Study Skyrim at Rice University

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Study Skyrim at Rice University

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A new course studies Scandinavian lore through the latest Elder Scrolls entry.

I don't know about you, but once I got through the prerequisites for my major, I took some pretty cool courses in college: Mammalian Evolution, Environmental Ethics, even Intro to Video Game Design. My school didn't offer anything like what Rice University has planned for next semester, though. The prestigious Texas institution will teach a course entitled "Scandinavian Fantasy Worlds: Old Norse Sagas and Skyrim" through its English department, which will explore the folklore, myth, and literature of Northern Europe through the lens of the hit Elder Scrolls game.

Professor Donna Beth Ellard will be taking charge of the semester-long endeavor. "[Students] will read selections from Old Norse and Old Icelandic sagas (in translation) as they play different quests within Skyrim," she writes in the course description. Ellard's students will cover a wide breadth of topics during the semester, including the psychology behind "fantasy" in gamer culture, the political struggle in Skyrim and what it represents, and how Scandinavian myth shaped modern Anglo-American fantasy. "The purpose of establishing these connections is to then consider how elements of medieval Scandinavian culture have been taken out of historical milieu and literary context," Ellard explains, "morphed into unfamiliar shape, and appropriated towards other fantastic pursuits."

Videogames and academic pursuits are already familiar bedfellows when it comes to technology, entertainment, economics, and sociology. However, this may mark the first time that a major university has used videogames to analyze literature in an academic setting, at least on this side of the Pacific. If you're at Rice and sign up for this course, just remember that the course's primary thrust is still reading literature. Too much time spent playing Skyrim and not enough doing coursework might upset the professor, and we all know what happens when academics shout "fus ro dah!"

Source: Rice University via Eurogamer

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Well, analysis on famous works of art and literary compositions seems to be commonplace in the academic field. Barring the whole "Games are(n't) art" argument, which I just sidestepped like no one's business while it was the hot thing to debate, I can at least say The Elder Scrolls games are indeed a literary composition of sorts. And they're also famous.

So I feel justified in saying:
Funnest. Literature class. Ever.

Why can't I still be in college and be at that university to take that class?

That's just too damn awesome.

I will say that's a pretty neat area of discussion and it's nice to see a university use games as a spring board for actually learning something that most people would otherwise dismiss.

Scandinavian culture and history is awesome. :D

Now I wish I had the money to go to Rice :( It's seriously down the street, I wonder how hard it would be to sneak in?

Academics have been looking at videogames in the context of literary analysis since the 1980s. A lot of the early research is rough and sparse, but it's there. Still, sounds like it could be a good course if it's managed well, but that's always the trick for any teacher.

Marshall Honorof:
If you're at Rice and sign up for this course, just remember that the course's primary thrust is still reading literature.

Dude, Skyrim's primary thrust is reading literature!

Really?

Ok, in this case I want to teach an another course in that university
"Phallic instincts: man's fascination with his genitals"
It will be about cock-aliens in Spore and building golden cock monuments in Minecraft, and some boring stuff related to that.

P.S. I love Elder Scrolls to death, but this seems a bit too silly.

Captcha: sacred cow
Yes, you could say it is.

Well that's neat. I foresee a loooooooong waiting list and many misconceptions over what the class is about. It's not play game and get grades haha.

Seriously? You're going to analyse Anglo-European fantasy, and you're going to use fucking Skyrim to do so? Skyrim's just a collection of fantasy tropes already created by other fantasy writers and settings. If you do want to compare Scandinavian literature with modern fantasy, then as ubiquitous as it is, surely Lord Of The Rings would make for a better comparison? After all, it invented the western-fantasy setting so prevalent today, and it's directly based off Scandinavian myths and legends.

It's not like Skyrim is all that consistent or strong in its internal setting. The lore only exists to serve the needs of the gameplay and the player. As soon as you look at it outside of that context, it all falls apart.

Actually, I've got a proposition of my own:

Intelligent tummies: the beauty of your own navel

Professor J-e-f-f-e-r-s will be leading a semester-long study looking the human navel, and the art of Omphaloskepsis. Many cultures believe that the navel is a centre of knowledge, and that it houses powerful chakra. Over the semester, students will be asked to analyse their own belly buttons, and see what powerful new insights they can gain about themselves. The purpose of this is to establish how pretentious modern education has become, and how gratifying it is to masturbate to shallow intellectualism while learning nothing of any real intellectual value at all. All students upon passing the course will be presented with a Bachelor of Pretentious Art, giving them an academic grounding on which to base their meaningless waffle.

