Surrey University Stag

WRITING GAMING - 2023/4

Module code: ELIM051

Module Overview

Gaming has existed as a mode of play and expression since the earliest times of human existence. In the latter part of the 20th and into the first two decades of the 21st Century (the period we will focus on with this module), there has been a vast expansion of the forms, modes and technologies employed in gaming and game play.

Out of wargaming and board gaming practices (and often the interfaces of these) in the post-World War II era, increasingly complex and sophisticated character and narrative focussed Role-Playing Games (RPGs) developed as well as other narrative forms that connect gaming with interactive textuality, such as gamebooks, Collectable Card Games, online interactive fiction, video games and multi-player online gaming platforms. There has been, in the early 21st century, additionally, a large increase in the number of board games being produced and played, while wargaming also remains an active and vibrant aspect of gaming culture.

An aspect of gaming that has sometimes fallen short, in 'quality' terms, though, is the writing that underpins both the rules systems and the 'story' component of games (background, character, description. narrative, dialogue, terminology, etc.) This is perhaps unsurprising as games have been primarily written by gamers rather than professional writers; many of these, of course, go on to develop their writing skills and become accomplished writers in their own right. More and more, though, creative writers are specifically incorporated into the game design and realisation processes (for both analogue and virtual gaming environments) to improve the quality of the gaming experience.

In this module students will receive an overview of the gaming field and examine aspects of this that specifically pertain to writing for games. What approaches work well for games and gaming modes? How are these different from writing for and in other forms and media? What writing skills are particularly useful? Do we have the freedom to write outside of limiting industry constraints and models? What are the new forms of writing practice that are emerging in relation to games and gaming?

We will also be interested in analysing games and gaming critically as cultural objects, and situating them within the broader context of contemporary cultural and literary theory.
 

This is not a module that will teach students how to code and/or produce and design video games (or, indeed commercial analogue games). We will touch on aspects of game design, game production, gaming studies, critical digital studies, etc., but the focus for this module will be on writing creatively for games: writing gaming.

Expert guest speakers from the gaming and independent gaming industries will be included in the teaching provision for this module.

If students have specific coding, visual art or musical/sound art skills that they would like to bring to their exercises and assignments, they can certainly draw on these skills, but if they don't, that is completely fine - none of these are required for this module.
 

In each seminar we will first spend some time discussing the set texts and the techniques and standpoints employed by writers and other artists, before moving on to the workshop part of the session where students will produce work in accordance with the task set for that week, within and outside of the classroom. We will read and discuss a selection of pieces at the end of each class. This process will help students grow in confidence, both in presentational terms and in terms of delivering and receiving feedback on their work, in a safe and supportive setting.

In addition, each week there will be a scheduled 2-hour gaming session where students will gather to explore individual and collaborative gaming in practice. Different approaches to gaming will be proposed each week, or students can opt to work during this time on longer gaming experiences and projects.


At the end of the semester students will produce a creative portfolio of gaming writing, alongside a critical commentary reflecting on the creative work produced and using theories, concepts and practices studied on the module, OR an academic critical essay examining some aspect of writing for games OR a Game Demo alongside a critical commentary reflecting on the demo produced and using theories, concepts and practices studied on the module.

Possible submissions for the creative portfolio include online interactive fiction (e.g. Twine, Squiffy), a gamebook text, a tabletop game text (board game, card game, wargame, Role-Playing Game), a game demo, a game setting, a game system, Game Design Documentation (GDD) for a proposed game, a 'creative essay', gaming portfolio as creative essay, a zine, a website for a game, etc.

