Spring 2020 - SA 360 J100

Special Topics in Sociology and Anthropology (SA) (4)

The Social Lives of Video Games

Class Number: 3129

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Wed, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Bascom Guffin
    Office: SRYC 5187
    Office Hours: Th 16:00-17:00, or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



A seminar exploring a topic not regularly offered by the department.


This course will examine the increasingly important role of video games in social and cultural life and discourse, and will consider how games might be mobilized to enhance understanding of the human condition and the world around us. Topics will include the anthropology of how games get made; social interactions in video games; race, gender, and sexual identity in video gaming; and how the structure and content of video games can be used to express and interpret anthropological and sociological ideas and stories in unique ways. You will read and view critical and ethnographic pieces on video games, gaming, and game creation; play and analyze selected games; and create a game design proposal as part of a team. This will be a work-heavy course and you will be expected to keep up with course requirements every week.


  • Class participation and attendance 15%
  • Weekly materials synopsis and reflection 15%
  • Technical project and reflection: Small game scene 5%
  • Statement of principles 5%
  • Initial proposal presentation 10%
  • Final game proposal 25%
  • Team assessments 10%
  • Critical reflection on process 15%


Grades in this class will be based on a percentage scale. Synopses and Reflections will not be accepted after 1:30 p.m. the Tuesday before class; late submissions for all other assignments will result in a grade reduction of 5 percentage points per day, unless you present documentation for a medical reason or other significant emergency. With the exception of Reading Encapsulations, you must complete all graded assignments in this course or you will receive a final grade of N.

: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



Required games (playable on a variety of platforms):

  • 1979 Revolution: Black Friday
  • Broken Age
  • Kisima Ingitchuna (Never Alone)
  • Papers, Please
  • That Dragon, Cancer
  • This War of Mine
One or more games may change prior to the start of the course. You will also be required to play other games chosen from a provided list, or of your own choosing if approved by the instructor.


All required readings and videos are available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online.

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