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Spring into writing and video games

Submitted by Ian Bennett on December 4, 2012 – 6:30 pm2 Comments

The Rhetoric and Writing Department is offering a Writing and Video Games course this spring, in which students will explore narrative and other game design principals by designing games on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.

According to the professor Joseph Williams, the course will focus mostly on 2D games, and prototyping a 2D game throughout the semester.  These will include puzzle games, word games, interactive fiction, platformers, and role-playing games.

“Most of our time will be spent on students building their own games, so most of our analysis will be of those student games rather than external examples,” Williams said.

Other than students who already have an interest in video game writing, the course can benefit students from any major, as it teaches narrative and design principals Williams said.

“Game design and writing has the potential to benefit almost any student in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Also, I think students in computer science or
information science would benefit as well. So many disciplines are tied to the making of games that it’s hard to think of a field that wouldn’t connect in some way,” he said.

Students who are not involved in the major, but who are interested in the course, may be able to participate in the springs without the pre-reqs, on a case-by-case basis.

As relevant as writing and video game design is to technical communication in the 21st century, it may also be thought of as an art, or as Williams says, has partly to do with how one defines art, as it uses elements of other art forms like, prose, movies, graphics, etc.

“These games create beautiful, emotional experiences for players which have the potential to enlighten and transform,” Williams said. “Games also create virtual experiences which allow players a chance to experiment with alternate realities, much like films and novels. However, much like the films of the early 20th century, games as a form have vast areas of unexplored artistic territory yet to be explored.”

Right now, Writing and Video Games is only offered once a year, in the spring, but could be offered in the fall if there is high demand, and may be offered
online in the future.

Pre-requisits for majors are RHET 3316 or RHET 3326, but there are other courses that can sharpen these skills, Williams said.

“Our course Writing on the Web gets at some issues of interactive design. I believe Computer Science offers a series of courses in programming for games. I know there is also a course using Adobe Flash in the Art department, which addresses related concepts (e.g. animation).”

When asked what video games he enjoys, Williams said, “I do play quite a few games. I am playing an RPG called Skyrim at the moment, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I also enjoy sports sims like FIFA Soccer, as well as strategy games such as the Civilization series.”

For more information about the course and requirements, email Williams at