Department of Information and Communication Technology
CS 395 - Simulations and Games
- Course Syllabus -
Dr. Anthony Betrus: Instructor
Spring 2012

Credit: Three semester hours

Time/Dates: Tuesday/Thursday 2:00-3:15 Jan 24 - May 18

Location: Satterlee 300

Course Description: This course covers topical issues in simulations and games through a combination of seminar discussions, demonstration and play of seminal works, and in-class exercises. Students in this class will gain an understanding of the historical development and critical vocabulary of interactive media, including both games for learning (Serious Games) as well as commercial games. This, combined with their own experiences, will serve as a foundation to articulate and develop their own ideas for interactive experiences. Students in this course will apply their knowledge in designing a simulation or game.

Learning Objectives:

Students will:

- Be exposed to the history of games and interactive media, game genres, seminal works, and significance of various landmarks in the evolution of interactive entertainment.

- Learn and use an critical vocabulary for understanding and analyzing games and interactive entertainment

- Engage with cultural perspectives on games and their place in human societies and groups, both historical and current.

- Understand the relationship of interactive entertainment to other forms of art and media such as film and television.

- Identify the issues that challenge that face the designers of interactive entertainment through the design of their own game.

Required Textbooks:
1) Janet Murray: Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (ISBN: 0262631873)
2) Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game (ISBN: 9780765342294)

Digital Storage: It is strongly recommended that each student have available a USB portable drive with at least 8gb in capacity.

In Class Activities and Participation - In class activities will consist of seminar discussion, demonstration of seminal works, and in-class exercises. Students are expected to attend and participate in each class session.

Journals: Students in this class will keep a simulations and games journal, including in-class and out-of-class activities. Be sure to update your journal daily to reflect the nuances of your experiences.

Reaction Papers: Students will be expected to read the assigned readings and contribute to class discussion each week. When readings are assigned, students will be expected to write a 1-2 page (maximum) reaction paper, in preparation for the class session. Before writing the paper you should be taking notes, highlighting important information, and preparing for the class discussion. Once the reading has been completed, you should use your notes and highlighted reading to write your reaction paper. These should include your reactions to the readings (not a summary of the readings). In your reactions you should demonstrate the connections between the topics discussed in the readings and your life experiences (work, home, school, social life, etc. . . ). You should use at least two experiences from your personal life that you relate to the readings. Click here for a structural example of what you should produce. Reaction papers should be printed and brought to class. Students will lose 1 coin if they do not bring their printed reaction paper to class. The college writing center has published a document that will help you self-correct your reaction papers here. You may also wish to schedule an appointment with the writing center for more personal help.

Game Design/Development Project (Final Project): Students will design their own interactive experience. This may include a serious game (game for learning) or a game for entertainment. Depending on the size and scope of their design, a prototype of their game may be created. Delivery of instruction will be required if a serious game is developed. This can be either an individual or group project. All projects must be approved by the instructor. (200 coins or 2 stars)

Optional Lectures/Activities. The may include guest lectures, gaming sessions, or other activities that will occur outside of regular class time. Students may submit their own ideas for optional activities (1 per student, coins vary per activity).

Plagiarism: This course adheres to the College's policy on academic honesty as stated in the Undergraduate Catalog. Plagiarism may lead to grade reduction, course failure, or expulsion from school.

Students with Disabilities: Any students with a disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations should speak with the professor as early as possible. Students with disabilities should contact: Sharon House, Coordinator of Accommodative Services at 267-3267, Sisson 112, or e-mail her at for further assistance. All disclosures will remain confidential.

Grading: Students will be awarded coins for successfully completing course requirements as follows (100 coins = 1 star):

Reaction Papers up to 5 Coins per paper (up to 70 Coins)
Class Participation Up to 2 Coins per session (up to 60 coins)
Game Journal up to 70 Coins
Game Design/Development Project up to 200 Coins (2 Stars)
Optional Lectures/Activities up to 5 Coins per activity

The Final Grade in the course will be determined by the accumulation of Stars and Coins as follows:
Stars/Coins Earned Grade
4 or more Stars 4.0
3 Stars; 70-99 Coins 3.7
3 Stars; 30-69 Coins 3.3
3 Stars; 0-29 Coins 3.0
2 Stars; 70-99 Coins 2.7
2 Stars; 30-69 Coins 2.3
2 Stars; 0-29 Coins 2.0
1 Star; 70-99 Coins 1.7
1 Star; 30-69 Coins 1.3
1 Star; 0-29 Coins 1.0
Below 100 Coins 0.0

