A History of Play, Playing with History
What is the history of games? Is it a history of dates, dollars, and data catalogued on Wikipedia and stored in corporate archives? Or does the history of games include the material traces of conflict minerals, the global circuits of distribution infrastructure, the labor in manufacturing plants, the private memories of domestic play, or the recycling or reuse of game hardware? Moving past what Erkki Huhtamo calls the “chronicle era” of game history, in this class we will attempt to write a history of a metagame. Not a history of games, but a history of play–a story of the people who play games and your interactions with them. To write your history of play, begin with a paper consisting of (1) Introduction, (2) Original Context, and (3) Community Contribution.
The paper should include the following components as well as at least 2 popular/primary sources, 2 scholarly/secondary sources, and a works cited page:
1. Introduction and Thesis Statement
In a single, exciting paragraph about 250 words long, introduce your topic and provide a thesis statement clearly articulating your overarching argument. Your introduction should let a reader know what specific game and what specific community you are researching, how the community or practice you are discussing transformed the game, and why this example of play has broader significance. How does the metagame articulate concepts outside the game?
2. Original Context: What is the game?
Provide at least 500 words demonstrating the historical and cultural context in which your metagame is based. Research and clearly articulate the history of the game itself or the game’s engine, the game’s design, the game’s genre, etc. Imagine your reader has never heard of your game, let alone your metagame. Back up your history, ethnography, archival, or other material research with citations from both popular and scholarly sources (see below for details). Avoid random information–be judicious in selecting those aspects of the game’s context which support your overall thesis.
3. Community Contribution: What is the metagame?
In at least 500 words describe a specific gaming community and how they have transformed a game. How, when, and why did the community begin? Who are the primary actors? What rules did they invent? How do they differ from the way the game is typically played? What specialized materials or technologies are needed to play? And why do you think this type of play is worth analyzing–consider its historical, cultural, political, technical, aesthetic, or experiential consequences of their play. Name specific people who made the metagame!
Formatting and Style
Your final project should be formatted according to MLA style. It should be typed in 12 point double spaced Times New Roman font throughout (for headers, footnotes, works cited, etc.), set with 1 inch margins on all sides, paginated with your last name .5 inches from the top right-hand corner of each page, with footnotes, parenthetical notation, and a works cited. See: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
You must demonstrate that your project is informed by a rich historical and theoretical context by including at least 2 scholarly sources and at least 2 popular sources (for a total of at least 4 sources).
There is a difference between using a source as an object of analysis and using a source as a piece of supporting scholarship. For example, popular/primary sources like forum posts, YouTube videos, games journalism articles, etc. can help to contextualize your object of study (e.g. they provide cultural import, historical framing, etc.). This form of research is extremely valuable, however, it does not constitute a scholarly/secondary source like academic research, scholarly monographs, peer-reviewed articles, etc. (i.e., a source which has gone through various forms of vetting and peer review). There can often be ambiguities, particularly in digital media, on what constitutes a primary/popular and secondary/scholarly source! Use your best judgment. For more information on the distinction between popular vs. scholarly sources in research see: http://ctl.yale.edu/writing/using-sources/scholarly-vs-popular-sources