Video Game Design: Students Learn Storytelling and Composition in New EWL/COMM Course

September 24, 2018
  • Professor Karina Popp
    Carly Schneider
In Karina Popp’s Video Game Storytelling, a new class in the Literature and Media concentration, students are both studying and playing as they navigate story design, player interaction, and the importance of collaboration.

Professor Karina Popp had always been interested in video games, but as an undergraduate Literature major, she didn’t think gaming was something she could study. “I thought it was a thing computer science people did,” she explains.

After earning her Bachelor’s degree, Karina enrolled in New York University’s Game Design program and, with an initial intention to focus on the academic side of gaming, learned that actually designing games was fun, too. Since graduating in 2016, Karina has done both; writing and presenting scholarly articles on the subject, as well as designing her own games, including Nuovo Award-nominated Ten Mississippi. “I’m especially interested in humor, parody, satire and ontology of ‘being’ in a video game, particularly using Queer theory,” she adds.

About the Class

This semester’s class, Video Game Storytelling, focuses on the ways in which telling a story through game is different from other media. At this point in the semester, Karina’s class is focusing on player interaction and the idea that game designers have a co-author,  the player. “Very often those players want to have some sort of say in what’s happening,” Karina explains. “And, you have to design around that idea of letting people also feel ownership of the game that they’re playing.”

Throughout the course, students are combining academic readings, game design, and game playing through a combination of card and non-digital games, free online in-browser play, and group games during class.

While Professor Popp says there’s no distinct type of game design student, she does say there are crucial skills to advance in the industry. “I think the most important skill is being good at collaboration. When it comes to game design, you’re almost always relying on other people,” she says. “I often make my games alone, I prefer to work solo, but even then I’m still working with my peers getting feedback, having them help me on something that I’m stuck on. So, collaboration, if you’re looking to get into game design, if by far the most important aspect.”

We can’t wait to see what your students create!