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Gaming class to debut spring 2017

Some students dream of playing video games instead of doing homework. This spring, Bluffton will offer students who enroll in Topics in Communication with Dr. Zachary Walton a chance to play video games as part of their homework. Ethan Zaerr (left) and Jarod Siekman play a game in their residence hall. Photo by Hannah Conklin

By Hannah Conklin

Some students dream of playing video games instead of doing homework. This spring, Bluffton will offer students a chance to play video games as part of their homework.

Topics in Communication (COM 222), taught by Associate Professor of Communication Zachary Walton, will focus on video games when it debuts in the spring. The class is part of the Communication and Theatre Department’s recently revised curriculum. Walton says the course was designed to offer flexibility and draw student interest.

In recent years, there has been an influx of scholarly research conducted on video games. In the particular field of communication, video games are quickly gaining attention as an influential form of media.

“I’m a huge gamer myself,” Walton admits. “Gaming has a big cultural impact. It’s something that billions of dollars and billions of hours have been invested in.”

He cites games like Minecraft and BioShock as examples.

Walton said the class will cover big questions like: Are video games art? Could virtual reality ever replace actual reality? What place does morality have in video games?

Students will also discuss the depiction of gender, race, sex and sexuality in video games.

As promised, Walton confirms, “Gaming will be an assignment.” At this time, however, he is unable to give specifics regarding the games that will be used in the course. He said he’s just excited to develop and teach a class that gets students excited.
Junior convergent media major Erika Byler says she is very interested in the class. Byler says she finds video games to be a very important medium in today’s society and believes the topic will fit in well with the other communication courses she’s taking at Bluffton.

“If we’re going to talk about how communication influences our life, we need to talk about video games,” Byler said, “Video games are a major part of our lives.”

Byler, along with many other communication students, plans to take the course in the spring if possible. Students who are not communication majors are still welcome to register. Registration for the spring semester begins November 14, and the class is expected to fill quickly.

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