Teaching in the Age of the Internet, Test Case: The Guild

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today, a dream came true for me: I taught The Guild!

I thought I would reproduce my lesson plan for anyone who might be interested in teaching The Guild.  This was in the context of an intro to popular culture course, but I think it would be appropriate to a transmedia day in a film class, or any day in a new media class.  It’s like a recipe post for people who teach!  With links instead of ingredients.

1) To start, I showed the MMO isle on the two versions of xkcd’s map of online communities. I then talked about the differences between the two maps, methodological questions about representing internet culture (# of users, amount of engagement by # of messages sent, depth of engagement?), as well as looming Facebook, and my projections for the internet in 2020. Pointed to “awkwardly public family interactions,” of course. I talked about the decision to represent internet culture as a tiny subset of “spoken language.” I then got students to weigh in on Farmville, which I was glad about, because I got linked to this article about “Facebook Games and the Privileged People Who Oppose Them” yesterday, and wanted to learn more.  I’ve never played myself, and certainly had some reductive preconceptions.  On that note, I talked about what constitutes a discrete versus embedded subculture in the context of the map — what does it mean that Farmville is contiguous with Facebook, but the MMO isle is, well, an isle?

2) Showed the World of Warcraft “Guide” page, emphasizing transmedia storytelling, character creation, and guilds.

3) Went through The Guild comics, using my handy document camera. Showed how Cyd’s life looked pre-MMO, her first therapy panel, her attraction to the sexualized female character on the game packaging, her character formation, meeting Clara, and finally, the beauty of the in-game action represented within the comics.  I explained that the comics prequel came out after Season 3 had aired, but that I wanted to follow Cyd’s journey chronologically.

4) Showed Felicia Day’s blog, told a bit of her story at the periphery of the industry.  (Students were not surprised to hear she was a Buffy alum, as I’d already screened “Witch” and “Normal Again,” not to mention the Angel episode, “Blind Date.”)  Then, I showed “(Do You Wanna) Date My Avatar,” and talked about how many different “ways in” to The Guild there are, and about how the universe provides you with the vocabulary you need to understand it.

5) Showed the clip where Felicia Day teaches Jimmy Fallon how to create his character, asked for stories about the process of being invited to “join” a game.

6) Showed “Game On,” and talked a bit about cultural appropriation.  I thought it was important to talk about this in the context of the collective authorship of The Guild.

7) Showed the theme song from The Legend of Neil in order to introduce Sandeep Parikh’s particular brand of comedy.

8 ) Finally showed episode 1 of The Guild, “Wake-up Call.” Had a conversation about the inter-generational components and gender presentation online.  I had originally been planning to show a full season, but because I wanted to offer such a broad survey in this course, and because one can’t expect students to be intimately familiar with the world of MMOs, I ultimately decided it was best to provide as much background as possible instead.  If it were a film class, and I was showing The Guild as part of a week on transmedia storytelling or web innovations, I might have insisted on a full season in order to address the narrative units of the episode and season as they function differently from the paratexts.  But in the context of intro to popular culture, I think I’d rather think about the process of “getting into” something than the more abstracted analysis.  With popular culture, I feel like the question is more “is this for you?” than “does this cohere?”

9) Finally, I went over this book review of a collection I’ve got to get my hands on, and talked about academic approaches to internet culture, and what academics seem to be especially excited about re: World of Warcraft.  I talked a bit about Matt Hills’ comments about academic versions of fan cultures being essentially idealized university spaces.

10) And finally, because it’s the holiday season, I played the Christmas Raid Carol!

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