Course Information

680V is a graduate seminar that traces the use of virtual worlds as productive writing spaces from building “MOOsays”, conferencing, and holding discussions in the text based MOO/MUD through networking and ethos building in Linden Labs’ Second Life and writing possibilities in Massively Multiplayer Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Not only have these spaces proven to engage writing students, but they have proven to be generative writing spaces for students interested in both professional writing and ethos building and analysis, research, and ethnographic writing.

The list of required books is in the Course Materials section. The books have been ordered at both Von's and Borders, but can usually be found online for a discounted price.

I have decided to break the course into three parts:

I. Writing in Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at the writing/composing that makes up the virtual space. Here is might be the narrative of the game, the code of the MOO, the composition of the world itself, or anything else that comes to mind.

II. Writing with Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at how virtual worlds can be used in the writing classroom. As with the preceding section we’ll start historically and move forward. We’ll read about how virtual worlds have been used in the writing/composition classroom and then move forward to how they are being used now and where we can go from here.

III: Writing about Virtual Worlds: Here be the research component. We’ll look at the research that is done on virtual worlds per se. We can talk about the difference between narratology and ludology and everything in between. Here we can look at rhetoric, process, programming, procedure, etc. and the value that these things have on their own or as a smaller component of something else.

Required games to play (Choose one from each category). Now if you are already heavily into a game on the list I am going to ask that you choose a different game. You will, however, be able to discuss and add to the experiences of folks who are playing your favorite for the first time. This means that Alex can't play WoW for class and Adam Strantz can't play Scribblenauts (just because I don't mention you by name here doesn't mean that I don't know what you are playing! (-; )

MOOs/MUDs: i.e. Lambda, MediaMOO, narrative based MUD (like the Lord of the Rings one, The Two Towers)

MMORPGs: i.e. WoW, LoTHRO, City of Heroes/City of Villians, Everquest

RPGs/RPG elements: i.e. Oblivion, Fallout 3, Heavy Rain (PS3), BioShock, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, (Super)Paper Mario, Hotel Dusk (DS), Again (DS), Dragon Age: Origins, Torchlight (PC or Mac), Final Fantasy (all on all platforms), Animal Crossing (DS or Wii)

Others: i.e. Scribblenauts (DS), Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS), Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS), Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Star Wars, Fat Princess, Braid, The Mis-Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, New Super Mario Brothers Wii

Course Expectations: In order to accomplish the course goals, you must come to each class prepared. This means coming to class on time, as well as completing your readings and outside assignments. Active and informed participation in class discussions and collaborative work is also crucial. In terms of writing assignments, you will be required to complete two presentation papers (ten points each (20)), one seminar paper proposal (ten points each), fieldwork journals (thirty points), and one semester project (forty points). Late assignments will only be accepted with the prior specific permission of the instructor and will be penalized 10% for every calendar day late.

Grading Scale: The grading scale for this course is straightforward with no curve.

100-90 A
89-80 B
79-70 C
69-60 D
59-below F

Note about Incompletes: The mark of ‘I’ is inappropriate if, in the instructor’s judgment, it will be necessary for the student regularly to attend subsequent sessions of the class. I will give an Incomplete only in cases of extreme emergency.

Class Participation & Assignments: This is one of the most important components to the success of the course. All reading and outside assignments are to be completed prior to class. This means reading carefully and critically, bringing materials to class, and coming prepared to engage with the ideas and your class. Each student is required to prepare a 15-20 minute presentation based upon one of the texts twice in the semester. This presentation can be a response based upon what is covered in the course or course texts and specific areas of interest (i.e. video game theory and the representations of people of Middle Eastern descent in video games since 9/11).

Attendance: Attendance is welcomed, expected, and mandatory. To best utilize our time, come to class on time. You are considered absent if 1) you are more than 15 minutes late and/or 2) you are unprepared for class. There will be regular in-class work to record your attendance and preparation for class. You may miss two (2) sessions without penalty. For every class after the these two, I will lower your final grade by five points. After two absences you must attend a conference with me to discuss whether you should continue in this course. Four absences constitute automatic failure of the course.

Conferences and Contact: I am open to discussing matters pertaining to the course, readings, and your writing; please feel free to contact me via email or phone as well as in person. I hope you will also take advantage of my office hours and email.

Academic Dishonesty:

Cheating: All written work submitted for a grade in this course must be the product of your own composition. Ideas generated due to reading and group discussion may provide the inspiration for your work, but should not be the sole ideas represented. With collaborative projects, of course, ideas should be representative of the group’s work.

Plagiarism is the act of presenting as your own work another individual’s ideas, words, data, or research material. The concept applies equally to written, spoken, or electronic texts, published or unpublished. All ideas and quotations that you borrow from any source must be acknowledged: at a minimum, you should give the name of your author, the title of the text cited, and the page number(s) of the citation. The only exceptions to this requirement would involve what is familiar and commonly held (e.g. the fact that the earth is round). You should know that penalties for plagiarism are severe and can entail suspension from the University. Students are responsible for reading and understanding the University policy on Cheating and Plagiarism set forth in Purdue University’s Academic Integrity: A Guide for Students available at

Classroom Behavior: I am sure that at this level this goes without saying, but here goes. Insults, slurs, or attacks of any kind will not be allowed in my class. Any student who engages in this type of behavior in the classroom will be permanently removed from the class. In other words, forced to drop the course, in addition to other possible punishment given by Purdue University (See the Purdue University Student Code of Conduct Available at In order to have an effective teaching and learning environment we must practice both respect and tolerance, without question.