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Old 08-22-2010, 02:06 AM   #1
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Default Portal a requirement in Wabash College

http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brain...-booklist.html

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This year, for the first time, a video game will appear on the syllabus of a course required for all students at Wabash College, where I teach. For me - and for a traditional liberal arts college founded in 1832 - this is a big deal.

Alongside Gilgamesh, Aristotle's Politics, John Donne's poetry, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and the Tao Te Ching, freshmen at Wabash will also encounter a video game called Portal.

...

My very first thought was Portal. Accessible, smart, cross-platform, relatively short, full of big ideas worth exploring. I played it again to be sure my impressions still held. No problem there. If anything, I admire the game more now than when it first appeared. A beautiful design.

I recalled reading Daniel Johnson's recent essay on the game and its strong connections to Erving Goffman's seminal Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. One of the central questions of our new course, "Who am I?" is the focus of Goffman's study. He contends we strive to control how we're perceived by others, and he uses the metaphor of an actor performing on a stage to illustrate his ideas. Johnson describes it this way:

…we're acting out a role that requires constant management…of the interaction. The front stage is the grounds of the performance. The backstage is a place we rarely ever want to reveal to others, it contains the truth of our obstruction and to reveal it would be to defraud our identity in front of the audience - it simply spoils the illusion of where we're placing ourself in the interaction.

This tension between backstage machination and onstage performance is precisely what Portal depicts so perfectly - and, no small detail, so interactively. Goffman would have found a perfect test subject in GLaDOS. Bingo! Assign students Goffman's Presentation of Self and follow it up with a collective playthrough of Portal.

...

Could I have chosen a game to stand by itself, with no accompanying text assignment? Maybe. I thought about Bioshock. I thought about Planescape: Torment. In the end, I chose Portal because I thought it would make a good start. A good first impression. A lead-off hitter, if you will.
Brilliant. Just the kind of innovation the educational systems need more. And the course alone (you can read about it in the article) as a mandatory course for all freshmen is a fantastic idea. I wish such a course were used widely.
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Old 08-24-2010, 04:00 PM   #2
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I think he should consider Braid too.
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Old 09-02-2010, 06:26 AM   #3
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damn, that's one thing I would gladly pull an all-nighter for.
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:47 AM   #4
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"stop playing video games and do your homework!"
"but mum, this IS my homework!"
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:01 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Origami View Post
I think he should consider Braid too.
And Flower.
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Old 09-03-2010, 06:05 AM   #6
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Having not played either, how much, eh, existentialism do these games have? Like, in Portal he talked about the tension between backstage and onstage and so forth, so do these games, that are clearly artistic, have something to add to the discussion of fundamental questions, such as existence and way of life?
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Old 09-03-2010, 07:24 AM   #7
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Portal isn't the deepest game, but you can read a lot into it. Therefore it has more depth than was intended. And it's relatively accessible for people who don't play much games.
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Old 09-20-2010, 10:08 PM   #8
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Feminists love portal, also. It's the first FPS to replace the (very phallic) image of the gun (and the need to shoot/pentrate--what have you), with an oval shaped hole instead (read what you want into that ).

Anyhow, I've actually read Goffman and I honestly don't see the connection between him and portal--or at least not any more than he could be to connected to a bunch of different things. I admit I haven't played Portal in a LONG time (I only played it through once when it was first released), though, so maybe I'm forgetting details (I honestly can't remember its storyline very well-maybe it's time for another play through).
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Old 09-20-2010, 11:29 PM   #9
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more games at schools!

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Wershler has been teaching video-game studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for two years. This fall he joins the English department at Concordia University in Montreal and will be adding Mass Effect to the "reading" list for his course, Contemporary Canadian Fiction, when he teaches it in 2011
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Old 09-20-2010, 11:39 PM   #10
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Feminists love portal, also. It's the first FPS to replace the (very phallic) image of the gun (and the need to shoot/pentrate--what have you), with an oval shaped hole instead (read what you want into that ).
LOL! Indeed. Instead of shooting you make a....*cough*...."hole" in the wall that you must......*cough*.......enter.

Makes me wonder what that Companion Cube symbolizes when it goes into the hole with you.
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Old 09-21-2010, 06:49 AM   #11
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Feminists love portal, also. It's the first FPS to replace the (very phallic) image of the gun (and the need to shoot/pentrate--what have you), with an oval shaped hole instead (read what you want into that ).
Oh, I never realized that Brilliant...

Also, interesting about the Mass Effect, especially since it's so much longer than Portal, and has so much that you can do, can miss etc. Of course, it's all just experimental and it's good that it's being done on a wider scale.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:25 AM   #12
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An extract from one student's attempt to get a deadline extension.

"I understand we're meant to have our essay plans done by now -- but there was this boss and it was REALLY REALLY hard, I thought I'd nearly killed it but then it uses this attack and it's like BOOOM KSSSH and your health just goes right down and you have to press X really fast and that and I think my controller's broke or something because ITS SO FORKING UNRESPONSIVE THE GUY JUST STANDS THERE LIKE AN IDIOT MOVE GODDAMMIT. Therefore, I would like to request that you extend my deadline another two weeks? Thank you for considering this."
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:46 PM   #13
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I think I remember hearing that Myst was used in some kind of educational setting. I wish I were in these classes.
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