Below, you’ll find a the syllabus for the Spring 2013 course ArtM 348: Topics in Digital Culture (Games, Play, and ARGs).  Any readings not contained in our required texts or linked below can be found in our course Moodle site under “files.”  If you would prefer to download a PDF of the syllabus, you can do so here: ArtM346_GamesPlayARGs.

ArtM 348 Syllabus (Topics in Digital Culture, Spring 2013)

Monday/Wednesday, 10:05-11:30 am (Fowler 110)

Instructor: Suzanne Scott, PhD  •  • @iheartfatapollo

Office hours: M 12-1pm (Green Bean) or by appointment

Course blog:

Course twitter hashtag: #oxyARG


Whether they are designed to narratively expand and promote a media franchise (The Dark Knight’s “Why So Serious?”) or to raise awareness of environmental crises (“A World Without Oil”), Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) have grown in popularity over the past decade. Using the real world as their primary “platform,” ARGs deploy mobile and networked technologies to orchestrate and execute participatory experiences in which puppet masters and players mutually shape the game’s design and play.  Beginning with a brief historical and formal overview of game design and theories of play, this course will require students to analyze ARGs designed for entertainment, environmental, and educational initiatives, considering the affordances and limitations of ARGs as both an emergent storytelling form and social justice apparatus.  The course will culminate in a praxis assignment in which students will collaboratively design and critically theorize a small-scale ARG to be played within the space of Oxy’s campus and surrounding neighborhoods.


  • To become conversant in the language of game design, and theories of play
  • To consider how our understanding of games is informed by cultural commentary and media representations
  • To contemplate the potential of games as a tool for learning and social justice endeavors
  • To develop fluencies in the tools and technologies that support location-based digital gaming
  • To collaboratively design and analyze a small-scale ARG to played at Occidental College


Details on all your course assignments, including instruction handouts, submission guidelines, and due dates, can be found under the “Assignments” tab of our course blog. I would encourage (nay, insist) that you plug all these due dates into your google calendars now, to help manage your workflow.  Your final grade for the course will consist of six elements/assignments, enumerated below:

First, your weekly attendance and active participation (10%), both in class and on the course blog, is central to the class’ success and to your success in the class.  Documented medical or family emergencies will be excused (provided you email me prior to class to explain your circumstances), and you have one “free pass” for when you need a personal day. All other absences will negatively impact your attendance and participation grade.  Time will be allotted to discuss your response to the readings, but you’re encouraged to post any additional material you come across that you think might be relevant to the class (blog posts, videos, articles, etc.) to our course blog.  You can also send me comments and links via Twitter @iheartfatapollo, using our course hashtag (#oxyARG).

In addition to your attendance and participation grade, you will have five major assignments for this course, including a digital play journal (10%), a 5-7 page paper on media representations of games (15%), and a presentation on an ARG (10%).   The two major assignments for the course will be to collaboratively design an ARG for Oxy students (30%) as a class, and then theorize and analyze some component of that design in an 8-10 page term paper (25%).  More detailed instructions for all of these assignments will be distributed in the coming weeks on the course blog.

All assignments must be handed in on time, and turning in assignments late will be detrimental to your grade.  For each week your assignment is late, you will be docked one full letter grade.  All assignments must be completed to pass the course.  Exceptions will be made and extensions will be given only for medical or family emergencies (provided you can offer documentation).

Grading breakdown:

Attendance/Participation    =            10%

Digital Play Journals            =            10%

ARG Representation Paper  =            15%

ARG Presentation                   =            10%

ARG Design                              =            30%

Term Paper                                =            25%


Readings are listed below on the course schedule; assigned chapters and articles are to be read before class each Monday (unless noted otherwise below).  All readings outside of our required textbooks will be available through Moodle (housed under “Files”), or online via the links provided below.  You can also link to all the course readings through the “Syllabus” tab on our course blog.

We have two required books, available at the campus bookstore:

  • Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004)
  • Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros, and Annika Waern, Pervasive Games: Theory and Design (Burlington: Morgan Kaufman Publishers, 2009)


Students with documented disabilities who are registered with Disability Services are required to present their accommodation letter to the instructor at the beginning of each semester or as soon as possible thereafter. Students who experience significant physical or mental impairments can contact Disability Services at (323) 259-2969 to learn about available services and support.


The CAE is an excellent resource for students looking for one-on-one assistance with writing assignments, offering meetings with both student writing advisors (on a drop-in basis) and faculty writing specialists (by appointment).  More information, and online appointment scheduling, can be found here.  The CAE is located on the ground floor of the library, down the hall from my office in the Center For Digital Learning + Research.


Students are responsible for knowing the Student Handbook’s definition of academic ethics and Occidental’s policies and procedures for dealing with academic misconduct, including plagiarism ( We will discuss academic ethics during the semester, but if at any time you have any question as to whether a particular use of source materials constitutes plagiarism, please contact me in advance of submitting work.


