Don’t walk into Professor Scott W. Palmer’s “History of Video Games” class expecting to learn more about the development of Nintendo or fun facts about popular game franchises. Instead, prepare for what Dr. Palmer calls an “edutainment adventure” that’s both serious and fun. (So much so that those words are the official tagline for the course: “Serious. Fun.”) Students experience a complex exploration of the technological, cultural, and various other forces that have shaped—and been shaped by—electronic amusements, from the 1950s to the present day.
“Studying the history of video games should be taken seriously because you touch on so many facets of the liberal and fine arts.”
“We use a very popular thing—video games—to explore larger issues in the history of not just America, but global societies and cultures,” he says. “At the same time, we uncover the interaction between technological developments and the ways in which games are played, the content that goes into those games, and how you have a symbiotic relationship between technological development in gaming and broader culture.”
Over the course of the semester, students explore a range of topics, including the origins and evolution of gaming technologies, the interaction of video games and popular culture, gaming aesthetics, the politics and economics of games and gaming, gamer culture, and much more.
“Studying the history of video games should be taken seriously because you touch on many facets of the liberal and fine arts—history, philosophy, political science, art and design, art history, architecture—it’s all part of it,” he says. “The class ultimately encourages students to think seriously about things they otherwise wouldn’t think about at all. But I believe if you’re going to take anything seriously, you should have fun while doing it.”