ART IN THE AGE OF VIDEOGAMES
Visual Studies Program
California College of the Arts
Spring Semester 2014
Instructor: Matteo Bittanti
Meeting Place & Time: San Francisco Campus, Graduate Building, GC4
Mondays 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Start Date: January 27, 2014
End Date: May 05, 2014
Office hours: I am available to students for consultations by appointment
Table of contents
1. Course Description
1.1 Course Format and Requirements
1.2 Learning Outcomes
2.1 Required Texts
2.2 Course Blog
2.3 Recommended/Optional Texts
3. Course Work
3.1 Class Discussions
3.2 Final Project
3.3 Final Project Proposal
3.4 Final Project Presentation
4 Evaluation Criteria
4.1 Measurement of Student Performance
5 Classroom Conduct & Attendance Guidelines
5.1 Policy on Academic Honesty
6.1 Important dates
1. Course Description
GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames investigates the relationship between art and games, especially digital games. It examines a variety of artistic interventions inspired by video games or explicitly employing game-based digital technology, including the use of patched or modified video games or the repurposing of existing games and/or game mechanics. GameScenes also examines the influence of gaming - both digital and traditional on painting, sculpture, street and graffiti art, performance, visual culture, and sampling/remix culture. During the course of the semester we will critique art games, machinima, in-game interventions, and performances, site-specific installations, site-relative mods, but also board games, simulations, and toys. Course topics include sexual and political representation, ideology and politics in game-based artworks, Game Art criticism and the interplay between games, Modern Art and Contemporary Art.
1.1 Class Format & Requirements
Classes will consist of lectures, screenings of videos and documentaries, in-class exercises and discussions, online contributions, and student presentations. Students are required to read and discuss different texts, give formal presentations, submit a detailed proposal, write and present in class a critical paper.
Attendance is mandatory. Students are required to attend the full length of all classes. Students are expected to come to class with the reading/viewing done and demonstrate ability to participate appropriately - that is, using the pertinent critical terminology - in a seminar-style intellectual community. All papers, assignments, presentations, and final projects must be completed on time and in full. No exceptions. Try to think of class meetings as a resource session in which you can get your questions answered and at the same time, learn what concerns are driving your colleagues.
Please note that GameScenes carries a significant workload. If you plan to attend this course be prepared to devote several hours per week.
1.2 Learning Outcomes
1. Students will develop a general understanding of videogame-based art:
a. Understand the history, vocabulary, taxonomies, and methods of Game Art;
b. Understand how Game Art addresses issues such as the representation of identity and difference;
c. Recognize the interdisciplinary nature of Game Art and the larger cultural, theoretical/ideological and historical context in which the visual artifacts under consideration are created and received.
2. Students will develop skills for analyzing game-based and game-inspired artworks from a visual and critical perspective:
a. Ethics: Recognize how game-based artistic interventions comment upon such themes as war, sex, religion, ideology etc.
b. Critical Analysis: Use principles of art criticism to analyze game-based and game-inspired artworks:
c. Cultural Diversity: Develop an understanding of cultural diversity in relation to the representation of sex, class, gender and power in Game Art.
3. Students will develop projects and class presentations using ideas and concepts discussed throughout the semester:
a. Research: Engage in research and organize content in a clear, concise, and cogent manner;
b. Visual Literacy: Demonstrate the ability to analyze and compare artworks using principles of art criticism and visual studies;
c. Written, Oral, Visual Communication: Present projects in a professional manner as a final paper and an oral presentation with visual images.
2.1 Required books:
- Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play. Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2009.
- Clarke, Andy and Grethe Mitchell. Videogames and Art. Chicago: Intellect Books. 2007.
Additional essays/texts/videos/documentaries – both required and optional – will be posted on the password-protected course blog.
We will also read chapters and essays included in the following books:
Becker, Howard. Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1982.
Bittanti, Matteo & Lowood, Henry (Eds.), Machinima! Theories. Practices. Conversations. Milan: Edizioni Unicopli, 2013. 237-251.
Getsy, David (Ed.). From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art, University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2011
Dunbar, Elizabeth. Not So Cute and Cuddly: Dolls and Stuffed Toys in Contemporary Art. Ulrich Museum of Art. 2003.
Galloway, Alexander. Gaming. Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Electronic Mediations). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2006.
Gelber, Steven M. Hobbies. Leisure and the Culture of Work in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Lowood, Henry and Nitsche, Michael (Eds.). The Machinima Reader. Cambridge, MA; MIT Press. 2010.