Marshall Honorof:
"[Students] will read selections from Old Norse and Old Icelandic sagas (in translation) as they play different quests within Skyrim," she writes in the course description.

The image of those students racing through Labyrinthian to finish their homework ten minutes before class and skimming GameFAQs to cram for exams is cracking me up. But unfortunately:

the course's primary thrust is still reading literature.

I'm afraid there are going to be a lot of disillusioned students reading hundreds of really dry papers and feeling misled. lol

What courses universities decide to offer is their own business.

I can't help feeling though, why would anybody waste their money getting a degree in such a worthless course? What employer is going to give a damn about it? If I was going to get myself into debt so that I stood a chance of getting a better career, I'd make sure I achieved a qualification that would actually help me.

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

This seems pretty stupid. It sounds like they were just looking to fill seats and decided to pander through shoving a recent popular video game into a normal course on mythology.

Could be good though, who knows.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Seriously? You're going to analyse Anglo-European fantasy, and you're going to use fucking Skyrim to do so? Skyrim's just a collection of fantasy tropes already created by other fantasy writers and settings. If you do want to compare Scandinavian literature with modern fantasy, then as ubiquitous as it is, surely Lord Of The Rings would make for a better comparison? After all, it invented the western-fantasy setting so prevalent today, and it's directly based off Scandinavian myths and legends.

It's not like Skyrim is all that consistent or strong in its internal setting. The lore only exists to serve the needs of the gameplay and the player. As soon as you look at it outside of that context, it all falls apart.

Yeah, Skyrim's lore really isn't that strong (surprising for a Bethesda game, amirite...), nor is it particularly well incorporated into the game. I suspect this is just a way to get apathetic students to sign up for a class they might otherwise have ignored.

I wonder if the Lusty Argonian Maid will be studied at any point?

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Skyrim's just a collection of fantasy tropes already created by other fantasy writers and settings. If you do want to compare Scandinavian literature with modern fantasy, then as ubiquitous as it is, surely Lord Of The Rings would make for a better comparison? After all, it invented the western-fantasy setting so prevalent today, and it's directly based off Scandinavian myths and legends.

It's not like Skyrim is all that consistent or strong in its internal setting. The lore only exists to serve the needs of the gameplay and the player. As soon as you look at it outside of that context, it all falls apart.

Because you can't analyze "the psychology behind "fantasy" in gamer culture" by reading Tolkien. It's not necessarily Skyrim's merits that make it good subject for examination, but it's relevance. Somebody has to role up their sleeves and study how Twilight fits into modern culture (doesn't mean I think Skyrim is bad, I love it).

Actually, I've got a proposition of my own:

Intelligent tummies: the beauty of your own navel

Professor J-e-f-f-e-r-s will be leading a semester-long study looking the human navel, and the art of Omphaloskepsis. Many cultures believe that the navel is a centre of knowledge, and that it houses powerful chakra. Over the semester, students will be asked to analyse their own belly buttons, and see what powerful new insights they can gain about themselves. The purpose of this is to establish how pretentious modern education has become, and how gratifying it is to masturbate to shallow intellectualism while learning nothing of any real intellectual value at all. All students upon passing the course will be presented with a Bachelor of Pretentious Art, giving them an academic grounding on which to base their meaningless waffle.

Academics aren't going to ignore culture because you don't like Skyrim. It's not "pretentious". I've studied terrible primary sources that were relevant. The artistic merit of the subject matter is not the point. There is nothing unusual about this course except that the subject matter is framed by a video game and not a film or book.

I just hope that the writers behind Skyrim did their homework, or those students are going to have to do a lot more of it.

Or I could just play skyrim without having to pay for a class and writing reports on it

Legion:
What courses universities decide to offer is their own business.

I can't help feeling though, why would anybody waste their money getting a degree in such a worthless course? What employer is going to give a damn about it? If I was going to get myself into debt so that I stood a chance of getting a better career, I'd make sure I achieved a qualification that would actually help me.

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

A very common misconception about degrees is that people think it matters what you study.
The only thing that matters, is how you study it.

The top 5% of that course have pretty much the same decent chances to get a job as the top 5% of every other course. (Of course that will most likely be a job in the academic field, so a Ferrari will be out of the question. But usually people who study norse literature and mythology aren't in it for the money)

The only difference between "worthless" and "employable" degrees is in the broad strokes. If you have a degree in something that sounds useful, you have a good chance of getting a job, even if you are not in the top 5%.

