Power Games: Identity and Social Justice in Game Studies and Design

Fall 2022
Winter 2023
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
8 Credits per quarter
Log in to add this offering to your saved list.
Taught by

How do games invite us to represent, explore, and question social identities and systems? Games of all types function as both metaphors and codes against which our own identities reverberate. At the same time, games are strategic and boundaried: during play, our decisions and actions enfold us in the game’s values and shared assumptions.

Program members will consider representation by analyzing the material and formal qualities of board, digital, and story-based games. Our hands-on exploration, in particular, will center on the ways games and game design inscribe cultural dynamics, systems, and values in purposeful objects and actions. We’ll focus on and across gender, race, queer, trans, indigenous, age, and disability identities as we do this work.

Learning activities will include reading about and seminaring on the design and structure of physical and digital games, a weekly lab for playing examples of these games that manifest key themes, and design studio time for hands-on creative work. The intent is to stimulate and articulate our thinking about representing and interacting with identity and social justice issues in and through games. This inquiry will mesh with exploration of ways game creators (including ourselves) can inspire ideas and actions in players -- the prompting of meaningful play. Students will complete design projects, and also writing assignments that include academic essays, technical writing (game rules and documentation), and game reviews.

We welcome those who aren’t experienced as gamers, designers, artists, or activists.This program is appropriate for those with an introductory level of knowledge and skills and is open to more advanced students seeking breadth in their studies. Willingness to learn technical and sequential design practices and to engage with topics related to identity, difference, and power structures in society are essential. Listening and learning across diverse lived experiences will be vital to our work toward equity, responsibility, community, and the development of capacities that can contribute to social justice and transformative change.

Fall quarter does not include opportunities for video game design.We do not plan to admit new students in winter quarter.Creative practices in fall quarter involve modification and design of physical games individually and in groups, with support for positive and inclusive collaborations.  In winter quarter, students may undertake more open-ended, ongoing collaborative projects or individual projects within peer support groups. Although faculty will not provide instruction in digital game design, students with relevant experience or the ability to undertake some independent technical learning may propose digital projects.

Credit equivalencies of the program include: digital media studies, analog game studies, cultural studies, introductory board game design, and technical and review writing.


Fall 2022 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 10154
Winter 2023 Registration

Academic details

Preparatory For

education, game design, general design, interactive digital media, technical writing, social justice advocacy

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing
Special Expenses

Program participants should expect to purchase some game design supplies (roughly $25-$35, dependent on project choices) and to pay as much as $50 each quarter for games.


In Person or Remote
In Person (F)
In Person (W)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

Art Annex 2103 - Art Studio