Undergraduate Videogame Symposium


Symposium level-up!  

We went to Phoenix Comicon
Our first symposium was a success. 
  • Attendees: Over 105
  • Pizzas consumed: 24
  • Academic guest speakers: 2
  • Non-academic guest speakers: 1
  • Deans involved: 2
  • Provosts involved: 1
  • Student presenters: 27
Our blog contains reflection posts by some of the attendees, our school newspaper did a before and after article, and one student even produced a narrated slideshow.  
We look forward to seeing you all next year! 

Portals across disciplines

The Interdisciplinary Writing Program presents The Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Video Game Symposium, March 29th 2014.
Our opening guest speaker, Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel, discusses her outlook on the symposium and her personal experience with videogame studies: 


Without fail I was the first one dead. When I played games with my brother-in-laws we played Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. I lacked map reading and interpreting skills. I also lacked understanding of the game world and where to find items and hiding spaces. I played games, but I couldn’t compete with them (I still prefer ‘casual games’).

During grad school, as I began learning about literacy practices outside reading and writing skills in academia, I began to realize the games they played more often helped them develop very robust map reading and game world understanding skills (I wasn’t playing the right games for my skills to compete with theirs). After reading What videogames have to teach us about learning and literacy I began to see how important theseideas should be for education and curriculum.

Not only do gamers explore rich worlds with history, story, and artifacts, thus engaging with content, they also learn to navigate maps, navigate obstacles, think critically about issues and make critical character decisions quickly. The practices valued in education - understanding course content, critical thinking and analyzing - thrive in videogames.

Games like Grand Theft Auto continue to create rich, interactive worlds, with complex maps and obstacles. Despite the notoriety for violence, these games encourage gamers to interact with worlds, to build characters and to make important decisions to advance their game play. Gamers regularly encounter difficult tasks and complete rigorous objectives within game play; in some instances gamers do not enjoy these tasks and objectives. But, they interact with and make informed decisions within the guidelines of the game to advance their play. They engage in rhetorical arguments with the coding of games every time they play. Gamers have untapped literacy skills and learning engagement that educators dream about. In modifying these concepts for education, I investigate these practices so they can be used and mimicked within education to help students better engage with the material of the classroom to improve learning and critical thinking. I’m most interested in how these principles can be applied within online classrooms to increase student engagement in these courses. However, many other academics study very different areas of videogames, which is why I want this conference to be a space to explore areas of videogame study.

Ultimately, I want this conference to showcase a variety of approaches to discussing videogames, learning and critical thinking. I look forward to conversations about learning and literacy, especially game specific literacy practices. Additionally, I look forward to discussing play and engaged learning. All aspects of academia care about learning and critical thinking, which makes videogame one of the bestinterdisciplinary topics to explore ideas of learning, critical thinking and videogames from various disciplinary perspectives.


As a rhetorician, I’m looking forward to discussions from Computer Science majors about programming decisions into games, they’re essentially programming rhetorical theory into code to be experienced and played by gamers. That’s amazing to me.

I’m also very excited to bring Dr. Elisabeth Gee to our conference as a guest speaker to discuss gaming. At Arizona State, Dr. Hayes teaches classes on videogames, learning and literacy in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation. Within these classes, Dr. Hayes pushes graduate students to rethink curricular approaches to teaching. I found these courses helped me consider how students learn and experience writing in various forms, principles that have informed my approach to teaching in the classroom. Outside the classroom, these principles transform how researchers and citizens think about learning, reading and writing. In addition to all her work with the Education students, Dr. Hayes works with the ASU Center for Games and Impact to help undergraduate Education majors learn about literacy learning and ways of teaching literacies in elementary education classrooms. Finally, Dr. Hayes recently co-authored a book with James Paul Gee, “Women and Gaming” exploring the ways women learn and interact in The Sims. Her focus on women and gaming has been influential in my own research of women using the internet and game fan sites.

We encourage student proposals from all disciplines. We will engage and complicate discussions on the impact of video games in areas such as music, business, physics, philosophy, animation, rhetoric, engineering, gender, and ethnicity on March 29, 2014 from 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. in Liberal Arts rooms 120, 136, with academic narrated gameplay in room 123.   

See our schedule.


See our first flyer.

See our current flyer.  

See our proposal workshop flyer.

Guest speakers 

Erik Kain is a technology and videogame reporter and critic for Forbes magazine.  He reviews games, consumer rights, industry trends, and culture.  His articles can be found here.    

Dr. Betty Gee has an extensive history in gaming studies including authoring and editing multiple books on gaming, contributing to the founding of the Games, Learning, & Society research collective at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and is currently a fellow with the Teachers College Center for Games and Impact at ASU.

Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel completed her doctorate studies at ASU in English rhetoric composition with a focus on gaming, theories of play, and gaming and literacy. She is currently a faculty member at NAU under the College of Arts and Letters and shares her passion about gaming and interactive culture with her students.

Important dates

Do You Play?: Videogames and Learning
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
5:30 P.M. - 7:00 P.M.
Murdoch Center

Philosophy in the Public Interest and the IWP invite you to join us for a community discussion about the impact of videogames on education and our daily lives.