14342 : Games and Gaming: Theory, Practice, Experience
Description: Why do we play? How do games achieve their hold on our passions and attentions? And why have theorists of social phenomena found "the game" to be such a powerful concept for understanding everything from language to warfare? This course teaches students to approach gaming through participatory, ethnographic methods, and to understand how the aesthetic of play informs anthropological theories of performance, ritual, and communication. The course is divided into three thematic units. As a course on gaming experience, we will study ethnographic accounts of gaming communities that give expression to the enchanting and dangerous force of lively play. On the topic of game theory, we will consider how play and games have been taken as models for understanding coordinated action, with special attention to the concept of The Meta- within symbolic, cybernetic, and linguistic anthropologies (not to mention in the notion of "metagaming"!). As a course on gaming practice, students will conduct participant-observation work in a gaming community of their choice and reflect on their activity in written assignments and presentations. Throughout the course, we will consider what happens when games go from playful to serious by engaging with questions of ethical design and political practice through critical discussions of addictive games, confidence games, exclusionary games, and the gamification of public life.
Instructor(s): Zachary Sheldon
Offered: Winter 2021