Video Game Appreciation (1972-1992) Winter 2020

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Class Details

Many video games from the 1970s and 1980s are still enjoyable today. However, most classics cannot be fully [appreciated] without proper historical context. For example, [Pong] (Atari, 1972) is trivial when played with modern gamepads but is very challenging with paddle controllers; [Missile Command] (Atari, 1980) fills with tension when its political backdrop is considered; [Pac-Man] (Namco, 1980) is a nimble orchestration when the AI governing each ghost is understood; [Super Mario Bros.] (Nintendo, 1985) is revolutionary only after playing previous platformers; [Mortal Kombat] (Midway, 1992) is only controversial when compared to previous fighting games. Students will immerse themselves in the first 20 years of commercial video game history through instruction, game play, and game development. We will meet three times a week for 2 hour lectures on digital art, music, culture, technology, business, law, and the people behind developments in these areas. The classes are augmented twice a week by 60-minute sessions in the new Williams College video game lab. Throughout the course, special emphasis will be placed on the constraints that shaped the design of classic video games. At the end of the term students demonstrate their newfound knowledge by developing a retro-inspired video game. Enrollment preference will be given to students who have completed CSCI 134 or have a skill related to video game development (e.g. programming, playtesting, level design, storytelling, pixel art, sound engineering. etc.)
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 16
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: video game
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: students who have completed CSCI 134 or can demonstrate a skill related to video game development
Materials/Lab Fee: $30 for software licenses and routine equipment maintenance of the video game lab

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