News Column

Gaming in the system

August 26, 2014

By Theresa Winslow, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.



Aug. 26--There aren't any papers or tests.

It's enough of a challenge to dodge attacks by aliens, barrels, fireballs and creatures named Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

"There's definitely an arcade-y feel," said Cameron Cooper, 20, of Severn, who took the class last year and wants to be a video game designer.

The 15-week syllabus reads like a flashback to the '80s, but Game History class covers post-World War II through the 1990s, and also mixes in discussions of modern technology and society. The $50 lab fee covers the cost of software. The first class of fall 2014 is today.

"We've come a long way," said student Landon Hood, 22, of Pasadena.

Game History isn't the only unusual offering.

Among the 794 classes listed in the course catalog, there's also Gender and Sexuality in Vampire Literature and Survey of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Not enough students signed up for the vampire class, but the other sessions are a go.

Game History has been around four years and was developed by assistant professor Drew Snyder, the class is meant to teach the development of video games for gaming majors in the same way music majors learn their subject's history by listening to samples through the centuries.

"Video games are a contemporary art form,'" said Snyder, 43, who grew up during the heyday of games such as Super Mario Bros.

Students have to complete readings, answer questions and complete a project, such as creating a poster for a video game or making a video about one.

They're not graded on how well they play the games, so high scores are only for bragging right -- but they do have to try because participation counts.

Snyder's favorite game growing up was Q(ASTERISK)bert.

The reason went beyond the kooky premise.

He met his first girlfriend playing the game at a Jersey shore arcade when he was around 15.

"She played, then I played, then she left. When she came back, I was still playing the same quarter, so we exchanged phone numbers."

Snyder's students play the vintage games on computers in the visual arts lab in the Cade building. Each class runs 3{ hours.

"The biggest struggle has been to get all the games," Snyder said.

That, and the fact that students play downloaded versions using keyboards to maneuver characters. There aren't any joysticks or Atari consoles -- meaning trackball games such as Centipede are extra-challenging -- though Snyder would eventually like to raise enough money to get some.

The equipment can be found fairly cheaply on eBay, he said, but most of it is broken.

On the syllabus, games such as Pong and Space Invaders have their own sections, but other games are grouped by category, such as horror games (Doom), vehicle simulations (Pole Position), sports and fighters.

"I've been playing games since I was 5 or 6," said student Bryan Sealy, 20, Bowie. "It's kind of nice to see the predecessors."

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(c)2014 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at www.hometownannapolis.com

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Source: Capital (Annapolis, MD)


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