This module connects to other contemporary literature modules on the programme where the emphasis is on 20th and 21st Century approaches to creating and examining literatures and our cultural responses to them.
As a hybrid creative writing and English literature module, it also makes up part of the creative writing pathway in the degree, connecting to a wide variety of creative writing modules offered as part of the programme.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

MOONEY Stephen (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code:

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 76

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 30

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

none

Module content

The following areas are indicative of topics to be covered:

•    Gaming Introductions
•    Gamebooks, Wargames, Board Games, Collectable Card Games
•    Tabletop Role-Playing Games (RPGs)
•    Digital Storytelling
•    Videogames & Multi-Player Online Games
•    World Building: Setting, Genre, Background/Foreground
•    Character
•    Narrative | Structure
•    Systems: Mechanics & Rules
•    The Industry & Game Production
•    Independent Games

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Creative Portfolio & Critical Commentary OR Critical Essay OR Game Demo & Critical Commentary 100

Alternative Assessment

n/a

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:
•    advanced knowledge and understanding of literary and creative texts and textual practices, especially in relation to gaming and gaming theory
•    their nuanced understanding of the social, cultural, historical and geographical contexts for the production of literary and creative texts and of the way those texts intervene in related discourses
•    their highly developed understanding of interactive textuality in relation to creativity and the formal and aesthetic dimensions of literary and creative texts as well as professional writing more widely
•    a wide range of subject specific and transferable skills gained in critical and creative thinking, in the production of critical and creative texts, and of practical support in the development of employability and/or creative practice skills
•    variant and individual thinking about game forms, methods and approaches by introducing a range of conventional and unconventional assessment submission types aimed at a wide variety of learners and learning styles

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

* a Creative Portfolio (3000 words or equivalent) plus critical commentary (1500 words) OR Critical Essay (4500 words) OR Game Demo (equivalent to 3000 words) plus critical commentary (1500 words)


Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback and formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, and tutor and peer feedback in seminars, on short pieces (250-500 words of prose, or equivalent in another form) presented as part of the confidence building safe space of the creative writing workshop element of the classes.
Each student can expect to present 2-3 such pieces over the course of the semester according to a schedule worked out between the tutor and the student cohort.
Written and/or oral tutor feedback will also be provided on one piece of creative writing (maximum of 1000 words or equivalent for poetry, games or other form) during the course of the module (the student is free to submit this at any point of the semester). During the optional gaming sessions, students may also benefit from play and peer interactions in a gamic environment.
As such, writing, presentation and critical analysis skills will be developed and honed which will feed forward to the summative assessment at the end of the module. There is the option of a range of other feedback mechanisms agreed between tutor and students in week 1 of the module, such as seminar contribution and writing and play exercises.

Module aims

  • The module aims to: hone in students an advanced critical understanding of gaming textuality and writing practices in the context of contemporary gaming and wider culture through a range of prose, poetic, dramatic and visual texts
  • sharpen the ability in students to analyse and appraise compositional styles and techniques in modes of writing and representation pertaining to the broader gaming field, and apply critical insights to their own writing practices AND/OR published works
  • facilitate the acquisition of the the advanced detailed knowledge and skills necessary for producing gaming, and game related, writing and other creative production contributing to the employability in the gaming sector
  • help students refine the ability to apply critical awareness to one's own creative production AND/OR published works, to critically develop their thinking about their own practice as writers, AND/OR that of other writers, and to present this in cogent terms
  • encourage students to work as a group in the production of collaborative work in the workshop context
  • foster semi-structured individual and communal gameplay with its consequent development of gaming practice within the architecture of the module
  • encourage students to submit work for publication
  • facilitate the advanced examination of the theorisation and conceptualisation of gaming, and game related, writing critically alongside the practices and published texts produced in relation to it
  • develop in students an advanced understanding of the connections between gaming conventions and practices and literary practices in the context of contemporary cultural theory

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will have: gained significant confidence and advanced ability in critically analysis and thinking as well as developed an understanding of appropriate writerly and game design techniques in various, including intermedial, writing forms that engage the creative thematic and technical possibilities of writing for games in their own work KCPT
002 Honed their ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as professional writers applicable to a wide range of career pathways alongside that of creative writer and/or game designer KPT
003 Strongly developed their sense of their own practice as writers and/or that of other writers in relation gaming and game-related composition and cultural practices that have had, and continue to have, significant impact and significance on contemporary culture and cultural production, including digital competencies that develop alongside this KPT
004 Developed a strong and applied sense of the materials and techniques available to them as professional writers, and to other writers, and are able to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing both within and outside of the game writing field KCP
005 Established an advanced knowledge of the context of radical and experimental writing practices that were developed in relation to games and gaming theory, and have begun to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing and concerns about sustainability of digital game forms and narratives K
006 Produced work individually and in groups, as well as have engaged with complex intermedial collaborative ideas fostering growth in confidence and resilience through sharing work and discussing that of others within the supportive workshop environment and the weekly gaming session CT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