Sihvonen, Tanjia. Players Unleashed! Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press. 2011.
Stals, Jose L., Bordes, Juan & Perez, Carlos (Eds). Toys of the Avant-Garde, New York: Hudson Hills, 2010.
Stevens, Quentin. Play and the Urban Realm, in The Ludic City. Exploring the potential of public spaces. London: Routledge. 2007.
We will use Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (7th Edition) as our Style Guide.
2.2 Gamescenes Blog
In addition to the password-protected course blog, throughout the semester, we will use the GameScenes.org blog for purposes of criticism, analysis, and discussion. Students are encouraged to navigate the archives to find inspiration about possible topics for their final project.
2.3 Recommended/optional texts:
Anthropy, Anna. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. Oakland, Seven Stories Press. 2012.
Bittanti, Matteo & Quaranta, Domenico. GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames. Milan: Johan & Levi, 2006.
Catlow, Ruth, Garrett, Marc and Morgana, Corrado (Eds.). Artists Re: Thinking Games. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010.
Homo Ludens Ludens, Laboral Centro De Arte y Creacion Industrial, exhibition catalogue, 2007-2008.
Playware, Laboral Centro De Arte, Laboral Centro D’Arte y Creacion Industrial, exhibition catalogue, 2007-2008.
3. Course Work
Throughout the semester, students will be required to give formal presentations and submit written assignments, i.e. a Final Project Proposal (2 pages) and a Final Project Paper (6 page minimum).
3.1 Class Discussions
Each week, a small group of students - 2 or 3 depending on the final enrolment numbers - will be responsible for leading a seminar-style discussion based on the assigned readings. The presenters are not expected to summarize the readings, but rather lead a discussion. Students leading the weekly discussion must provide a list of 3-5 discussion questions based on the themes and topics of the reading. Students are strongly encouraged to prepare a formal presentation using the most appropriate medium at their disposal for the task (Prezi, Sliderocket, Concept Maps, video, slideshows etc). Both presenters and responders will be graded on their seminar participation throughout the semester. Students are expected to discuss the readings critically, using the appropriate terminology. Students are invited to submit cogent, compelling arguments, not opinions. Thus, evaluative comments (“I liked this”, “I did not like that”) are highly discouraged.
3.2 Final Project Paper (May 5, 2014)
Students are required to write a critical essay of 2500 words (6 pages minimum), excluding footnotes and bibliography. The paper is designed to help students reflect, analyze, and discuss core themes and ideas encountered in GameScenes, engaging with primary and secondary materials, and develop a background in the area that will allow students to pursue more in-depth research projects in the future, e.g. an article, a thesis, a show proposal, an art statement, a curatorial project or a dissertation.
The essay must be critical in nature, that is, analytical and interpretative and not merely descriptive. In order to successfully complete this task, student will be required to deploy research and close visual analysis in the development of a thesis that reflects independent thought about Game Art in a six page paper utilizing the conventions of scholarly writing, literate English and no less than six legitimate sources.
Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
- A critical assessment of a series of works by a single artist discussed throughout the semester;
- An in-depth critical examination of a single game-based or game-inspired artwork.
- A comparative analysis of several game-based or game-inspired artworks focusing on a specific subject (e.g. war, religion, sex, space, time, identity, death, etc.) or based on the same medium (e.g. video, game mod, painting, photography, installation, sculpture etc.);
- A critical examination of Game Art genres, their genesis and evolution.
- An investigation on the different approaches, styles, rhetoric, strengths, and weaknesses of Game Art criticism.
- A comparative analysis between videogame-based art practices and other forms of technologically-driven form of art (e.g. digital art, net art etc.)
Let The Games Begin: Carolina Miranda on Art Games (Art News, 2011)
Michael Burden, Sean Gouglas' "The Algorithmic Experience: Portal as Art" (2013)
Michele Hubacek,Christ Killa: Transgressive Art in Gaming (2013)
Other examples, included in our bibliography:
Stockburger, Axel. “From Appropriation to Approximation”. in Clarke, Andy and Grethe Mitchell. Videogames and Art. Chicago: Intellect Books. 2007. 25-38.
Bazzano-Nelson, Florencia. “Subversive Toys. The Art of Liliana Porter” in Getsy, David. From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art, University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2011. 130-146.
