Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED3810 Video Games: Politics, Society and Culture

20 creditsClass Size: 44

Module manager: Dr Nick Robinson

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Do games lead to increased violence? Do they denigrate women? Do they legitimate military conflict? Why do the Japanese and American industries produce such different games? Why does the political establishment respond the way it does? Do they provide effective spaces for political activism? What impact do games have on policy? Do they, for example, lead to illiberal policing? How do we understand the messages contained within games and situate them in context?Games are the fastest growing leisure industry in the world, are played by almost half of the adult population in many industrialised countries and are being increasingly debated both socially and academically in terms of their impact and meaning. This module contributes to this debate, offering a combination of reflective thinking on how we understand the political, social and cultural impact of games and considered debate into how we might better understand the messages contained within the games themselves. Perhaps, predictably an enthusiasm for playing games as well as talking and writing about them are crucial!Brief Reading ListBogost, I. (2007) Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (Cambridge, MA: The MIT press).Egenfeldt-Nielson, S., Smith, J. and Tosca, S. (2020) Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction (London: Routledge), 4th edition.Payne, M.T. and Huntemann, N.B. (eds) (2019) How to Play Video Games (New York: New York University Press).Bogost, I. (2011) How to Do Things with Videogames (University of Minnesota Press).


The module is designed to allow for greater understanding of video games, reflecting on their political and social implications, and enabling you to understand the meanings within games

Learning outcomes
1. Capacity to read meaning into games, so probing what are the messages contained within particular games;
2. Awareness to place games in their social and political context, so asking why do particular games invoke particular political and social responses;
3. Understanding to reflect broadly on the impact of games and gaming in terms of politics, society and culture;
4. Capacity to reflect comparatively to understand differences between games and gaming in different countries.


What are games? Why study them? Sets out the origins of academic study of games. Reflects on why they have been ignored by many scholars, covering for example the social construction of games (e.g. games as toys, games as escapism vs. games as the 'new art' etc). 2. Theory and Method - What are the tools for game studies?

Covering for example the ludology vs. narratology debate; discussing the disciplinary home for games studies; reflecting on the persuasive potential of games; setting out a political science approach to game studies; asking how we analyse games, reflecting on the internal and social context. 3. The Military-Entertainment Complex: History; evidence of the M-E complex; implications: militarising games; militarising society; desensitising military personnel; and resisting militarism. [examples of related games: Kuma\War and America's Army; insurgency games - Rainbow Six; military combat games: Call of Duty series; Army of Two; Haze; critical games: This War of Mine; September 12th; Metal Gear Solid series] 4. Games and Race The content of games (content analysis and interpretation of the message within games; understanding ‘virtual minstrelsy’); the impacts (e.g. embedding discrimination; legitimating white supremacy?; games and public policy outcomes). [examples of related games: Grand Theft Auto series; Watchdogs 2; urban street games]

Games and Gender The content of games – how have different genders been represented and are these representations damaging? Videogames and patriarchy – do games embed patriarchy or open up spaces to challenge it?

[examples of related games: Tomb Raider; Horizon Zero Dawn; The Sims]

Games, Work and Social Change Games as a 'third place between home and work'; rise of network games; growth of virtual diaspora. [examples of related games: Massive Multi-player Online games such as World of Warcraft] 7. Games and Capitalism The messages within games; do games promote material accumulation? [game related examples: Animal Crossing; the Sims;McDonalds Game; BioShock series

Games and Learning

Are games useful for learning? Do games contain historical and political inaccuracies? Should games be used more in educational settings?

[game related examples: Civilization series; Peacemaker; Gran Turismo]

Games, Violence and the Political Establishment The violence debate – do games make us more violent?; games and moral panic; discussion of laws on censorship – how should we regulate what we play? Should we at all?; Is violence essential to artistic expression?

[examples of related games: Mortal Kombat Resistance: Fall of Man; Call of Duty series; Super Columbine Massacre RPG! (NB there will also be a video screening accompanying this session)] . Games, National Culture and Soft Power Why do different societies create different types of games and does this matter? The cultural values within games. Do people gain positive (or negative) impressions of different countries from the games they play? [examples of related games: e.g. Japanese games (Devil May; Final Fantasy series; Nintendogs; Animal Crossing; Yakuza series); American games (Gears of War/Fallout; Sims; Civilisation; US sports games); British Games (productions by developer Rare; Grand Theft Auto series; Little Big Planet; The Last Stop); non-Western games: Cris Tales; Raji – an Ancient Epic; Never Alone].

Games and the Future - concluding thoughts on the evolution of games and the study of games.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Video & Discussion12.002.00
Private study hours174.50
Total Contact hours25.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

There are two key elements here:
(a) students are required to read the core and additional publications listed in the module bibliography in preparation for seminar discussions and essays. This requires careful and reflective reading, note taking, summarising, preparation for class discussion, and developing a sense of a field of literature in addition to engagement with individual readings. Also, students are encouraged to use their initiative and skills of discernment in finding additional relevant material

(b) students are strongly encouraged to play games in order to both increase their awareness of illustrative examples for discussion in the seminars and essays. Also one of the assessment tasks requires the students to be able to offer a critical review of a particular game. Thus the playing of games, and associated reading to enable them to both understand the meaning of particular games and to place them in their political and social context will be essential.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student's progress will be monitored on a weekly basis by means of:
- Student contributions to class discussion, which will be monitored throughout the course, though not assessed
- Assessment performance will be monitored through the submission of essay drafts/plans which will be read by the tutor prior to the submission of their final term paper. Meetings will then be offered to students to discuss their work prior to final submission.

- Opportunities for individual discussions outside seminar times.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Literature Review1 x 2,000 End of Term Videogame review34.00
Essay1 x 3,000 End of term Essay66.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 22/05/2023 10:56:46


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019