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Online Games: Get set to start a new session


troll fightI was very excited to receive an email this morning telling me that “Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative” is now open for registration”. The class goes live next Monday, June 13th and I have the honor of being a community TA (teaching assistant) for this session.

I took this university-level English literature course two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The course was great, rereading the novels took me on a trip down memory lane. I re-watched the films and ate a lot of popcorn. Then there is the game. I played the online game for the course and I still play today.

Jay Clayton: Course Instructor

The course is described in the introduction by Jay Clayton, our instructor from Vanderbilt University.

The course is designed as a university-level English literature class—a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling.  Our journey will enable us to learn something about narrative theory, introduce us to some key topics in media studies and cover some of the history and theory of video games.  It will also take us to some landmarks of romance literature, the neverending story that lies behind most fantasy games: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, a bit of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and poems by Keats, Tennyson, Browning, and others.

How to enroll

Go to the Coursera home page  https://www.coursera.org/ . In the search box, top center, type ‘online games’ and press your enter key ↵ .
Coursera-home page

This will take you to a list of available courses. For ‘Online Games’ there are two. You want to select the first one in the list. The second one takes you to the previous courses.

Coursera - selection

When you click on the picture or the course title you will go straight to the course details. All the information that your need for the course is there. You can either purchase the course or take it for free by selecting ‘audit’. Read about the different options and what you will receive if you pay by selecting the ‘Pricing’ tab or by looking through the FAQs.

Whichever you decide, I hope that you will download and play the massively multiplayer online game The Lord of the Rings, LOTRO for short. To do this you will need a computer capable of running the game, the requirements are detailed on the Turbine web site http://www.lotro.com/free.php.

Course help

There is a lot of help for the course. The course is run through videos, readings and course work. If you need help then have a look at the forums. The first thing to do is search the forum to see if some one has asked your question before. The chances are that if you have difficulty with something then so will someone else. No question is a dumb question, we all started somewhere so don’t be afraid to ask.

Your questions will be answered either by a TA or by your classmates. Sometimes several people will contribute. You can find new friends by joining a forum for your country, your kinship, your age-group, there are so many possibilities.

If you are answering questions, please remember that not everyone is at the same level and English is not everyone’s first language. So again, no question is a dumb question. Be polite and play nice. This way we will all enjoy the experience a lot more.

In game help

Don’t worry if you have never played an on-line game before. It can be quite daunting but help is at hand.

You first need to download the game and register as a user. This is free for everyone, however I found that I got more out of the game by purchasing “Samwise Gamgee’s Starter Pack” for $9.99 from the LOTRO store. It gives you certain advantages right from the beginning, such as a horse and some bags for your character to use.

Then there are all the ‘kinships’. Kinships are your tribes, clans, family, groups of like minded people who like to play together and help each other.

There are Coursera kinships on each of the servers listed below, which will have special events scheduled for the course. Have a look at the websites, get in touch with other players and find out where you fit in the best.

Gladden (kinship: Vicarious Universe): Website: http://vicariousuniverse.shivtr.com/

Landroval (role-playing recommended—kinship: Courserrim): Website: http://www.courserrim.org/

Laurelin (role-playing required, many European players— kinship: Course of the Ring): Website: http://coursera.shivtr.com/

Arkenstone (kinship: Eagles of Thorondor): Website:  http://www.eaglesofthorondor.com/

Once you have completed the in game tutorial and the introduction quests you will be able to contact a Kinship. You will know when you have completed the introduction as a character will tell you. 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 then press your return key and then type a message, ‘I’m here’ is enough to draw attention. Mentors in the Kinships will be watching out for you.

Although the course doesn’t start until the 13th you can be prepared by downloading the game and becoming familiar with your character, how to move, how to control weapons and generally get a feel of the game.

My story of starting out is {here}.

I look forward to meeting you in the forums or in game.

I maintain this site to draw attention to charities that I support. If you enjoy reading my notes consider making a small donation to one of these charities. No donation is too small, you could change a life.

 Doesn’t everyone deserve clean water?




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