Critical Game Studies

Module code: MS7218

Module co-ordinator: Dr Alison Harvey

Video games are an increasing important creative media form, and they have been the object of great academic inquiry in the last two decades. In this module, we will focus on a particular stream of digital games studies that considers the relationship between social and technological elements of games, including on the one hand the player, the producer, the critic and the artist - and on the other hand, the controller, the console, the network and the algorithm. This has been called ‘the socio-technical assemblage of play’. In order to understand this assemblage, we will draw on theories from science and technology studies to understand a range of issues and questions in digital games culture.

In this module, we will consider in particular ‘serious’ dimensions of digital games. We will look at their history, production, marketing, content, context of play and culture, and at how these can be sites for the expression and perpetuation of exclusion, marginalisation and oppression. We will also explore ways in which games as technologies can offer opportunities for change and resistance to unequal power relations.

Topics covered

  • Central debates in game studies
  • Overlapping concepts in game studies and science and technology studies
  • The role of algorithms and platforms in the study of digital games
  • Questions of inclusivity in digital games play, culture, and production
  • Art, ethics, and politics in digital games


  • 9 three-hour lectures
  • 1 half-day museum visit


  • 'Filling the Gaps' written activities, 1,500 words (45%)
  • Final research essay, 3,000 words (55%)