- Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw, eds., Queer Game Studies, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
- McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007.
- Keith Burgun, Game Design Theory, London: Routledge, 2012.
- Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Games Design Fundamentals, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.
- Julian Mcdougall and Wayne O’Brien, Studying Videogames, New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.
- Richard Rouse III, Game Design, Theory and Practice, Plano: Wordware Publishing Inc., 2004.
- Greg Costikyan, Uncertainty in Games, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015.
- George Skaff Elias, Richard Garfield, et al., Characteristics of Games, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.
- Jeff Howard, Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives, Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2008.
- Ricardo Fassone, Every Game is an Island: Endings and Extremities in Video Games, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
- Tynan Sylvester, Designing Games, Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media, 2013.
- Anna Anthropy, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives Are Taking Back an Art Form, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012.

LINK TO STUDENT-CREATED CONTENT (this page will open as we begin to roll out our content).