Category Archives: Uncategorized

Week 6 lectures (transcribed) – The Holy Grail: A good end game

With Week 6, we reach not only the end of the video lectures but of Claire-Louise Taylor’s wonderful, enriching transcripts. They have greatly enhanced the course for us all. Thank you again.


Lord Tennyson.

The Coursera on-line course  Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative draws to a close. I will be sorry to see it finished although the virtual friends I have made will live on in the game.

Another fruitful week saw discussions of art and literature. In particular we read together Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses.” and analysed it. We also looked at some wonderful paintings by Turner and other artists and compared scene setting with those in the game and the film.

View original post 12,392 more words


The course is now open

Let the learning begin!

The first week features videos on the history of gaming; a central concept of media studies call “remediation”; some important categories in game studies–rules vs.fiction, and emergence vs. progression–and finally, a first look at in-game action from Lord of the Rings Online.

It’s all online now available at  Just click on Go to Class to get started on this free, online class.

Lothlorien 4

Helm’s Deep: The Aftermath

As dawn broke after the battle for Helm’s Deep, I rode out to survey the devastation:
Helm's Deep dawn 1

There I met other survivors on the field:Helm's Deep dawn 3

and one who had arrived when a Wizard should, just when most needed:
Helm's Deep dawn 2

For a discussion of the narrative techniques used to transform these events from Tolkien’s fiction into interactive gameplay, join us at “Online Games: Literature, Narrative, and New Media,” July 14, 2014.





Syllabus (Summer, 2016)

The course will be opening soon.

Week 1: Game on! The history and theory of MMOs

Reading for Week 1

  • • J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring
    • Read the “Prologue, Concerning Hobbits, and other matters” and Book One of the novel.
  • • Jesper Juul’s Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds
  • • Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca”

Available for free in the original Greek and several English translations at “The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive.” In the videos, we have used the translation by Daniel Mendelsohn:

Gameplay for Week 1 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Download and install Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)–available at or from Steam at If you are already playing LOTRO, feel free to continue with your present account, but the following servers are recommended for those who are just starting (or who want to create a new character to play along with your classmates). There are Coursera kinships on each of the servers listed below, which will have special events scheduled for the course:

· Gladden (kinship: Vicarious Universe)· Landroval (role-playing recommended—kinship: Courserrim)· Laurelin (role-playing required, many European players— kinship: Course of the Ring)· Arkenstone (kinship: Eagles of Thorondor)

Each of the servers has a chat channel especially devoted to the class. To join the channel, click in the chat box, then type: /joinchannel coursera. If this is the first chat channel you have joined, you can switch to that channel by typing: /1 [add a space after /1 and you are ready to send your first message].

Once you have created a character, complete the Tutorial and the Intro quests. You will know that you have completed the Intro when a NPC (non-player character) in the introductory area asks if you are ready to travel to the next zone (the Shire for Hobbits, Archet for humans, Thorin’s Gate for Dwarves, Celendim for Elves). When you get out of the Intro area, be sure to turn in your quest to complete the sequence of introductory quests. If you are an experienced player of LOTRO, enjoy the game for week! No need to create a new character just for the course.

Week 2: LOTRO and Tolkien

Reading for Week 2

  • • Finish J.R.R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
    • This takes you to end of the first volume of Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
  • • Robert Browning’s poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Available free online at the University of Toronto Libraries’ archive, “Representative Poetry Online,” where you will find helpful notes on the poem and line numbers to orient you as you watch the videos:

You might also want to listen to one of these YouTube recordings of the poem: or Sometimes poetry seems easier to understand when you hear it read out loud.

Gameplay for Week 2 (required for Honors students; optional for all others):

MMOs are social games. The existence of an online community in a persistent world creates opportunities for emergent narrative experiences and gameplay that go beyond simply completing predefined quests to advance your character. This week’s in-game activities ask you to explore (or if you are a more experienced player, help others to explore) the social world of LOTRO. You have two options for completing the in-game assignment.

1. If you are in one of the four Coursera kinships (Vicarious Universe on Gladden, Courserrim on Landroval, Coursera on Laurelin, or Eagles of Thorondor on Arkenstone), participate in the games planned for that week. Take a screenshot of yourself and some of your kin mates at the games. Note: You will need a screenshot to complete the peer assessment due this week for the Distinction Track.


2. If you are not a member of one of the Coursera kinships, you should join a kinship and have a conversation with another member of the kinship in /kinship chat. Then travel to your kinship house and take a screenshot of yourself in front of or inside it. If your kinship does not have a house, travel to one of the housing areas on your own and explore. Find an interesting place to take a screenshot of your character in the kinship area. If you are an experienced player who is already in a kinship, visit your existing kinship house and take a screenshot there. You do not need to join a new kinship to fulfill this assignment. Note: You will need a screenshot to complete the peer assessment due this week for the Distinction Track.

(Tips on taking screenshots: Try to find an attractive backdrop or creative pose when you take your screenshot. Be sure to face the camera and zoom in to the distance you want to frame your character in the way you want. If you need instructions on how to take screenshots on a Windows or a Mac machine, click on the following link:

Week 3: Romance and realism

Reading for Week 3

John Keats’s poem “La Belle Dame sans Merci.” Available free online with helpful annotations at the “Poetry Foundation”: Feel free to read the “Poem Guide” on this page for further discussion of Keats’s poem. An audio version of the poem is available at or

Film for Week 3

Watch Peter Jackson’s movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (the extended version is recommended, but not required).

