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#8171067 Jul 21, 2013 at 05:19 PM · Edited 9 years ago
Guild Officer
343 Posts
Coursera is offering to game based learning courses in Fall 2013. What are your thoughts on the Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative. Could you incorporate any part of this course into what you are doing in one of your courses in the fall?
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#8175678 Jul 22, 2013 at 05:03 PM · Edited 9 years ago
561 Posts
Coursera is offering to game based learning courses in Fall 2013. What are your thoughts on the Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative. Could you incorporate any part of this course into what you are doing in one of your courses in the fall?

First, let’s look at this English course, Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative focuses on Lord of the Rings. Ah, read the books, saw the films, familiar with LOTRO, [I did note that the download of LOTR has a warning of “T-Rating, Blood and Gore, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence” so would not be considered appropriate for some K-12ers. I do have a good background on the plot and mediums.

At least it isn’t like Game of Thrones, although it is packed with characters. [Game of Thrones joke: What is the difference between Game of Thrones and Twitter? Twitter only has 140 characters] LOTR does follow a classic “hero’s journey” so is easily compared to other similar “hero’s journey” such as Star Wars and Wizard of Oz.

I certainly agree with the statement that “Drawing on centuries of romance narrative conventions, the twenty-first century gaming industry has become a creative and economic powerhouse.” Emphasis for me is “economic” as all of these MMORPGs that are drawing on that fantasy format are starting to look alike for me. As part of this MOOC I looked at several games, EverQuest, Aloids, World of Warcraft, and Runescape, other than background theme, the character development, choices and play were extremely similar in presentation. The point is, that if something works and makes money, others copy, playing to alas, the lowest common denominator, why create if you can simply morph the characters and play a little and re-package. We live in the world of sequels.

It is nice this MOOC offers a choice of a two tier system, one if you can play the game and one if you cannot. Certainly the idea of literature to a movie or a game (board or online) requires a licensing plus some changes, because books don’t always translate well to other media.

Second, all my classes are fully-built for Fall 2013, except one (Introduction to Chicano Studies), but this would fit very well for a Spring Class (Anthropology of Folklore or Anthropology of Religion) as they both look at “The Hero’s Journey, “ with showings of Star Wars IV and District 9 as well as the Joseph Campbell’s series on the Hero’s Journey. I would like to take the course to see how the professor integrates it in his lesson plans.

Third, Lord of the Rings could certainly be used as the third comparison/contrast, for the stages of the hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell, I am not sure that playing the game would have any additional benefit. I have previously used Star Wars IV and District 9 for the comparison/contrast research paper. District 9 makes the steps in the journey less defined. In Star Wars IV and in Lord of the Rings, you would have to be very dense to miss them.

Many of these Wow “clones” start with some kind of a need to get out of something, like a jail to star the journey, TLORO is no exception, here is Zhopper, trapped in a jail, the first scene in the game. (that’s me).

ltr zhopper by grasshopper98, on Flickr

In this the game does not start as the book does, no time for background or character development, it is a jump into PvP or PvE action. I would expect that this Coursera class will look at the way great literature is turned into a commercial venture, including film, games, trading cards, comics, costumes and MMORPGS. In looking at the contents of the syllabus I expect that is the direction of this class..

Week 1: Game on! The history and theory of MMOs
Week 2: LOTRO and Tolkien's Ring Cycle
Week 3: Gaming and the romance tradition
Week 4: The Fellowship of the Ring: Novel, Film, Game
Week 5: Pwning Spenser’s Faerie Queene
Week 6: Space and time in virtual narratives
Week 7: The Holy Grail: A good end game

Certainly there are only some books or other print literature that can successfully be translated into a MMORPG, you would be hard-pressed to make a commercially successful game out of The Great Gatsby, Under the Volcano, or The Old Man and the Sea. . . although if they would make one out of Under the Volcano, I would play it - 
#8186783 Jul 24, 2013 at 07:05 PM
110 Posts
Overall, I think this course looks interesting. I like the idea of studying storytelling in different forms. However, I also get the feeling that this is more a way of getting people interested in a "boring" subject than anything else. I'll admit I'm often a bit suspicious of any class that promotes itself as focusing on games (perhaps because I've been disappointed to many times). Maybe that's just the "marketing" though, I've yet to see any of the courses we've looked at here marketed in a way that doesn't make me suspicious.

I gotta say I think the two tracks idea is a bit of a cop out. If you're going to study how stories become games, you need to play the games. You can't analyze a movie without watching, or a book without reading, so why could you analyze a game without playing? The idea for having a non-gameplaying track seems likely to be just a way of making the course appeal to a broader audience. And while I totally get the idea of making courses appeal to the broadest audience possible, I think there's a point where you start sacrificing "the point" of the course. (Given that this is a free online course, I have less of an issue with this here.)

"all my classes are fully-built for Fall 2013, except one"

I feel like a slacker now. :)
#8221693 Jul 31, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Guild Officer
10 Posts
Signed up. This goes nicely with the iTunesU "Tolkien Professor" lectures I've been playing with on and off. I like the idea of looking at how books translate to other kinds of media. It's kind of a cheat for me because I teach English, but I can see a few places where I could pull this in. Most obviously as part of a literary analysis, of course, or some kind of product review.

blueAppaloosa, I agree with the sentiment that this may just be a marketing strategy to catch people's attention for a 'boring' subject. On the other hand, half of the point of game-based learning to me is as an attention getter. I know that's cheap, but if I can't catch them, I can't engage them, right? In terms of whether the class will offer more than a hook, we'll have to see. :)
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