Assignment Description: Part of playing games, online or otherwise, involves developing effective play strategies for particular ends. Some play strategies are designed to make winning more efficient, some are designed to create a more rewarding play experience, and others are targeted around manipulating specific game mechanics—which means that not all play strategies will apply or be effective for all play types. Not everyone plays every game to win. Sometimes we play for friendship, for challenges, for entertainment, and the like. The challenge in this assignment, then, is for students to identify two play strategies they find advantageous to their particular play styles associated with particular games. Students then need to explain those strategies and articulate their advantages.
Now, I don’t expect these to be completely experiential types of engagements. There are a number of forums, wikis, and online pages designed specifically to provide tips or suggestions for playing any variety of games and students should make use of these resources. But this is more than just copying a technique or approach detailed online. These practices need to be explained and then situated in terms of the game itself, of the kinds of advantage it affords, and how that impacts particular types of play.
For example, it may be more effective economically in the game Forge of Empires to have an empire that has 4 goat farms rather than two blacksmiths, a fruit farm, and a potterer as the 4 goat farms will produce more supplies which makes progressing in the game easier. But I prefer the people of my town have a more enriching life and offering diverse set of suppliers better aligns with my play sensibilities. As such, the efficient play strategy doesn’t work for me. Instead, I develop my own, built around the well-being of my townsfolk rather than gaming mechanics.
The point here is not to identify which play strategies are the best, but to get a sense of the kinds of play strategies that might guide different kinds of play styles.
Evaluation: Papers for this assignment will be graded on their overall written quality (Is the prose readable? Is it relatively free from grammatical and punctuation issues? Does it offer a sense of clarity of thought? Is it concise? etc.), the performance of the assignment (does the student identify two play strategies? Are they grounded in support beyond personal experience and preference? Are the strategies situated in terms of their advantages for particular play styles? Is there significant depth engagement despite the relatively short amount of space?), and the ability to stay within the guidelines of the assignment (word count, quotation rule, etc.).
Goals: The goal of this assignment is to help students think critically about the ways they play different games, about what values they hold dear in their experiences (point accumulation, gaming narrative, play experience, etc.), and to think about how strategic approaches can be both mechanical and experiential.