Gameplay for Week 3 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Join a “chicken run” from Michel Delving to Rivendell. Kinships on many servers have already begun volunteering to escort you on this perilous run. We hope each server will organize one or more chicken runs during this week because you will need high-level support to make it safely to Rivendell. But you do not need to complete the Chicken Run to receive full credit on the assignment, nor do you have to find a group. Just become a chicken and have fun, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Take a screenshot of yourself on the chicken run—students on the Distinction Track will need to post it to get credit as part of the peer assessment assignment in Week 4—and, believe me, you will want to have a memento of this event! If you don’t see a group organizing a chicken run on your server, you should take the initiative yourself (be sure to invite some high-level friends along to escort you!). But if you can’t get a group to escort you, do not be concerned. You can try it all by yourself. You probably won’t make it, but you don’t have to go all the way to the Last Homely House to fulfill the assignment. Just making an attempt will give you credit. A solo chicken run is terrifying and funny at the same time; a group chicken run promises to be truly hilarious!

Week 4: Space and time in three media: novel, film, game

Reading for Week 4

Read the dictionary entries in Dino Felluga’s invaluable Introduction to Narratology. Read the definitions of the following terms found on

  • • Discourse and Story
  • • Fabula and Sjuzhet
  • Also read “Important concepts in Genette’s narratology” from the Wikipedia entry on Gerard Genette, paying particular attention to the concepts of:
  • • Order
  • • Duration
  • • Frequency

Gameplay for Week 4 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

Find the Forsaken Inn in the Lone Lands then try to reach the top of Weathertop. The Ranger Candaith has several level-22 quests, including Book 2, Chapter 5 of the Epic Quest Line, “Retake Weathertop,” that will take you to the top, but you do not need to have accepted any quest to complete the course assignment. (Quests make the trip to the summit of Weathertop more fun, but it is still a challenge to find the way up to the top if you have never been there before.)

If you do not have a character at level 22, you will probably have to join a group to fight your way to the top of Weathertop. You do not have to succeed in reaching the top, but you must try. Experienced players should go to the Lone Lands and form a group to help newer players reach the summit of Weathertop. It would be best if you ran “Retake Weathertop” again, but that is not required.

Note: One of the options for completing the Distinction Track peer review assignment will be to post a YouTube video of your assent to Weathertop with a voiceover narration comparing the game’s remediation to the film and the novel’s versions. Be sure to read the peer review assignment and prepare your screen capture software ahead of time if you plan to complete this option for the assignment. Free screen capture software is listed in Supplementary Materials.

Week 5: Pwning Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

Reading for Week 5

Read the first Canto of Book III. Canto 1 is 603 lines long (you do not need to read the 5-stanza long dedication at the beginning–start reading Book III with “Canto 1”).

Available free online at:

The archaic language can make the poem seem difficult, particularly for non-native English speakers or for people with little experience reading Elizabethan poetry. If you are having trouble, I recommend that you read the prose summary of the book called “The Legend of Britomart” at: before you try the poetry. After a little practice, most readers get the hang of it and find the action-packed story fun.

There is an audio version of Book III, Canto 1 at LibriVox: (36:24 minutes in length)

Gameplay for Week 5 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

You must be level 20 to complete this assignment. If you have not made it to level 20 during week 5 of the course, remember that you can take this quiz any time up until 7 June 2015. It is best to complete the assignment during week 5 since more classmates will be looking for fellowships to do this assignment with you, but if you cannot reach level 20 in time, you can still finish the assignment during the next several weeks.

Join a Great Barrow group (sometimes advertised in Looking for Fellowship [LFF] chat as GB), and attempt the quest “Thadur.” You do not have to successfully complete the quest, although I imagine that you would prefer that outcome to having everyone in your group die (often called having your group “wipe”).

If you are an experienced player, form a level-20 to level-30 Great Barrow group, and help one or more players complete the quest (if no one will join your low-level group, run Thadur at whatever level you want).

Explanatory Note #1: This quest is not the Epic quest for Book I, Chapter 11, “Othrongroth,” which Tom Bombadil gives you. It is a quest that you can pick up in Bree Lands or a repeatable instance accessed through the Instance Finder.

Explanatory Note #2: You do not need to post a screen shot or video for this game play assignment. There will be questions about your experience in the Great Barrow in the Distinction Track quiz.


Week 6: The Holy Grail: A good end game

Reading for Week 6

Read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses.” The poem is available free online at The Poetry Foundation at and, with notes, at the University of Toronto Libraries’ archive, “Representative Poetry Online,” at An audio version is available at or

We also recommend that you watch the final movies in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, if you haven’t already. They are called The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Note: these films are not required.

Gameplay for Week 6 (required for Honors students; optional for all others)

The in-game activity for our final week was suggested by players on the Forums!

Play a game of tag at the Festival Grounds north of Bree (25.6S, 50.9W). For tag, you need at least one other person to play. All you have to do to start a game of tag is go to the coordinates above and speak with the NPC who will start the game. You do not need to take a screenshot of the game for this week’s quiz (you should concentrate on running!)