•    Hone and develop students’ writing skills in academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction, poetry, screenwriting and/or game writing and other modes of production) by more fully developing their sense of their own practice as writers in the context of traditional, contemporary and experimental practices that have been developed in relation to games and gaming theory that have had, and continue to have, a significant formative effects on contemporary gaming, literature, film and culture
•    Assist students in locating literary texts and their critical writing, and/or their creative work in historical and cultural contexts by helping students understand the context of traditional and canonical as well as radical and experimental writing practices that connect games, gaming and gaming theory to contemporary art and literary practices.
•    Equip students with the research and writing skills they will need to produce critically informed academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction, poetry, screenwriting and/or game writing and other modes of production) and creative criticism by helping them gain significant confidence and ability in critically analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers
•    Facilitate in students productive reflection on both the creative process itself and the finished work by helping them gain significant confidence and ability in critical analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers

The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning.
A special optional 2 hour gaming session will also run each week.

Students will engage with preparatory reading, including creative work by other students, in advance of the seminar which will combine discussion of interrelated critical ideas, texts and games with in-class creative or critical writing exercises each week. Designed to help students reflect on and apply their learning to creative and critical outputs, the workshop environment acts as a safe space for developing and exchanging ideas, support and writing skills.
Varied learning materials such as lexical texts, visual materials, physical and digital games and other physical material prompts, video and sound objects are designed to increase student accessibility and will present them with a range of interpretive materials and approaches with which to work and develop their own thinking, creative responses and strategies of play that are so important for this module.

 

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELIM051

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: This module acts alongside other MA modules in both the English literature and creative writing programmes to help students hone to a highly polished and professional standard their writing, composition and communication skills, as critics and/or as creative writers.
In this Masters level module you will get the chance as an English literature student to study, alongside advanced critical materials, a large variety of gaming (and game related) forms and modes of writing, both commercial and non-commercial, in big-budget and indie settings as well as the language and communication settings that surround them. This feeds directly into the writing, language, analytical and communication skills Masters level students in literature and creative writing develop on their degree beyond those attained in undergraduate degrees. These advanced skills are highly prized by contemporary employers in students educated to post-graduate level.
As a creative writing student, you will get the chance to explore literary and gamic form, style and language from critical and influential historical as well as contemporary game writers, theorists and publishers that will help you develop and contextualise your own writing. We will look at areas such as narrative progression, characterisation, worldbuilding, voice, building in randomness, player agency, levels, clarity and mechanics, visuality and interfaces between lexical text and the visual arts, narrative and non-narrative modes of writing, digital composition and other formal aspects of the writing craft.
The skills developed in this module, developed alongside your other literature and creative writing modules, will help equip you for the vast range of employment and career pathways that our post-graduate students go on to after (and sometimes during) their degree, beyond that of academic or ‘creative writer’ (novelist, poet, non-fiction writer, for example). Amongst these are: copywriting, editorial roles, game designer, game writer, teaching, publishing, marketing, proofreading, journalism and social media roles of all types just to name a few.
For both English literature and creative writing students, you will get the opportunity to experiment with and present critical and creative work in the workshop settings as well as respond to the work of other writers and critics, another set of key skills that English literature and creative writing bring to the table in a host of career and employment settings.
 
