US 12

Computer Games as Art, Culture, and Technology – Lab Section

University Studies 12, Course Code: 87655
Fall 2007 – Spring 2008
Syllabus (Archived): <Fall>   <Winter>   <Spring>

Instructor Information

Dan Frost
Email: frost  

Peter Krapp
Email: krapp  

Bill Tomlinson
Email: wmt  

Teaching Assistants

Eric Baumer
Email: ebaumer  

Garnet Hertz
Email: garnethertz  

(all email addresses are uci dot edu, except Garnet, who is gmail) 

Goals and Summary of US 12 – What and Why
(from the course syllabus)

US 12A is part of UCI’s First-Year Integrated Program. Throughout the year we will be investigating computer games as artistic, cultural, and technological phenomena. An important theme of this course is collaboration. All but the simplest computer games are created by more than one person, and when we study a computer game we participate in a dialogue or negotiated process of sorts that includes the creators of the game, other players, society at large, and ourselves. We want to promote a collaborative spirit throughout the course, while being aware of the need for each student to master the material individually and to receive a grade based on his or her own performance. At the conclusion of US 12ABC, you will be able to:

1. identify the genre of a computer game and place the game in an historical context;
2. understand how computer game technology and techniques are used for purposes other than entertainment;
3. design new computer games based on a variety of themes, patterns, and genres;
4. implement simple code, art, and sound/music within a computer game.

Because US 12ABC satisfies part of your lower-division writing requirement, in each quarter you will be writing research-based, college-level papers. You will learn to:

1. summarize and respond critically to an argument made by another writer;
2. formulate an argument of your own and explore it fully;
3. construct an annotated bibliography that identifies and summarizes at least six sources possibly useful to a research question you pose about a topic;
4. compose a coherent essay that demonstrates critical thinking, analyzes sources, and considers multiple perspectives;
5. convey your thesis and integrate your research and your arguments in fluent, well-organized sentences and paragraphs;
6. draw substantive, evaluative conclusions in response to a thesis you put forth.

An essential component of being a good writer is understanding the multi-stage process of composing written work. In US 12ABC you will learn to:

1. propose, plan, and undertake a research project that involves a number of writing activities;
2. develop strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proofreading an essay;
3. be an effective peer review editor, and to receive and integrate peer review comments into your writing;
4. format an essay in a discipline-appropriate style;
5. compose a grammatically correct, proofread and edited final draft.


Lab Policies

This should all be relatively simple and obvious, but I’ve tried to spell some things out here so there isn’t any confusion.

1. No Plagiarism
Plagiarism is presenting another’s work, words, thoughts, code, artwork, sounds, music, or ideas as your own without giving credit. Any time you use something from another source, please not that and cite it. Do not use other classmates as a source. It ends up being more work for you rather than less, plus other more serious ramifications. It’s far easier to simply do the work.

2. No Eating
Food and computers don’t mix well. Beverages in a sealed container are fine. If you have to eat, please step out into the hall, consume your food, then return to the lab.

3. Attendance
Lab counts as a portion of the your participation grade for the course, and attendance counts as a part of that participation grade. If you are not present within the first 10 minutes of lab, you cannot be counted as present for that lab. Remember that lab section is only 50 minutes, and being prompt is important to getting the most out of lab.

4. Pair Programming
Lab assignments in this class will be done using a technique known as pair programming, which is quite similar to the environment in which industry programmers work. In this approach, one person sits at the computer, manipulating the keyboard and mouse (the driver), while the other consults, offers direction, asks questions, and provides feedback (the navigator). While only one person is controlling the computer, both people should be equally engaged in the process of completing the assignment. This is not two people sitting next to each other, and it is not one person watching the other person complete the assignment. The best approach is to pair with someone who is at or near your skill and experience level. It is also important to occasionally switch positions, so that each will get experience as both a navigator and a driver.


Lab Section

Lab is for building. Building can be fun. Building can also be hard work. (note that the two are not mutually exclusive)

An important component of this course is understand the design and implementation computer games. Lab sections are where you will get to experience the process and products of making computer games. In the discussion sections for this course, you will explore the ways in which writing is not simply producing a written text, but is rather a highly iterative process, including outlines, drafts, revisions, changes, more drafts, and a final copy (note that the process doesn’t end with the final copy, but continues as the audience and the reader understand and interpret the text). Similarly, these labs sections will focus on the process of programming, of writing computer code. As you proceed through the next ten weeks and the following quarters, try to consider the ways in whichwriting computer code is like writing an essay or a paper or a book, as well as (just as importantly) the ways in which the two processes are dissimilar.

While we should maintain a critical perspective on computing and computer game development, we will also need to develop a strong technical skill set. During this quarter, we will focus on the Java programming language with the use of the Ucigame library. While developing our technical, implementation skills, we will also develop our critical, analytical skills. Indeed, we should keep in mind that the two are hardly distinct, mutually exclusive skill sets, but rather that developing a critical technical practice is a vital component to nurturing both our critical and technical skills.

For more on critical technical practice


Additional Resources

EEE: Course Mailing List ArchivesAn electronic archive of email sent to and from this course’s mailing list.NACS: Campus Computing LabsA list of Open Access Computing Labs and hours for UCI Students.Libraries: Course ReservesCourse-related materials selected by faculty members as required or recommended reading for their courses.Library Subject GuidesGuides to the best research materials on your subject area. Written by librarians.