Digital Games and Culture

Module code: MS3011

Module co-ordinators: Dr Alison Harvey and Dr Natasha Whiteman

Module Outline

Digital games are one of the top-selling entertainment industries as well as a popular and commonplace leisure activity. Over the past two decades they have also become important objects of academic study, with the development of the field of 'games studies' signalling their growing economic, social and cultural significance. This module will consider recent shifts in game play and design, as well as key historical developments in gaming, in order to better understand the place of digital games in everyday life.

We will review a wide range of activities related to digital games, from their play to their modification and adaptation to their design, and look at the communities that form around these practices, including DIY game-makers, independent grassroots initiatives, professional organisations, 'e-sports' players and 'hardcore' fans.

Digital games are a global industry, and we will examine a range of contexts in which games are created. This will include an exploration of the workings of the major commercial games industry, as well as the manufacture of independent games produced for a range of purposes from art to social commentary to health to journalism. We will also look at the ways that game design mechanics are being taken up in marketing and business contexts via a trend called gamification.

Through this consideration of a range of settings and practices, you will critically examine key issues related to identity, creativity, sociality, politics and economics. From this, you will gain a sense of how and why digital games and game play need to be taken seriously as an aspect of contemporary culture.

Topics covered

  • Cultures of digital games play, modification, and design
  • Communities formed around digital games
  • The social, culture, and political significance of digital games in everyday life
  • Identity and digital games culture
  • Digital games beyond entertainment
  • Political economy and digital games culture
  • The global context of digital games and culture


  • 10 weekly sessions of three hours combining lecture and small group seminar discussions


  • Three sets of 750-word blog posts providing targeted analysis on the cultural dimensions and implications of game design, industry developments and community norms
  • Essay, 2,000 words