Global and Cultural Capabilities: Literature, creative writing and gaming studies are fields that teach us about the human experience and our part in local and global cultures, facilitating exchange of ideas and experiences and helping to foster creative and cultural empathy in readers, players and writers of all kinds across the globe. Creative and critical writing in these fields also play a very important recording and preservation role in narrativising and keeping alive and vibrant different cultural practices and experiences, often encoded in game play and design, especially those that might otherwise be silenced or endangered.
In this module you will look at gaming in an international context, with examples from around the globe. You will be asked to respond critically and/or creatively to games as texts and modes of writing and composition from throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries and of differing cultural origins and are encouraged to share and/or write your experiences and knowledge through the lenses of, or in response to, your own cultures and backgrounds, to think about those of other students and writers, to respect and value differences in experience and to bring this knowledge into your critical and creative writing practice.
The weekly seminar, workshopping and gaming sessions give students the opportunity to present your own narrative to the cultural and literary context of found materials and to experience and respond to those of others in a friendly, constructive and open forum.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: English Literature as a discipline exposes us to different, varied and diverse experiences from history as well as our contemporary world. These literatures and the critical material around them teach us many things about ourselves as people, individuals and communities. How and why we behave and think the ways we do and how we cope with the challenges that our lives (and our lives in university!) throw at us. How and why we play games are also critical questions when considering individual and societal wellbeing.
This module explores the varied and inventive games, texts and writing that attempt to answer these questions, demonstrating empowering ways to think about language, gaming, community and writing in communal and solo play.
Famously, literature conveys important lessons, comfort and significance (emotional, mental and spiritual) to us through the medium of language, not just in what it says, but how it says it. Gaming, rather like poetry, can allow us to engage with and express feelings and concepts that everyday language sometimes cannot access. Play (and poetry!) is good for the soul!
For creative writing students, the life of a writer can often be a solitary and isolating one. This module, through workshopping, group work, play sessions and shared writerly experience will help equip you for the real world setting of your current and future writing practice. You will also continue to hone the critical contextualising faculties beyond those of undergraduate study in this and other MA modules on your degree through constructive critical workshopping of your work and those of your post-graduate peer writing community. The creative writing workshop at post-graduate level is a focussed and creatively scholarly forum for you to receive support, guidance, encouragement and practically helpful feedback in a friendly and affirming environment that is difficult to replicate outside of university. The writing friendships and writerly connections you make in these creative writing seminars and workshops, and attached events, you will likely carry forward throughout your career as a writer. You will also benefit from the experience of your tutors as professional writers working today and from periodic guest speakers attached to this and other creative writing modules in relation to your practice as a writer, the practicalities of building a portfolio of writing and a profile as a writer, breaking into the games industry, surviving as a freelance writer, the realities of the publishing industries and the importance of connecting to writing and gaming communities that will be essential to your current and future emotional and practical wellbeing and success as a writer.

Digital Capabilities: As part of this module’s approach, you will examine, as English literature and creative writing students, digital writing and the use of digital materials and media in games.
In this MA module, you will explore examples of digital composition and production such as digital interactive fiction, video games and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPS). You will also explore the digital and hardware context of producing, promoting and selling games of all types. You will get the opportunity, if you choose, to respond critically and/or creatively to these modes, forms and platforms using contemporary digital and visual forms such as photography, video, streaming, virtual reality technology, blogging and other digital communication approaches. You will also get the opportunity to receive feedback on your own critical and creative responses in these forms.
In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree which have a similar emphasis on developing and using contemporary visuality and digital skills and understanding.
As part of the module seminars, you will also be encouraged to communicate with one another and to work collaboratively on some exercises SurreyLearn, Microsoft Teams, and other digital and document game design sharing platforms, skills will be carried forward beyond your degree.

Sustainability: On this module, you will study a wide range of gaming and writing practices and products from a wide variety of social and cultural contexts. The ways people and communities play games can often codify aspects of culture and experience that may well be misunderstood, marginalised and/or endangered in our globalised world, and this module helps to give voice to some of these important cultural and identity spaces, helping to expand your knowledge and sensitivity as a thinker, writer, game designer and gamer.
The digital revolution, at which games and gaming have been at the forefront, raises a set of interesting and important questions about technology and preservation/sustainability. Various projects throughout the 21st Century have sought to preserve the gaming culture of the 1970s, ’80 and ‘90s as the technologies used to play these have become obsolete. As such, on this module, we will consider the concept of gaming cultures, technology and how these can be sustained in our rapidly evolving technological and digital spheres.
Creative writing students will also have the opportunity to write their own digital and gaming sustainability narratives in their current context in response to the ideas and techniques encountered in the writings on this module.
In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree that also have a strong focus on cultural and ecological sustainability.

 

 

 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Creative Writing MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
English Literature MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.