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11-03-2020 | Issue 1/2020

The Computer Games Journal 1/2020

Games Education Within the Broader Liberal Arts

Journal:
The Computer Games Journal > Issue 1/2020
Author:
Josh Fishburn

Abstract

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), there are currently 519 games programs at higher education institutions in the United States (Entertainment Software Association 2019). The Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA)’s 2019 “Survey of Program Graduates” finds that ‘520 institutions offered 1200 + game-related programs and degrees in 2018’ (Phelps et al. 2019, p. 14). Although some of these programs are professionally oriented undergraduate and graduate game design, game studies, game arts, and/or game development programs, others are situated within broader disciplines like computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, and visual and performing arts programs (Steinkuehler et al. 2015, p. 3). Given the geographic distribution of the institutions that offer games programs, the geographic concentration of game industry jobs, and the distribution of the respondents to the survey, I believe it is a fair assumption that there are more students enrolled in academic games programs in the U.S. than there are available entry-level jobs in the games industry. Given that situation, this paper attempts to answer the question: “What are games courses for in a broader interdisciplinary media arts program at a liberal arts college?” It is part autoethnography, part case study, and part position paper, as it acknowledges the specific circumstances of my own game design education and experience. As such, it is a story of my open-ended games education followed by my tacit acceptance and self-imposition of the hegemonic culture of games as primarily economic production. Then, as I went into teaching, a story of my subsequent burnout, eventual reflection on, and acceptance of my academic origins and the origins of my current academic program. I conclude by offering a possible framework for situating a games curriculum as a liberal art by using William Cronon’s essay “Only Connect…: The Goals of a Liberal Education” (1998) as a framing device.

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