A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Degree Programs in Video Games

By Hitchens, Michael; Tulloch, Rowan et al. | Asian Social Science, November 2012 | Go to article overview

A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Degree Programs in Video Games


Hitchens, Michael, Tulloch, Rowan, Ruch, Adam, Asian Social Science


Abstract

Macquarie University, in 2012, introduced two undergraduate coursework programs in the area of video games. These programs are a joint initiative of the Departments of Computing and Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies. The programs represent an innovative approach to curriculum structure in this area, combining technical, design and reflective critical practice to produce rounded graduates with a wide knowledge of issues and practices in interactive media. This paper describes the process of designing these programs, the aims and rationales guiding their design and their detailed structure. The central guiding principle behind the programs was that accomplished designers of interactive media, particularly video games, need both a sound technical background and an appreciation of the relationship between users, society and their designs. This is reflected in both the structure of the programs and the pedagogical approaches in the specialist units.

Keywords: video games, program structure, design, graduate outcomes

1. Introduction

Videogames are an increasingly popular form of entertainment. Long dismissed as a medium with limited appeal and importance beyond a young male demographic, recent years have witnessed a rapid diversification and expansion of the video gaming audience. A recent Australian survey found that the average age of a videogame player is 32, and that females make up 47% of the audience. Videogames are no longer a niche market, but rather a dominant and cultural significant media form (Brand, 2012). In Australia 92% of Australian households have a device for playing video games (Brand, 2012). Videogames have become a significant part of contemporary life, and their impact is only going to increase. An American survey found that the average 8-18 year old spends one hour and thirteen minutes per day playing videogames (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, 2010). This popularity is however not just limited to younger generations, significant growth of the market for older gamers has opened up, with 43% of Australian aged 51 or over now playing video games. Gaming is quickly becoming the pastime of choice for people of all ages.

Commercially videogaming is a big business, with the skyrocketing sales of games and hardware it is a thriving industry. This is evident not just in the player demographic but the visibility of gaming within society. Long gone are the days of videogaming advertising only being seen in specialist publications, recent advertisements for big budget titles such as Call of Duty and Max Payne 3 have been seen on the sides of buses, giant billboards, and even on television; spaces normally reserved for Hollywood blockbusters. Such expense is not incurred for niche products. The games industry in 2011 was estimated at US$65 billion and is constantly growing (Bakers, 2011).

With popularity beginning to rival traditionally dominant entertainment forms such as television, film and music, videogames are significant in their own right. However their cultural significance goes well beyond this. The opportunities many videogames provide for audience engagement and creativity radically reconfigures the traditional relationship between the media producer and consumer. Commercially available versions of a DVD of a film or television show, an audio CD or the downloadable equivalents of any of these, rarely if ever, come with any support for users to create content. For videogames, the reverse is true. Many commercial titles ship with tools that allow users to create their own content. This was originally confined to games available on computers, and typically the Windows PC platform. However, it now extends to home consoles, for example with the level design tools in the various Lego based titles such as Lego Indiana Jones, Trails Evolution and Little Big Planet. Such titles invite users, even children in primary school, to become creators in a media form to which they already feel a considerable attachment. …

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