Course Schedule:

Date Class Activities (subject to change) Assignments, due the following class session
Jan 24 Course Introduction and Overview
Discussion: Why study interactive media? Interactive media as technology in business, art, education, and entertainment.
What Dungeons and Dragons Character am I?
- View The Rise of the Video Game, 5 Part Discovery Channel Special, Levels 1 through 5 (each has 5 parts). [3 hours, 45 minutes]
- Begin Game Journals.
Jan 26 Discussion: Rise of the Video Game
In-Class Activities: Demonstration of SpaceWar, Pong , Zork, PacMan , Telengard,  Super Mario Brothers, and Warlords. Retro game play in Dunn 392.
RP 1 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for " Hamlet on the Holodeck" (HOH) - Ch 3: From Additive to Expressive Form
- Continue Game Journals
Jan 31 Discussion: Hamlet on the Holodeck, Ch 3.  Begin to discuss the unique characteristics of the video game (tropes).
- Continue Game Journals
Feb 2 Play: Super Press Space to Win
View Dot Dot Dot, the kinetic typography video review of Super Pres Space to Win.
"Mafia" in class Game (aka "Werewolf")
RP 2 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for " Hamlet on the Holodeck " (HOH) - Ch 10: Hamlet on the Holodeck?
- Continue Game Journals
- Optional Activity - Create a 
"Quest" game.  Download the "Quest for the Cartridge" (game file) to see an example from last year. Here are their design docs.
Feb 7 Play "Passage."
In class acitity: in groups students will design their own "Hamlet" videogame.  The game mechanics is the most critical part of the activity, especially the core game mechanic.  To get you started, here is a website that lists some typical video game "tropes."
- Continue Game Journals
Feb 9 Discussion: Playing with Machines, the relationship among play, rules, software, fun, and learning. Procedural thinking, literacy, and digital models for interactivity .
Discussion: The Evolution of Interactive Media ; The Crash & Rebirth of the Game Industry.
RP 3 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for Ch. 1 of "Beginning Game Programming in C++"

RP 4- Read and prepare a reaction paper for "
The Ultimate Display", by Ivan Sutherland and "Allegories of Space" by Espen Aarseth - Continue Game Journals

- Continue Game Journals
Feb 14 Discussion: Evolution of Virtual Spaces. Introduction to computer graphics. Human Computer Interfaces. The magic circle. Designing complex systems and "infinite" possibility spaces. Virtual Reality.
In-Class Activities: First Lego League Simulation (FLL). First Tech Challenge.

- Continue Game Journals
Feb 16 In-Class Activities: Demonstration of Asteroids, Battlezone, and Doom RP 5 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for: "The Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon" by J ohan Huizinga, and "The Definition of Play" by Roger Callois - Continue Game Journals
Feb 21 Discussion: Participation and Engagement. The role of the user in interactive entertainment. Structuring participation for player interaction. Suspensions of disbelief, agency and authorship in interactive entertainment.
In-Class Activities: Screening: "The Game"

- Continue Game Journals
Feb 23 Continued: In Class Screening: "The Game" RP 6 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for " Hamlet on the Holodeck " - Ch 8: Eliza's Daughters and "Players Who Suite MUDs" by Richard Bartle
- Continue Game Journals
Feb 28 Discussion: Characters and Controls. Who am I? The relationships between avatar and player; character and avatar. Empathy, Action and Control. In Class Screening: "The Guild"
In Class Activities: Second Life, World of Warcraft, The Sims 2, Halo Reach
Mid-Term review of game journals

