Course Information:

Title: Senior Seminar: Writing and Video Games
Number: ENG 496-002
Location: MO 204
Time: MWF 11:00-12:15
Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Tirrell
Office: MO 150
Office Hours: TR 9:00-11:00 (and by appointment)


Video gaming has assumed a significant position in contemporary culture, spreading into multiple demographic groups and generating sales revenues that rival those of the film industry. No longer the exclusive province of expert players, gaming has become a mainstream activity appearing in casual forms such as Wii Fit, smartphone apps, and Facebook’s FarmVille. This Senior Seminar explores professional and scholarly writing tasks invested in video gaming. It asks students to analyze and create works including journalistic reviews, technical instructions, promotional materials, and researched critical essays in print and electronic formats. Students will practice core rhetorical concepts including audience analysis, document design, and usability. Students need not be experienced gamers to participate in this course—only intellectually curious and willing to share their unique perspectives on this burgeoning cultural medium.

All class members are expected to treat each other with appropriate courtesy and decorum, and all coursework is expected to be completed in a thorough, timely fashion. All students must read and understand the policies articulated in this syllabus and sign the course contract in order to remain in the class.

Required Texts:

  • Tom Bissell, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
  • Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten, The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design
  • James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy
  • Jesper Juul, A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players
  • Online readings provided on the course website

Course Policies:

Technology Expectations:

  • ability to interact with the course website (requires Google account) and other websites
  • ability to interact with course video game materials
  • access to word processing, visual design, and web design software
  • a suitable email account checked regularly for course-related business
  • a Flash drive or other means to backup coursework

Routine work with technology is a component of this class. Students need not be technological experts to succeed in this course, but digital technology interaction is integral, and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete work. Practice the core principle of digital data work: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail you; be prepared for that eventuality.

Students also must be able to access particular video games to participate in this course. Students will be provided with multiple options to satisfy this requirement, including free and commercial games on personal computers, home consoles, handhelds, and World Wide Web platforms.

Personal Technology Devices in the Classroom:

Students may use laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices during class, provided that they do not disrupt other students' learning or the instructor's classroom management. This is not a trick. This course is situated in an increasingly connected multimedia environment. Each student is responsible for his or her own engagement with class meetings, and thus his or her resultant success or failure.

Availability of Online Material:

Because of the nature of the course, some material students post to this website will be publicly accessible through the Web. (A student's grades and personal information will never be shared publicly.) Additionally, any material posted to the course website may be used anonymously for teaching or published research purposes.

Collaborative Work:

Because one of the most salient features of video gaming is its social aspect, teamwork and group projects are required elements of the course. When a group project is assigned, students will participate in activities that help foster successful collaboration. Student groups will be mostly autonomous and all members are expected to function professionally. After the conclusion of group activities, individuals will complete forms assessing the contributions and behavior of group members and the global performance of the team.

Attendance and Punctuality:

Because this is a workshop and discussion-driven class, class attendance is crucial. Role is taken shortly after class begins. If a student is not present when role is taken, he or she will be counted absent. If there are extraordinary circumstances that will prevent a student from attending class, he or she must contact the instructor beforehand. There is no separate attendance component of the course grade, but any student that misses more than six class meetings will fail the course automatically. Additionally, any work missed because of an absence cannot be made up. This includes project assignments. The class abides by the maxim that all members of the class should show respect to one another by meeting at designated times and places prepared to work.

Late Work:

Late work is not accepted.


Grade Distribution:
Each student will have secure, anonymous access to his or her grades online. Unless otherwise notified, students will receive all grades through this channel.

Grade Components:
Review Project = 100 possible points
Pitch, Package, Promote Project = 100 possible points
Critical Analysis Essay = 100 possible points
Online Portfolio = 20 possible points
Side Quests = ~80 possible points

All projects will go through a drafting and revision process before they are turned in for a grade. I will provide extensive feedback on project drafts, but comparatively little feedback on final versions. This is because the primary purpose of feedback is to improve student work rather than to explain why it earned a particular grade. Students are always welcome to visit office hours to discuss work at any stage, including after it has been graded.

The Online Portfolio provides samples of a student's work and commentary from the student discussing how he or she has developed as a composer of texts while at UNCW. Online Portfolios are used within the department to assess program effectiveness, and outside the department for university accreditation purposes. For these reasons, Online Portfolios are a mandatory component of the Senior Seminar course.

Side Quests are optional course-related tasks that students may undertake for additional points. Mathematically, students must complete some Side Quests to score higher than a B- in the course. Some Side Quests will only be available after a student has attained a specific level (see "Levels & Perks" below).