Galloway, Alexander. “Countergaming” in Gaming. Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Electronic Mediations). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2006.107-127
Cates, Jon. “Running and Gunning in the Gallery. Art Mods, Art Institutions, and the Artists Who Destroy Them”, in Getsy, David (Ed.). From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art, University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2011. 158-168.
For the Final Project, students are required to use the texts discussed in class as a starting point for a poignant investigation, but they are also expected to gather, evaluate, and integrate additional information. Students are also encouraged to include images in the final paper, but only to make a point, not for mere decorative purposes. Images must be referenced and discussed in the text. Additionally, all images must be properly accompanied with credits and captions.
Technical requirements: The Final Paper is a document of 2500 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. It must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial Font, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. For the electronic version, the paper must be saved as a .RTF or .DOC format. Other formats, e.g. .PDF, are not acceptable.
Submission methods: The final paper must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document - yes, on good old fashioned paper! - handed brevi manu to the instructor on the last day of class and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email no later than 4 pm on May 5, 2014. Late papers will not be accepted. Failure to submit the paper on time in both printed and electronic format will result in a “F” grade.
The final paper requires a detailed Proposal.
3.3 Final Project Proposal (March 31, 2014)
Students must submit a 700 word (= 2 pages) proposal that provides a detailed description of the final project and outlines plans for research as well as relevant questions and concerns. Like any solid proposal (for a grant, project, research or exhibition), this proposal should be persuasive and demonstrate why this project is creative, compelling and worth pursuing. The four essential elements of the proposal are:
1. A title, subtitle, and description of your object of study, its significance, and the key issues or questions you want to address in your research. Do you have a novel approach or hypothesis? If so, describe it.
2. A concise, tightly-focused review of the scholarly literature on your topic. What are the most significant scholarly contributions in your area of investigation? You must explain how your work will relate to the works you cite.
3. A brief discussion of research methods. What kind of research methods will you use to answer the questions you have posed or to test your hypothesis? Why are those the methods best suited for this case? What will they allow you to discover? Do you need any special resources to complete your research?
4. A timetable. What are the key parts of your project (research, writing, etc.) and by when will you have them completed? What are the milestones?
Technical requirements: The Final Project Proposal is a 700 word document excluding footnotes and bibliography. It must be formatted in Chicago Style and use the following parameters: Arial Font, Size 12, Spacing 1.5. For the electronic version, the paper must be saved as a .RTF or .DOC format. Other formats, e.g. .PDF, are not acceptable.
Submission methods: The final paper must be submitted in two ways: 1) as a printed document - yes, on good old fashioned paper! - handed brevi manu to the instructor on on March 31, 2014; and as 2) an electronic file, sent to the instructor via email no later than 4 pm on March 1, 2014.
Late proposals are not acceptable.
A graded/reviewed version of the document will be returned to the student within a week.
Tip: It is essential to discuss your ideas with the instructor before developing and submitting full proposal. It is also a very good idea to look ahead in the syllabus and get started early.
On April 21, 2014, we will have an in-class discussion, workshop and individual meeting related to your final project. Bring your essay drafts and work-in-progress material for review.
3.4 Final Project Presentations (April 28 and May 5, 2014)
During the last two weeks of the semester (April 28 and May 5, 2014) students will give a 20 minute formal/professional presentations of their final projects. These presentations must include visual material and should make full use of presentation tools such as Keynote, Powerpoint, SlideRocket, Prezi or other available digital tools. The presentations will be followed by questions and class discussion. Students are required to make appropriate arrangements for showing visual material in advance. Students are expected to use their own computer equipment for the presentation: the instructor will not provide a laptop. All students are required to attend both presentation days. Presentation resources, including tools and tutorials, are available on the course blog.
No make-up presentations.
4 Evaluation Criteria
Written assignments will be evaluated on the basis of the Visual Studies Assessment Grid (available here) which includes the following criteria: thorough research; clear, logical, and original arguments; critical and creative analysis of visual material supported by visual examples; serious effort, preparation, and engagement in the subject matter.
Visual presentations will be evaluated on the basis of the students ability to look critically and express their ideas in oral and visual form. The assessment guide is available online.
Each area of assessment corresponds to the following numeric evaluation:
2 developing skills
3 proficient skills
4 exceptional skills
4.1 Measurement of Student PerformanceThe final grade for the course will be determined by evaluation in the following are:
- Attendance, In-Class Presentation and Participation 25%
- Final Project Proposal 15%
- Final Project Paper 40%
- Final Project Presentation 20%