Digital Games, Sims and Apps: Storytelling, Play and Commerce

Course (undergraduate): Jour 1501 Digital Games, Sims and Apps: Storytelling, Play and Commerce

Department: School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota

Most recent syllabus: Fall 2015



Digital games are one of the fastest-growing sectors of the entertainment media industry, generating enormous profits for game companies as well as wide-ranging implications for society. Related developments in mobile applications and virtual-reality simulations are also becoming more than big business; they’re changing the very way we think about media, augmented reality, and our human relationships.

In this course, students will (1) be introduced to the academic study of video games and related media; (2) examine digital games as forms of communication, culture, and interactive storytelling, as well as in their various uses for entertainment, commerce, social activism, education, and more; (3) study the history, ethics, and socio-cultural impact of digital games and related technologies; and (4) consider next-generation virtual reality and other game-related technologies that may change the way we think about media and society.

In addition to reading about games, students will also be expected to engage with them as part of both individual and group work. Specifically, students will be asked to reflect on their own experiences playing with specific games and interacting with others through them. Although this course will touch on the development of these digital tools, this class will not involve the production of games, sims or apps. Rather, we will concentrate on analyzing them as cultural objects, interactive media, and vehicles for promoting social transformation.


Students who complete this course will be able to:

  1. Discuss digital games, sims, and apps from an academic perspective (to enrich their perspective and awareness as players, fans, and observers);
  2. Trace the historical development of games, sims, and apps and the establishment of their social, economic and cultural identity;
  3. Outline the organization and economics of the industry built around games, sims, and apps;
  4. Identify the associations between games, sims, and apps and social identities, particularly those of age, race, and gender;
  5. Articulate the legal, regulatory and ethical constraints on and implications for games, sims, and apps;
  6. Articulate the complex social, cultural and economic contexts within which digital games exist; and
  7. Evaluate and critique the content and design of games intended for entertainment, commerce, news, social activism, training, education, etc.



The Association of American Colleges and Universities defines liberal education not as a specific field of study but rather as a general philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics and civic engagement. Jour 1501 is structured to provide students with the opportunity to engage in detailed analysis of and reflection on creative media projects in the form of digital games.  Students will engage in critical evaluation of digital games, and will understand the social, economic, cultural and historical context within which these new storytelling forms have evolved.  Moreover, students will examine pressing ethical and social issues surrounding digital games, media technologies, entertainment industries and the political, economic and social forces that shape our digital media environment. These goals are in line with the objectives of the Arts and Humanities perspectives within a liberal education, which this course is certified as fulfilling in the College of Liberal Arts. These goals are equally in line with the objectives of the Technology and Society perspectives within a liberal education, which this course is certified as fulfilling in the College of Liberal Arts.