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IM922 Playful Media: Ludification in the Digital Age


30 CATS - (15 ECTS)


Module Convener

Dr Joanna Cuttell

This is a six day intensive course set to run 10-15 December 2018 (with a preliminary lecture on Friday 30 November). Each day consists of a lecture and seminar, followed by an activity that embeds the theories, concepts and methods learned through group play.

Indicative Syllabus

Intrductory Lecture

Introduces the course and sets ups (auto)ethnography as a method

Day 1 Key Thinkers of Play: From cultural thinkers to game-studies

Tracing the development of the concept of play through the 20th century, this session explores the relationship between play and culture, and introduces the concept of the magic circle.

(Playful activity - bring and play your own non-digital game)

Day 2 Ludification of Culture: Are we becoming more playful or gamified?

This session introduces the concepts of ludification and gamification, traces the distinction between play and games, and asks whether we are becoming more playful or gamified. It explores playbour, ludic interfaces, and mobile play.

(Playful activity - outdoor ‘hybrid’ Wherigo game)

Day 3 Playful Methods, Playful Design

This session introduces the process of iterative game design and explores the methods of analysing and critiquing games and playful activities. It situates the rise of games studies and traces the approaches and tensions of the field.

(Playful activity - outdoor inter-group game, exploring group theme)

Day 4 Play and Power

If play creates culture (Huizinga) and games are persuasive (Bogost), then what kinds of ideologies and power structures can be embedded within games and play? This session explores how issues of gender, postcolonialism and neoliberalism can be present in the narrative and mechanic layers of games and play. It also explores how the procedural rhetoric (Bogost) of games can be utilised for learning through serious games.

(Playful activity - design non-digital games, exploring group theme)

Day 5 Play and Resistance

Following on from day 4, this session explores how games and play can act as sites of resistance. Exploring activities such as modding and cheating, as well as the rise of indie game developers, and gamer/ga(y)mer subcultures, this session will return to the issues discussed in day one and show how play can disrupt the 'default'.

(Activity - prep for group presentations)

Day 6 (Saturday) Group Presentations

Illustrative Bibliography

Aarseth E. (2003) Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis.

Ash J. (2009) Emerging spatialities of the screen: Video games and the reconfiguration of spatial awareness. Environment and planning. A 41: 2105.

Apperly, Thomas, and Michael Dieter. (2010) Fibreculture Journal, 16, Special Issue Counter Play.

Bogost, I (2007) Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames MIT Press: London.

Bryce, J., and Rutter, J. (2002) Killing like a girl: Gendered gaming and girl gamers’ visibility. Proceedings of Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference. Mäyrä, Frans (ed). Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Caillois R. (2001) Man, play, and games. Univ of Illinois Pr.

Calleja G. (2012) Erasing the magic circle. The philosophy of computer games. Springer, 77-91.

Cassone, V. I. (2017). Mimicking Gamers: Understanding Gamification Through Roger Caillois. Games and Culture, 12(4), 340–360

Chesher C. (2004) Neither gaze nor glance, but glaze: relating to console game screens. SCAN: Journal of Media Arts Culture 1.

Consalvo M. (2005) Rule Sets, Cheating, and Magic Circles: Studying Games and Ethics. IRIE. International Review of Information Ethics 3: 7-12.

Consalvo, M. (2007) Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. MIT Press.

Csikszentmihalyi M. (2009) Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention: HarperCollins.

Cuttell, J. (2015) Arguing for an Immersive Method: Reflexive Meaning-Making, the Visible Researcher, and Moral Responses to Gameplay. Journal of Comparative Anthropology and Sociology, 6 (1): 55-75.

Daniel-Wariya, J. (2017). Rhetorical Strategy and Creative Methodology: Revisiting Homo Ludens. Games and Culture.

de Certeau M. (1984) The practice of everyday life, Berkeley, London: University of California Press.

de Souza e Silva A and Hjorth L. (2009) Playful Urban Spaces A Historical Approach to Mobile Games. Simulation & Gaming 40: 602-625.

Deterding, S. (2017). Alibis for Adult Play: A Goffmanian Account of Escaping Embarrassment in Adult Play. Games and Culture

Ehrmann J, Lewis C and Lewis P. (1968) Homo ludens revisited. Yale French Studies: 31-57.

Ellis, C. (1999) Heartful Autoethnography. Qualitative Health Research, 9 (5): 669-683.

Engel, M. (2016). Perverting Play: Theorizing a Queer Game Mechanic. Television & New Media, 1–10.

Ettorre, E. (2005) Gender, Older Female Bodies and Autoethnography. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28 (6): 535-546.

Ferrara, J. (2013). Games for Persuasion: Argumentation, Procedurality, and the Lie of Gamification. Games and Culture, 8 (4), 289–304.

Flanagan M. (2009) Critical play: radical game design, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

Frissen V, Lammes S, Lange Md, et al. (2015) Playful identities: The ludification of media cultures. Amsterdam: AUP.

Fuchs M. (2012) Ludic interfaces. Driver and product of gamification. G| A| M| E Games as Art, Media, Entertainment 1.

Fuchs M, Fizek S, Ruffino P, et al. (2014) Rethinking Gamification. Lüneburg: Meson Press.