- Continue Game Journals
Mar 1 Discuss Final Project Ideas & Review Game Journals RP 7 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for Ch 1. "Talking about What We're Looking For" and Ch. 2 "The Guidelines" from The Well Played Game by Bernie DeKoven
- Continue Game Journals
Mar 6 Discussion: Conflict, Competition, challenge, obstacles and opponents and the composition of conflict. Games as a dramatic medium. Violence vs. conflict. Violent games, first person shooters. Alternate models for conflict and challenge. In Class Activities: New Games, Theater Games
Mar 8   RP 8 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "Narrative Play" and "Ironclad" from Salen and Zimmerman Rules of Play (ISBN 0262240459, available via SUNY Potsdam books 24x7), and "Exquisite Corpse (in Wikipedia)"
- Continue Game Journals
Mar 13 No Class: Spring Recess - Continue Game Journals
Mar 15 No Class: Spring Recess - Continue Game Journals
Mar 20 Play: Ironclad. Discuss: Conveyance and Theming in games. - Continue Game Journals
Mar 22 Discussion: Genre in Interactive Media. Introduction to genre theory. Genre as a double-edged sword for the industry. Looking at game genres: Play mechanics and their relationship to narrative. Analysis of popular genres and the "message" in their mechanics. In Class Activities: Myst (game) (article), Starcraft (Boxer vs. Joyo: English Commentary, Korean Commentary) (article), Pole Position, Madden RP 9 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "I, Mario" from Game Over by David Sheff, "Chapter 1:Together (audio book)" and "Machines at Play (audio book)" from Dungeons and Dreamers by King and Borland inue Game Journals
- Continue Game Journals
Mar 27 Discussion: Designers vs. Directors. Overview of the careers of important designers: Shigeru Miyamoto, Richard Garriott, John Carmack and John Romero, Will Wright. Relationship of game designers to creative thinkers in other fields: writers, directors, architects and engineers.
In Class Activities: Ultima IV (game) (article) ; Sim City: ( game) (article) ; Zelda Windwaker (game speed run video) (article), Quake (game) (article)
- Continue Game Journals
Mar 29 Discussion: Games without Boundaries. Internet games, handheld devices, mobile games, alternative reality games, games that never end. In Class Activities: Geocaching RP 10 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "Ender's Game" Chapters 1-8
- Continue Game Journals
April 3 Discussion of Ender's Game, Chapters 1-8

- Continue Game Journals
April 5 Play Darfur is Dying View Joseph Campbell: A Heroes Journey. Key concept: A Hero With a Thousand Faces, Serious Games - Continue Game Journals
April 10 No Class: April Recess - Continue Game Journals
April 12 Class Discussion: Game Journals RP 11 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "Ender's Game" Chapters 9-15 - Continue Game Journals
- Continue Game Journals
April 17 Discussion: Ender's Game, Chapters 9-15. Ender's Game "The Game" group pitches. - Continue Game Journals
April 19 Discussion: Serious Games. Games with a message: documentary games, advergaming, games for learning and training, political games. A Force More Powerful (Interview with Game Creator) ; Darfur is Dying (Game) RP 12 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "Designing Interactive Theme Park Rides: Lessons from Disney's Battle for the Buccaneer Gold" by Schell and Shochet
- Continue Game Journal
April 24 Discussion: Location Based Interactivity. Theme parks as an emerging venue for interactivity. In Class Game - Kinect Disneyland Adventures - Continue Game Journals
April 26   RP 13 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "Long Live Games, part 1 & part 2" by Greg Costikyan
- Continue Game Journals
May 1   - Continue Game Journals
May 3 RP 14 - Read and prepare a reaction paper for "The Curse of the Cow Clicker"
- Continue Game Journals
May 8 Discussion: Experimental and Independent Games. Games outside the mainstreams of distribution and expectation. Gamelab, Indy Game Jam, Game Innovation Lab. In Class Activities: Game Jam Games, Cloud, Flow, Flower. Ganesha - Continue Game Journals
May 10 Discussion: Students' Game Journals In Class Activities: Presentation of Final Projects - Continue Game Journals
May 18 10:15-12:15 In Class Activities: Presentation of Final Projects: Course wrap-up, course evaluations. (Alternative Date: Monday, May 14, 5:00-7:30)

All materials related to use in the course will be located at the Teaching Educational Games Resources Open Content Wiki

List of Optional Activities:

1) Pax East, April 6, 7, 8. 1 day pass $35

2) The Smithsonian American Art Museum recently unveiled its "Art of Video Games" exhibition. They have also ran a series of "Gamefest" webcasts on their website that coincided with the grand opening.There are five optional reaction papers on the following topics:
GameFest - A conversation with Hideo Kojima (March 17, 2012)
GameFest - It’s All in the Design with Robin Hunicke (March 17, 2012)
GameFest - Evolution of Video Games - Pioneers (March 16, 2012)
GameFest - Evolution of Video Games - The Future (March 16, 2012)
GameFest - Nolan Bushnell: Video Games in Retrospect (March 16, 2012)

Office Information:
Office: Dunn Hall 393
Phone: (315) 267-2670

This page created 1/23/2012 by Dr. Anthony Betrus.  Last updated 5/18/2012