Global Video Games: Cultures, Aesthetics, Politics

Students in “Global Video Games: Cultures, Aesthetics, Politics,” a newly-designed course taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Media and Society Iskandar Zulkarnain, were tasked to collaboratively develop game prototypes that creatively demonstrate their engagement with the material and theoretical concepts that they have explored throughout the semester.

In this project, Zulkarnain emphasized that he did not expect students to create a technically-sophisticated deliverable; rather, he challenged students to engage in a process called “theory by design,” where instead of working through ideas in an expository fashion, students would do so through creative development, putting themselves in game developers’ shoes.

The “Global Video Games” seminar explores the production, distribution and consumption of video games as a global culture. Through thematic case studies and hands-on approach, students examine the ways video games play and design are inflected by societal, cultural and political factors. Throughout the semester, they studied a variety of theoretical approaches in analyzing video games such as textual analysis, procedural rhetoric, postcolonial studies, feminist and queer studies and indigenous studies. Students also learned about trends in video game cultures in the Global South and Global North, as well as mainstream and independent video game industries to contextualize and situate the cultural impacts of video games globally.

While the game project assignment reflects how collaboration is an essential element in video games’ design and production, it has also enabled students to critically and creatively contextualize how video games can reflect and shape our perception, conception and interaction with our contemporary cultures both at local and global scales.

The following game projects embody the students’ appreciation of global video game cultures as well as their critical awareness that video games are not only a form of leisure and entertainment but also a cultural artifact.

Mask Up!

In this text adventure game, Juliana Bruno ’21, Anthony Bray III ’23, Emily Martino ’21 and Jack Harris ’22 offer a satirical commentary on the recent controversies sparked by the mask mandate in the US due to COVID-19 pandemic. In this game, you play as someone who is about to do grocery shopping but refuses to put in the effort to walk back to their car to retrieve a face mask before entering the store and then experience a string of ludicrous events due to their obstinacy. The point of the game is to critique the efforts of certain individuals in the US will go through to NOT wear a mask and follow COVID-19 protocols. Click here to play.

Planet X

With Planet X, Maxwell Harris ’21, Lalaine Vergara ’21, Julian Gurman ’21 and Tanner Wood ’22 develop an educational game prototype tailored for young children who are interested in planet formation and want to learn more about what this process looks like. Inspired by classic games such as Asteroid and Snake, the game tasks player to collect different resources essential for planet formation while simultaneously avoiding particles that are not essential or can negatively impact the planet’s growth. Click here to play.

The Visitors

The Visitors, developed by Keyondre Betaudier ’22, Kaifei Lin ’21, Amanda Aalto ’22 and Bryan Aguilar ’22, is an interactive horror fiction about four college students going on a camping trip to an abandoned campsite. Emulating international atmospheric horror games such as “DreadOut” (Indonesia) and “Silent Hill” (Japan), this text-based game also emphasizes teamwork to complete the tasks and unveil the mystery. Click here to play.

Zombie 3000

Inspired by American and Japanese survival horror/action-adventure games, Derrek Madonna ’22, Kieran Paskewitz ’22, Bradley Simas ’22 and CJ White ’21 imagine a zombie apocalypse sprouting at HWS campus in this text-based horror/action game. The game also spotlights several landmarks and buildings around HWS campus that will be familiar to both current HWS students and alums. Click here to play.

Gaming Around the World

In Gaming Around the World, Matthew Habersaat ’22, Sarah Smith ’22, Bernie Diaz ’22 and Emma Duffey ’22 develop an educational game that embodies the concept of global video game cultures. In this game, players will learn about gaming culture in Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and Indigenous populations in North America. Click here to play.