And that is not even touching the aspect that careers are made by persons, not by degrees. A lot of succesful people have build their careers without ever getting a degree matching to the field in which they suceeded.

The whole idea of "Study something that sounds useful and you will get a job; Study something related to culture/art/literature and you will be a failure" is very far from the actual reality and builds on some very narrow assumptions of what people deem a succesful career.

Legion:
What courses universities decide to offer is their own business.

I can't help feeling though, why would anybody waste their money getting a degree in such a worthless course? What employer is going to give a damn about it? If I was going to get myself into debt so that I stood a chance of getting a better career, I'd make sure I achieved a qualification that would actually help me.

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

That is what class elective slots are for, classes that the student is truly interested in and not the boring required stuff. Classes on things that the student actually wants to learn about.

On your last two sentences:

That isn't the case anymore. Universities might tell you that employers are looking for such and such to be learned and understood by people going to college, but it is a major load of crap these days.

So many people are going to and graduating from college, that college courses are the absolute last thing employers look at if they really need more info to choose between people to hire.

What they care about is have you worked in and got experience in the field you want to work in. News flash, employers don't see college as experience. What they will be looking for is if you worked as an intern in your field for at least three years, only two years if they feel like taking the risk on hiring an "unskilled" worker.

I have an English degree, and surprisingly, there are a lot of places I could work in my area that use it. The problem is, I didn't do any kind of internship or have previous work in the field. I was turned down on all fronts. I pointed out that I had the knowledge and capability that I gained from college, but I was told that college doesn't count as experience.

The same thing happened to a friend of mine who went and got an engineering degree. He was always told that he didn't have the experience, his knowledge from college didn't count, and that he should have done an internship of some sort while going to college. Where does he work now? He works at a grocery store as a cashier.

So kids, if you plan on going to college, make sure you find some kind of internship that relates to what you want to do and try to make it last at least three years. If you don't, there is a high probability that you wasted your time going to college. Because with out actual work experience in your field, you won't get a job in your field, unless you are extremely lucky outright, or lucky enough to have strong connections on the inside of where you want to work.

Another blow dealt to academic integrity, thanks skyrim.

so the requirements for this class are:

willingness to learn about Scandinavian myth, and legend
ability to compare current media with historical
willingness to play through sections of Skyrim (record scratch)

so in order to attend this class you have to either be able to play a AAA game on one of the 3 systems capable to play it, and for most people that will be a gen 3+ xBox360. that means that the bookstore now has to be able to provide for students that do not have one an xBox360, and a game which is a pretty considerable purchase on its own, and then they have to purchase the other books that go along with it. then if we consider the "markup" that typically happens at a college/university bookstore it will be a joke of a purchase.

(I understand that PC is a possibility for playing it as well, but then they would have to be able to sell a compute that could meet minimum specs for a newer AAA title, and that is a nightmare on its own. also there is the possibility of playing it on the PS3, but if the game starts lagging that is more torture then anything else)

Well, I think this sounds rather silly, and a more general analysis of Norse mythology in modern literature would be more suitable. Skyrim is by no means the first or most original work to feature Scandinavian folklore, and arguably, not the most accessible either. I suspect most of the people enrolling will already have a copy, though if you don't have a PS3, x360, or decent PC, you're out of luck. Might as well create my own course entitled Wormholes 101: Exploring Portals with Portal. Wait no, that's too accessible. How about... Locomotive Engineering with Train Simulator 2013 - naturally, all the DLC is compulsory material.

Legion:
What courses universities decide to offer is their own business.

I can't help feeling though, why would anybody waste their money getting a degree in such a worthless course? What employer is going to give a damn about it? If I was going to get myself into debt so that I stood a chance of getting a better career, I'd make sure I achieved a qualification that would actually help me.

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

Bear in mind that it seems to be a module, not the actual course. I don't think an employer is going to look and pay too much attention that one of your modules was based on a videogame.

Brilliant! How much does it cost?

Evil Smurf:
Brilliant! How much does it cost?

considering that it is a 3 credit hour course, and the school charges $1,455.00/credit hour for an undergraduate degree class it will be about $4365.00 for the 1 class, and where it is a 300 level class I would presume that it has some interesting pre-reqs.

Will "an xbox, Playstation, or PC meeting minimum specks" be a required tool? Does playing through all the set quests and the story (barring the infinite randomly generated ones) counts as cheating? Could I level grind to an instant A?

