Video Games journalism class debuts at University of Iowa

The twenty students in Kyle Moody’s “Specialized Writing and Reporting: Video Games and Communication” class will meet this evening for the third time in a University of Iowa classroom.

The school launched the class this semester because “computer gaming is as much a part of our lives as movies or journalism,” says Iowa j-school director David D. Perlmutter. “It deserves the same rigorous standards of reporting and analysis.”

Moody believes this is the first time “a major research university has offered a class like this.”

It’s not surprising that “Video Games and Communication” is popular — “I did have to turn many students away,” says the teacher — and has a mostly male enrollment. “I do wish more female journalism students would join the course since there is a demand for female video game journalists.” (Moody recommends Leigh Alexander’s recently published essay on games journalism, “as her views reflect my concerns about gender issues and the maturity of games journalists.”)

I was curious about the video games class structure and assignments, and asked Moody if he’d forward his syllabus, which he did.

His detailed syllabus says that “it is the aim of the class to teach students to write about video games and electronic media as part of their professional development as journalists” and “explore how journalism affects the video game industry and the persons involved in it.”

It will then delve into critical thought towards how video games function as communication of narratives, social ideas, cultural norms, and gendered, racial, and sexual dimensions. Students are expected to be able to write meaningfully and effectively about digital games from a critical-cultural evaluative framework. By doing this, you will also be able to develop writing skills of effective critics, skills that are required for today’s technological and cultural journalists and bloggers.

Moody adds: “I expect that you will treat this class as an opportunity for professional development and engaged learning, not as your personal recess period.”

Required books:

* “All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Video Games Conquered Pop Culture” by Harold Goldberg.

* “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” by Tom Bissell

Moody also has students reading several magazine and newspaper articles, including:

* “Video games can never be art,” by Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)
* “Detectives: Murder motive may have been video game fantasy,” a news story by Joel Moreno (Seattle PI)
* “From bullies to heroes: Homophobia in video games,” by (
* “One Night in Skyrim Makes a Strong Man Crumble,” by Tom Biseell (Grantland)

Students are required to keep a play log, or a “plog” — notes taken while playing or watching video games. Moody advises:

You do not have to buy the latest videogame console or title for these “play logs” and feature writing responses to count. I encourage you to note any game that you play for these logs because the skill here isn’t designed around the game you play, but rather how well you discuss this playing method. The game can be as simple as Tetris, Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, or as complex as Starcraft, World of Warcraft, or Portal.

For their final project, students have to write a 1,000 to 1,500-word game review or feature. (A video presentation is also acceptable.) “I want this project to be an entry into a portfolio of work that you will take with you to any prospective employers in the video game industry,” Moody tells his aspiring journalists.

Kyle Moody

I asked him about his interest in video games and his favorites.

I’ve played video games since I was young, with a keen interest in adventure games, action titles and puzzle games. My favorite games are those that combine elements of all three genres, from Portal to Shadow of the Colossus to Tetris Attack and Half-Life. I don’t play as often as I wish I could due to academic and professional obligations, but I do try to carve out some time for gaming on the weekends.

“I would certainly love to teach this class again in the future,” he says, “and there has been a tremendous positive response from persons in and out of the university.”

* IGN partners with University of Iowa to kick off video game journalism program (
* Video game journalism goes to college (