Fuller M, Jenkins H and Jones SG. (1995) Nintendo® and New World Travel Writing: A Dialogue. Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 57-72.

Galloway AR. (2006) Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Geertz C. (1972) Deep play: Notes on the Balinese cockfight. Daedalus 101: 1-37.

Glas MAJ. (2010a) Games of stake: control, agency and ownership in World of Warcraft.

Glas R. (2010b) Cheating the Real: Exploring Advantageous Play in Foursquare. IR 11.0: Sustainability, Participation, Action.

Haraway, D. (2000) A cyborg manifesto: science, technology and socialist feminism in the late twentieth century. The Cybercultures Reader. Bell, David, and Kennedy, Barbara M. (eds) London: Routledge, pp. 291-324.

Haraway, D. (1988) Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies, 14 (3): 575-599.

Harvey, A., & Shepherd, T. (2017). When passion isn’t enough: gender, affect and credibility in digital games design. International Journal of Cultural Studies

Huizinga J. (2003) Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture: Taylor & Francis.

Jenkins H. (2003) Transmedia Storytelling: Moving characters from books to films to video games can make them stronger and more compelling. Technology Review 15.

Juul J. (2008) The magic circle and the puzzle piece. Conference proceedings of the philosophy of computer games. 56-67.

Karhulahti, V-M. (2015) Defining the Videogame. Game Studies: The Internation Journal of Computer Game Research 15 (2).

King, G. and Krzywinska, T. (2006) Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders: Video Games in the 21st Century. I. B. Tauris.

Kirkland, E. (2009) Masculinity in video games: The gendered gameplay of Silent Hill. Camera Obscura 24 (2): 161-183.

Kirkpatrick, G. (2015). Ludefaction: Fracking of the Radical Imaginary. Games and Culture, 10(6), 507–524

Kristensen, L., & Wilhelmsson, U. (2017). Roger Caillois and Marxism: A Game Studies Perspective. Games and Culture, 12(4), 381–400.

Kücklich, J. 2007. Homo Deludens – cheating as a methodological tool in digital games research. Convergence, 13(4), 255-367.

Lammes S. (2008) Spatial Regimes of the Digital Playground: Cultural Functions of Spatial Practices in Computer Games. Space and Culture 11: 260-272.

Lauteria, Evan W. Ga(y)mer Theory: Queer Modding as Resistance. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, Games and/as Resistance special issue, 2012.

Letherby, G. (2002) Claims and Disclaimers: Knowledge, Reflexivity and Representation in Feminist Research. Sociological Research Online, 6 (4): n. p.

Lauteria, E. V. (2012) Ga(y)mer Theory: Queer Modding as Resistance. Reconstruction 12 (2): n.pag.

McMahan, A. (2003) Immersion, Engagement and Presence. The Video Game Theory Reader. Wolf, M. J. P., and Perron, B. (eds). pp. 67-86.

Miller K. (2008) The Accidental Carjack: Ethnography, Gameworld Tourism, and Grand Theft Auto. Game Studies. The International Journal of Computer Game Research 8.

Montola M. (2005) Exploring the edge of the magic circle: Defining pervasive games. Proceedings of DAC. n.p.

Pargman D and Jakobsson P. (2008) Do you believe in magic? Computer games in everyday life. European Journal of Cultural Studies 11: 225-244.

Raessens, J. (2014) The ludification of Culture. Fuchs, Mathias; Fizek, Sonia; Ruffino, Paulo, and Schrape, Niklas (eds). Rethinking Gamification. Lüneburg: Meson press. pp. 91-114.

Salen, K., and Zimmerman, E. (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. London: MIT Press.

Schwartz L. (2006) Fantasy, realism, and the other in recent video games. Space and Culture 9: 313-325.

Schwartz R and Halegoua GR. (2014) The spatial self: Location-based identity performance on social media. New Media & Society: 1-18.

Sicart M. (2014) Play Matters, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Sutton-Smith B. (2001) The ambiguity of play, Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Taylor L. (2003) When Seams Fall Apart: Video Game Space and the Player. Game Studies. The International Journal of Computer Game Research 3.

Wall, S. (2008) Easier Said Than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. 7 (1): 38-53.

Zimmerman E. (2012) Jerked around by the magic circle: Clearing the air ten years later. Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making games. n.p.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of how play can be understood in relation to digital media;
  • analyse digital media from a playful perspective;
  • have a grasp of classical theories of games and play as well as being able to critique them;
  • discuss and situate recent developments and debates in play-studies and game-studies, such as: gamification and ludification; magic circle; cheating; pervasive play;
  • understand the potential of playful methods.


  • Group presentation (Saturday week 11)
  • 3500 word essay
  • 2500-3500 word autoethnography

Important Information

Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.

Gaining the permission of a member of CIM teaching staff to take a module does not guarantee a place on that module. Nor does gaining the permission of a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module. You must contact the Centre Administrator (cim at warwick dot ac dot uk) to request a module place.

Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers. Places are not allocated on a first-come first-served basis, but instead all external students requesting a CIM module as optional, who submit their request by the relevant deadline are given equal consideration.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join the module after the third week of it commencing. If you have any queries please contact the Centre Administrator.