Summer 2023 - SA 443 E100

Ethnographic Sensibility in Action (A) (4)

Social Lives of Video Games

Class Number: 3874

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Wed, 5:30–9:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Bascom Guffin
    Office: TBD
    Office Hours: By appointment, in person or online
  • Prerequisites:

    Minimum of 72 units including either SA 101 or SA 150.



Selected Topics in Anthropology. Seminar exploring the topic through discussion, and developing original ideas that engage with anthropological theory and methods. Course topic varies with the instructor and section. See detailed course outline for more information. SA 443 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


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.


As a successful learner in this course, you will learn to:

• Use Actor-Network Theory and related concepts to ethnographically reflect on and describe processes and dynamics involved in designing a video game

• Describe unique attributes of video games as a medium of communication, and how these attributes convey meaning

• Mobilize social theory to analyze the form and content of video games as social and cultural constructs, both as individual games and as genres

• Link the form and content of video games to social and cultural phenomena, as both influencing and being influenced by them

• Use video game design as a medium to express and interpret sociological and anthropological ideas

• Design and present a game proposal that reflects particular social principles and/or tells a particular social story as an effective member of a creative team


  • Class Participation and Attendance 15%
  • Weekly Materials Synoposis 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%


Grading: Grades in this class will be based on a percentage scale. Synopses and Reflections will not be accepted after 10:00 a.m. the day of class; late submissions for all other assignments will result in a grade reduction of 5 percentage points per day, except for medical reasons or other significant emergency. With the exception of the weekly Synopses and Reflections, you must complete all graded assignments in this course or you will receive a final grade of N. 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 Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). 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.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved! Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages!




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


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


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.