Over the past twenty years, game studies has developed from a niche field of research to a full-fledged discipline with global recognition. Throughout its 20-year history, games studies has constantly broadened and diversified its method, thus becoming a truly interdisciplinary field of research. The study of video games today is approached from multiple angles such as ludology, narratology, psychology, media studies and communication, but also cultural studies. The subfield of video game cultural studies has enjoyed significant prominence in the past years as attested by the emerging series offered by important publishers, the number of research projects funded, and the gaming industry’s interest in the scientific work of culturalists.

Given the international demand for experts in video games with a cultural studies background, the purpose of this course is to help students develop the skills required to critically examine the political nature of video games as rhetorical cultural artefacts. Students graduating from this course will:

  • Comprehend the specific means whereby games communicate meaning;
  • Understand how video games function within a broader media landscape, i.e. in relation to cinema, TV, comics, novels, social media, and so on;
  • Become aware of the ideologies that inform video games and gameplay;
  • Identify the ways in which video games  function as mechanisms of social exclusion;
  • Understand video game cultural studies in the context of other approaches to games, mainly narratology, psychology, and the cognitive sciences.

With this knowledge and set of skills, graduates of this course will be able to:

  • Work in the gaming industry, especially in narrative design/game writing/localization departments
  • Become independent researchers as doctoral, postdoctoral students, or employed/freelance researchers
  • Write much-needed and much-sought culturally critical video game journalism
  • Work as advisors for various rating boards of visual products
  • Engage in any activity where advanced digital literacy is required

Instructor: Dr Andrei Nae


Week 1: Introduction

Week 2-3: The ludology-narratology debate: video games as interactive narrative texts

Readings: Marie-Laure Ryan, Avatars of Story (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 181-203; Henry Jenkins, “Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” in First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004), 118-130.

Case study: Uncharted 4 – A Thief’s End

Week 4-5: How video games communicate narrative meaning

Readings: Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Video Games (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007), 1-64; Jay Bolter et al. Remediation. Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), 20-52

Case study: Max Payne, Resident Evil 7 (VR)

Week 6: Introduction to video game cultural studies

Readings: Soraya Murray, On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender and Space (London: I. B. Tauris, 2017), 1-46; Adrienne Shaw, Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), 25-64; Richard Jenkins, Pierre Bourdieu (London: Routledge, 1992), 65-81.

Week 7-8: Video games and gender

Readings: Derak A. Burrill, Die Tryin’: Video Games, Masculinity, Culture (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 13-44; Anastasia Salter et al. Toxic Geek Masculinity: Sexism, Trolling, and Identity Policing (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2017), 73-99.

Case study: Silent Hill 2, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Week 9-10: Video games and colonialism

Readings: Souvik Mukherjee, Videogames and Postcolonialism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 1-52.

Case study: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Spec Ops – The Line

Weeks 11-12: Video games and capitalism

Readings: Nick Dyer-Witheford, et al. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), xi-33.

Case study: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Weeks 13-14: Video games and the environment

Readings: Melissa Bianchi, “Ecoplay: the rhetorics of games about nature,” in Mediating Nature: The Role of Technology in Ecological Literacy, eds. Sidney I. Dobrin and Sean Morey (New York: Routledge, 2019).

Case study: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Optional extra meeting: Revision, project counselling


  • A minimum of 50% attendance
  • Participation in class discussions, counting for 25% of the final mark
  • An end-of-term essay (2000 words; at least 5 academic secondary sources), counting for 75% of the final mark