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Upcoming Theme (AY 2023-24)

The Symposium 2023-24 Theme - Games

For the 2023-24 academic year, the theme for the Symposium will be “Games.” Games are considered a universal part of human experience, existing through time immemorial and across cultures. The act of play appeals to young and old. Participation may occur as an individual or in groups or teams. From the amateur to professional level, humans are drawn to structured play for a variety of reasons ranging from achievement, reward, or pleasure. Pleasure, however, may be derived from playing the game or watching others play. Whether tallying in physical or virtual currencies, games and gaming generate billions into the global economy. We see gamification in fields like education, health, work, marketing, military training, and more, impacting how we approach training and learning.

This year’s Symposium will consider the importance games and gaming from a variety of disciplines and approaches. The discourse generated will approach games expansively, aiming to highlight the many ways this pastime permeates our everyday life.

Possible Course Themes for “Games”

  • Tabletop games (e.g. board games, card games, dice games, miniature war games, tile games, paper and pencil games, etc.)
  • Video games (e.g. mobile, console, PC, etc.)Role-playing games (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, etc.)
  • Sport + sport adjacent (e.g. Olympic games, international and national professional sport teams, fantasy sports, club sports, etc.)
  • The values or lessons games teach (e.g. instruct on social mores or positive behaviors vs. instigating violence and aggression)
  • Gamification of… (e.g. education and learning, health, work, marketing, etc.)
  • School yard or children’s games
  • War games
  • Game shows
  • Games of chance
  • Games of strategy
  • Games of physical skill
  • Competition
  • Participating in games
  • Game dynamics, mechanics, and components (i.e. Game Element Hierarchy)
  • Game statistics, probability in games, etc.
  • Identities and/or communities built around games, gaming, or fandom
  •  Watching other people play games (e.g. sport, gamers streaming on Twitch, e-sports, etc.)
  • Film and TV representing games, game play, and stakes (e.g. Squid Games, Jumanji, The Queens Gambit, Ted Lasso, etc.)
  • Games and money/economics (e.g. betting, casino, lotteries etc.)
  • The appeal of games that are popular globally and/or games that have been popular for centuries
  • Game theory, game studies/Ludology, game design

Sample Course Descriptions

Craps, Catan, and Corn Hole: An Introduction to Ludology

Ludology, or game studies, is the study of games, players, and the surrounding gaming cultures. It draws on methods from fields like psychology, anthropology, economy, education, and sociology to dissect the complicated relationship humans have with games and gaming. In this class, we will act as ludologists investigating three game case studies: craps, Catan, and corn hole. These three games will help us investigate games of chance, games of strategy, and games of physical skill as well as hybrid games that draw from more than one category. Students will investigate the interrelated components of rules, challenge, and interaction from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. For each case study, we will look at the history, global context, and game mechanics as researchers and players. Through gameplay, we will document elements of the typologies, building on the game theories we read. No previous game experience is required!

Good Little Capitalists: How Games Reinforce Capitalism

This class explores how capitalism is baked into gameplay. We will initially explore capitalism as an ideology, then we will look deeper at how games educate players about values. Alongside the theoretical, we will focus on a few specific games that are typically marketed toward children and young adults. The main game texts will be Webkinz and Monopoly/“Landlord’s Game.” To unlock the Webkinz online world and community, children must have a physical stuffed animal that provides an individual log-in code for a virtual version of their stuffy. To fully navigate the Webkinz world you must earn KinzCash, the in-game virtual currency. KinzCash is required to upgrade your Webkinz’s living space, outfit it in the hippest clothes, and access some aspects of the virtual world. To make money you can send your Webkinz to work, laboring in mini games like laying down flooring, flipping pancakes, and bagging groceries. There are also bonuses released hourly, daily, or during special times (check back often!). The other way to earn KinzCash is to buy more physical, IRL Webkinz; more plushies add to your in-game capital but it also costs more to care for those additional pets. Monopoly on the other hand, was invented to demonstrate the unfairness of property ownership and land taxes. Initially called the “Landlord’s Game,” there were two sets of rules: prosperity vs. monopolist. The former could be won when the player with the least money doubled it; it was collaborative and prioritized the social value of land. The latter features a single winner who bankrupts the rest of the players by owning as much of the board as possible. It’s in the comparison that the lessons can really be learned. However, the Monopoly version is what is most well know today. This course will apply the lenses of political science, economics, childhood education and game design to analyze how capitalism is normalized through games.