It's a fun way to learn about existing folklore, though it's way too pricy for me. A few thousand for a class or...use my copy that I got for free...

sethisjimmy:
This seems pretty stupid. It sounds like they were just looking to fill seats and decided to pander through shoving a recent popular video game into a normal course on mythology.

Could be good though, who knows.

Welcome to college. Of course all they want to do is fill the seats. They get paid even if you learn nothing.

And away goes tuition down the drain! XD

As an Icelandic student who has to read the Sagas anyway I really found it funny when a quest at the Bards College has you finding the Poetic Edda (Ljóða Eddan in Icelandic) which is an actual book that I had to read. At the time I wondered if this could be tought to other people with the context of Skyrim and as this shows I wasn't the only one who thought that.

Well two of my roommates are taking a class on Tolkien, part of their homework is to read the books and they have to watch the movies as a class. I guess stuff like this is more common than I thought

Yes, a precedent!

Videogames and academic pursuits are already familiar bedfellows when it comes to technology, entertainment, economics, and sociology. However, this may mark the first time that a major university has used videogames to analyze literature in an academic setting, at least on this side of the Pacific.

My goal in university is to -hopefully- study video games as a type of 'literature' through my English department. Really, video games give us a new way or presenting an engaging with themes that already exist in traditions of literature. I think the whole 'video games are art' debate misses the point. Video games (some better than others) convey meaning, like with any text/film/play/etc they can be enjoyed on a basic fun level while offering more if we delve further into them.

English isn't just dusty old books, we've studied action films, comics, experimental poetry/digital designs, etc. If we want to study literature, we should be keeping up with it in the modern day too, that includes interactive story telling.

Legion:
What courses universities decide to offer is their own business.

I can't help feeling though, why would anybody waste their money getting a degree in such a worthless course? What employer is going to give a damn about it? If I was going to get myself into debt so that I stood a chance of getting a better career, I'd make sure I achieved a qualification that would actually help me.

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

The actual content of your degree isn't what counts, but rather the degree itself, and the grades you received. Courses are more for whatever you want to learn about, have a passion and interest for, and whatever you're willing to spend your money on. As long as you've completed any required courses for your degree, the rest you choose don't matter at all, but are there for interest and points.

This reminds me of that Portal course at another university. I'm liking this new trend.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Seriously? You're going to analyse Anglo-European fantasy, and you're going to use fucking Skyrim to do so? Skyrim's just a collection of fantasy tropes already created by other fantasy writers and settings. If you do want to compare Scandinavian literature with modern fantasy, then as ubiquitous as it is, surely Lord Of The Rings would make for a better comparison? After all, it invented the western-fantasy setting so prevalent today, and it's directly based off Scandinavian myths and legends.

It's not like Skyrim is all that consistent or strong in its internal setting. The lore only exists to serve the needs of the gameplay and the player. As soon as you look at it outside of that context, it all falls apart.

Actually, I've got a proposition of my own:

Intelligent tummies: the beauty of your own navel

Professor J-e-f-f-e-r-s will be leading a semester-long study looking the human navel, and the art of Omphaloskepsis. Many cultures believe that the navel is a centre of knowledge, and that it houses powerful chakra. Over the semester, students will be asked to analyse their own belly buttons, and see what powerful new insights they can gain about themselves. The purpose of this is to establish how pretentious modern education has become, and how gratifying it is to masturbate to shallow intellectualism while learning nothing of any real intellectual value at all. All students upon passing the course will be presented with a Bachelor of Pretentious Art, giving them an academic grounding on which to base their meaningless waffle.

Jeffers thanks goodness you're here. We absolutely needed some pretentious, rational, intelligent, crusading, kind-hearted fellow to piss on everyone's parade today.

DVS BSTrD:

Marshall Honorof:
If you're at Rice and sign up for this course, just remember that the course's primary thrust is still reading literature.

Dude, Skyrim's primary thrust is reading literature!

Could you change "primary thrust"? It's giving the giggles.

Well, games are a medium like any other, it makes sense they'd be part of the curriculum of courses eventually. Didn't think it'd be in a non video game class quiet so quickly though. (Course, I personally made my art anthropology class about video games for two sessions but that's a special case!)

Legion:

That is, after all, the whole point of getting a degree. To make you more employable.

not if you can afford to broaden your mind for the sole purpose of boradening your mind

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