Special Events

Unleashing Nostalgia: 'Video Games and Playful Media' Class Explores the Past and Future of Gaming

Special Events
17 Oct, 2023

Unleashing Nostalgia: 'Video Games and Playful Media' Class Explores the Past and Future of Gaming

The sound most often heard on Monday mornings at the UC Berkeley Library is the barely stifled yawn, or occasionally, the heavy sigh while turning a textbook page.

But on a recent Monday — at 9 a.m., no less — laughter erupted into the hallway outside the Library Makerspace. Inside, the giggling was punctuated by expressions such as “Ahhhhh, so close” and “Oh, my God,” as well as a few exclamations that wouldn’t be appropriate for this story.

What otherworldly power could energize college students at that early hour?

The electric charm of retro video games.

The students’ visit, one of two interactive play sessions held in 190 Doe Library last week, came as part of the popular course “Video Games and Playful Media.” The class introduces students to the study of games, play, and media, and examines the nature of games and their role in society, said Emma Fraser, an assistant teaching professor in media studies and in the Berkeley Center for New Media.

“My students are studying games history and gaming cultures, and this course allows them to understand some of that history more intimately,” Fraser said. “(They) also analyze games as they were originally played, including elements like character representation.”

If learning outcomes could be evaluated by smiles, the 40-plus students in the class were clearly leveling up on their knowledge. Groups gathered around each of the 10 playing stations, where they could use gaming systems spanning four decades, from the original Atari 2600 (1977) to the Game Boy Advance (2001). Students took turns on the consoles, or played together. They also made notes about their experiences, to be used for an upcoming midterm.

Read more about this interactive playing session here!

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