Levels & Perks:
All students begin at level 1, but as they accumulate points they will attain higher levels. The level breakdown is as follows:

  • 0-79 points: Level 1
  • 80-139 points: Level 2
  • 140-199 points: Level 3
  • 200-259 points: Level 4
  • 260-347 points: Level 5
  • ≥ 348 points: Level 6

Avatar levels (but not point totals) will be shown on this course website.

With each move upward in level a student will be allowed to select one perk from the corresponding level row. (Some restrictions apply. The instructor is the final authority in the distribution and redemption of all perks.) Perk options are outlined in the following table:

Level 2 Sweet Tooth: select one piece of candy DJ: play one of your own songs at the beginning of class Rough Night: one-class permission to pass when called upon
Level 3 Do-Over: make up one missed Level 1 Side Quest Sweet Tooth EXTREME: select two pieces of candy Maestro: play one of your songs at the beginning of class for a week
Level 4 Time Traveler: expunge two absences Do-Over Do-Over: make up two missed Level 1 Side Quests Introvert: unlimited permission to pass when called upon
Level 5 Second Crack: revise and resubmit one project Doppleganger: six absence failure policy lifted Poster Child: select one prize poster
Level 6 I Heartily Endorse This Product and/or Service: glowing letter of recommendation upon request

Final Course Grades:
This courses uses the plus/minus grading system on final grade reports. The grade breakdown is as follows:

  • ≥ 348 points: A
  • 340-347 points: A-
  • 333-339 points: B+
  • 310-332 points: B
  • 302-309 points: B-
  • 295-301 points: C+
  • 272-294 points: C
  • 264-271 points: C-
  • 256-263 points: D+
  • 234-255 points: D
  • 226-233 points: D-
  • ≤ 225 points: F

Course Learning Outcomes:

After completing this course successfully, students should be able to:

  • adapt information to the needs of specific audiences
  • find, evaluate, and appropriately cite information sources
  • construct and present evidence to support a clear and logical argument
  • create usable texts in a variety of genres and forms and employing multiple media
  • describe and assess their own development as producers and consumers of texts
  • identify primary and secondary source material about which to generate, support, and sustain written argument
  • select and choose textual sources to generalize, explain, and interpret media, historical, and cultural contexts and figures
  • practice and master discipline-appropriate citation methods and understand issues related to the ethical treatment of others' ideas in their written work
  • demonstrate their writing skills and abilities by generating, supporting, and developing media projects and formal papers
  • evaluate and analyze claims about a variety of documents as presented in critical articles and other materials

Statement on Academic Integrity:

All UNCW community members are expected to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the UNCW Student Academic Honor Code. Students are expected to produce original work in this course. Collaboration and incorporation of external material and ideas into original work is of course acceptable and necessary, but all writers are ethically obliged to document external sources through appropriate citation practices. If you are uncertain if some element of your work constitutes plagiarism or another honor code violation, please speak with me. The point of any class is to educate, not to punish. Nevertheless, the consequences of honor code violations are appropriately dire. Please consult the UNCW Code of Student Life for more information.

Statement on Services for Students with Disabilities:

I and the university will make every effort to accommodate students with disabilities. If you require accommodations, please make certain to go through the Office of Disability Services, as I can take no action without their guidance. Please make contact as soon as possible, as accommodations cannot be made retroactively.

Statement Regarding Violence and Harassment:

UNCW practices a zero tolerance policy for any kind of violent or harassing behavior. If you are experiencing an emergency of this type contact the police at 911 or UNCW CARE at 962-2273. Resources for individuals concerned with a violent or harassing situation can be located at the UNCW Crisis Resources page.

Statement on Religious Observance Policy

In accordance with NC SL 2010-211, students are entitled to two excused absences for religious observances per academic year. Students must inform the instructor in writing the first week of class if they will miss any classes due to religious observance. Additionally, students should inform the Registrar the first week of class who will then coordinate with the corresponding course instructors. Any absence for religious purposes will be considered unexcused unless a student submits the request in writing the first week to the instructor or Registrar.

Course Information

Writing and Video Games
ENG 496-022
MO 204
TR 11:00-12:15

Instructor Information

Dr. Jeremy Tirrell
Office: MO 150
Office Hours: TR 9:00-11:00 (and by appointment)

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Available for Checkout

Nintendo Wii:
Boom Blox Bash Party
A Boy and His Blob
Cooking Mama
EA Sports Active
Guitar Hero III
Mad World
Mario Kart Wii
Metroid: Other M
Metroid Prime 3
Monster Hunter Tri
No More Heroes
Lego Star Wars
Super Mario Bros. Wii
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Wii Fit Plus
Wii Sports
Zack & Wiki

Xbox 360:
Assassin's Creed
Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The Chronicles of Riddick
Dead Rising
Dead Space
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Fallout 3
Left 4 Dead
Lego Star Wars
Max Payne 2
The Orange Box (two copies)
Table Tennis

Xbox 360 memory card
2gb SD card
Video capture device

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