Week 1 •  Introductions

Wednesday, 1/23:  Introduction to the Course, Course Goals, and Cohort


– Friday, 1/25 by 12pm: Complete tech and media survey

– Saturday, 1/26: Sign up for wordpress account (see email invitation sent 1/24) using a pseudonym as your username, and    familiarize yourself with the dashboard

– Sunday, 1/27: Select a game for your play journal (see blog for full assignment) 

Week 2Game Studies 101

Monday, 1/28:  What is a game?

Wednesday, 1/30:  Why do we play?


Rules of Play, p. 49-83, 93-99

– Johan Huizinga, “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon”

– Roger Caillois, “The Definition of Play and the Classification of Games”


– Upload play journal (part 1) to blog (by Sunday, 2/3 at 6pm)

Week 3 Rules

Monday, 2/4:  Rules I

Wednesday, 2/6:  Rules II


Rules of Play, p. 116-285


– Upload play journal (part 2) to blog (by Sunday, 2/10 at 6pm)

Week 4Play

Monday, 2/11:  Play I

Wednesday, 2/13:  Play II


Rules of Play, p. 298-489


– Upload play journal (part 3) to blog (by Sunday, 2/17 at 6pm)

Week 5ARGs and Pervasive Games

Monday, 2/18:  President’s Day [NO CLASS]

Wednesday, 2/20:  Alternate Reality Games: A Primer on Pervasive Gaming


Pervasive Games, Chapter 1 (p. 7-23)

– Ivan Askwith, “This is Not (Just) An Advertisement: Understanding Alternate Reality Games”

– Christy Dena, “Emerging Participatory Culture Practices: Player-Created Tiers in Alternate Reality Games”

Outside Screening:

The Game (David Fincher, 1997) OR eXistenz (David Cronenberg, 1999)


Sign up via googledoc for presentation slot by Monday, 2/18 at 10pm)

Week 6ARG Test Cases: Media Properties

Monday, 2/25:  ARGs and/as Transmedia Storytelling

Wedesday, 2/27:  Presentations of case studies: The Beast, Why So Serious, The Lost Experience, etc.


– Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling 101”

– Jane McGonigal, “Why I love bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence   Gaming”

Pervasive Games, Chapter 2 (p. 31-46)

Week 7 •  ARG Test Cases: Education and Environmental Initiatives

Monday, 3/4:  Game-Based Learning: ARGs and/as Social Justice

Wednesday, 3/6:  Presentations of case studies: A World Without Oil, Reality Ends Here, etc.


– James Paul Gee, “Learning and Games”

– Celia Pearce, Tracy Fullerton, Janine Fron, and Jacquelyn Ford Morie, “Sustainable Play: Towards A New Games Movement for the Digital Age”

– Nicola Whitton, “Alternate Reality Games for Developing Student Autonomy and Peer Learning”


– Friday, 3/8 by 10pm: Game representation papers

Week 8Spring Break

Monday, 3/11:  [NO CLASS]

Wednesday, 3/13:  [NO CLASS]

Week 9Overview of ARG Design Project

Monday, 3/18:  Roles and Goals

Wednesday, 3/20:  Brainstorming


NOTE: There will be many mini-assignments throughout this project.  Some milestones will be collectively constructed by the class, others will be determined by the instructor. Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines.

Week 10 On Puppet Masters and Project Management

Monday, 3/25:  Puppet Master as Designer

Wednesday, 3/27:  Puppet Master as Project Manager


– Jane McGonigal, “The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming”

Pervasive Games, Chapter 7 (p. 137-58)

– Brian Croxall, “12 Basic Principles of Project Management”


– Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines

Week 11ARG design lab: Spatial and Temporal Dimensions

Monday, 4/1:  Space: Considering Oxy’s Affordances and Limitations

Wednesday, 4/3:  Time: Considering Duration within Oxy’s Academic Calendar


Pervasive Games, Chapter 4 (p. 77-90)

Pervasive Games, Chapter 5 (p. 97-110)


– Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines

Week 12ARG design lab: Collective Intelligence and Social Dynamics

Monday, 4/8:  Social play: How to Attract Student Players at Oxy

Wednesday, 4/10:  Collective Intelligence: Oxy’s Information Exchange Infrastructure


Pervasive Games, Chapter 6 (p. 117-129)

Pervasive Games, Chapter 10 (p. 197-212)

– Pierre Levy, Introduction to Collective Intelligence


– Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines

Week 13ARG design lab: Mobile Technologies and Media Fluencies

Monday, 4/15:  Mobilizing networked play

Wednesday, 4/17:  Developing digital literacies


Pervasive Games, Chapter 8 (p. 163-174)

Pervasive Games, Chapter 9 (p. 179-190)                       

Pervasive Games, Chapter 13 (p. 257-277)


– Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines

Week 14 Game design lab:  Flex Week

Monday, 4/22:  TBD

Wednesday, 4/24:  TBD


– Consult the blog for the most up-to-date assignments and deadlines

Week 15Game design postmortem and course wrap-up

Monday, 4/29:  Postmortem and next steps for the Oxy ARG

Wednesday, 5/1:   Course Coda


– Friday, 5/3: term papers due (PDF via email by 8pm)



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