Fall 2021 - ENGL 383 D100

Studies in Popular Literature and Culture (4)

Telling Stories Through Games

Class Number: 4344

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    RCB 5118, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units or two 200 division English courses.



A study of popular literature and its cultural contexts. May be defined by genre, author, period, or critical approach. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught, though students who obtained credit for ENGL 363 prior to Summer 2015 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


Roll a D20 to Hit: telling stories through games

The COVID pandemic has witnessed, and perhaps generated, an explosion in gaming. Board-game sales have reached an all-time high; table-top role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons have become immensely popular; video games generate billions of dollars a year in profit. Many, if not most, of these games are narrative driven. That is, they tell stories and those stories draw upon literary archetypes or directly reference classic literature. The more sophisticated of them represent complex fictional characters whose struggles produce storylines so compelling that they are spun off into novels and films. In this course we will study the narratology of gaming, looking at board games, table-top role-playing games, and video games (in that order) and seek to answer the question, can games be literature? Please note: this is not a course in games or game design; it is a course in the literary experiences that games can generate.

Because it is not practical for all students to play all the games we may discuss, the course will rely heavily on student presentations. Be prepared to talk about all three types of games. Students may have the opportunity to work with the narrative mechanics of games in class. 


  • Explore the literary nature of narrative games.
  • Literary mindedness. Understand the complex role of language and text in making the world and our perceptions of it.
  • Literary knowledge. Attain knowledge of the histories, forms, principles, and contexts of literary expression to the present moment.
  • Analytical proficiency. Develop skills in analyzing and interpreting language and text, broadly defined.
  • Research proficiency. Develop directed and independent research skills.
  • Argumentation and communications agility. Design cogent written and oral arguments advancing informed claims about language and literary cultures, their expression, and their contexts.
  • Cultural literacy. Learn to use language, its history, and its capacities to engage with the ideas of others.


  • Three presentations 45%
  • Short paper 20%
  • Major paper 30%
  • Participation and attendance 5%


Note: Students will give a short presentation on all three types of games. The short paper may be based on one of those presentations. The major paper must deal with a different type of game than was covered in the short paper.

Please note: some games represent acts of violence. Please do not take this course if you find such representations triggering or upsetting.



Students will be provided with scholarly articles on ludology (gaming) and narratology. Students will need to either purchase or borrow all three types of games. Many table-top role-playing games and some video games and board games can be had for free. Resources for those will be provided.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.