This is an archive of a past course's class materials from 2011. Present "Games & Society" students should look elsewhere to find their coursework; consult your current syllabus for more information.
The designer and intstructor of this lab course, Jason McIntosh, has written notes and commentary about this course which may be of interest to other teachers. You can contact the author at email@example.com.
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Now that we’ve put a few weeks into cooperating over game design, let’s have a look at cooperation through gameplay. This week we’ll look at a couple of games where all the game’s players are on the same side, and work together to overcome obstacles that the game itself presents. We’ll play a videogame with carefully designed maps for the players to explore and enemies for them to face together, and we’ll play a board game which has its own ways of generating unexpected dangers and encouraging teamwork.
Yes, this is a change from our original schedule as I wrote it in September; we need to mash two weeks of co-op game study down to one. We’ve got a lot of gameplay and discussion to squeeze into our short class, so please read this page – if everyone comes to class prepared, we can get through it all before the island sinks and/or the zombies get us.
You should show up to class with a basic notion of how the board game Forbidden Island works. Use the links I provide below to help out with this.
As with our previous in-class tabletop studies, you needn’t have mastered (or even played) the game, but you should study enough so that you’ll have a idea where to begin once you sit down to play the game.
You don’t need any foreknowledge or experience with Left 4 Dead, but you can independently read up on it or play it, if you wish.
Right at the start of class, we’ll shuffle ourselves into play-groups of four, and then play one game of Matt Leacock’s Forbidden Island. The helicopter leaves the island at 4:15, so you’d best hustle.
Then we’ll move on to Valve’s Left 4 Dead. Due to obvious time and resource constraints, not everyone’s going to be able to play L4D – but everyone else will be able to watch, which is interesting in its own way. I encourage the audience to observe not just the game, but the way the players interact with it, and with one another.
We’ll play until the party succeeds (by reaching a safe house), or wipes out (tsk tsk), or until the clock hits 4:45. Then we’ll debrief and discuss the games we just played, and then you get a quiz.
Both the discussion and the quiz will ask you to compare and contrast this turn-based board game about swiping treasure from a sinking island with this real-time videogame about blasting your way through zombie hordes. (I must have put them into the same class for some reason, right?)
Again, you don’t need to memorize the rules, but you should at least have an idea of how the game works:
This ten-minute episode of Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower video series provides a comprehensive summary of Forbidden Island’s components and gameplay.
If you want to dive deeper than that, you may peruse the game’s printed rules, as a large PDF.
Rather than rely on randomness, I’d like to ask for volunteers to play Left 4 Dead in class. Please send me email (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least three hours before your section’s class meeting if you’d like to be put on the list.
Volunteers should be comfortable using an Xbox 360 controller for first-person shooter games, or at least be willing to fake it. Ideally, volunteers should not be so expert at L4D or other shooters that they can play with their eyes closed, because watching players breeze sleepily through the game is far less fun than watching them just barely squeak by. (Or fail horribly.)
If I get lots of volunteers, I’ll choose four randomly. If we have enough time, I might declare a break partway through and have the controllers passed on to other volunteers.
I’m gonna do my best to rig up two Xboxes on two displays, so we can have a four-player game using split-screen mode. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll fall back to a two-player game on the big screen.
Have you missed the quizzes? Take heart; there will be one at the end of this class. And that’ll be that for this meeting.