Students game for education

A class on video games gives student a chance to evaluate the media culture.

Hector Postigo teaches a class on video games and culture. | Eric Dao TTN
Hector Postigo teaches a class on video games and culture. | Eric Dao TTN

Hector Postigo spent his childhood experimenting with the cutting-edge genre of video games, since the days of “Joust,” an arcade game popular in the ‘80s.

Three decades later, Postigo is teaching a media studies and production course known as The Video Game Industry and Game Culture.

“I got my degree in science, but then I decided that Internet and digital media were way too interesting to be spending the rest of my life in a lab testing mice,” Postigo said. “This happened around 1999 when video games became part of the entertainment menu. Nintendo was ruling the roost, but I was heavily into games for the PC market.”
When he proposed a course to investigate and teach the multimedia skills required to create such electronic entertainment, Postigo said the university was more understanding than other employers.

“When it was time for redesigning the media studies and production curriculum a few years ago, I developed the class as an alternative media,” Postigo said. “Anyone attending higher education should sample a wide selection of what’s out there, such as video game jobs producing sounds, scores, camera angles, visuals or even the narratives. There was no skepticism from the faculty, but it was tough pitching myself as a video game scholar on the job market. At that point, it was all about effects research rather than media studies.”

Devaun Brown, a senior media studies and production major, said he took the class because it complements his concentration in emerging media. Students choose a specific game to focus on throughout the semester, he said.

“I chose to play ‘League of Legends’ for the semester,” Brown said. “It is a PC game and since I don’t own a console, it was more convenient to play a game accessible on the computer platform. I’m constantly learning about the billion-dollar industry and its consumers.”

Postigo said he knows some students might consider the class an opportunity to pass off hours of gaming as curriculum material, but he strongly advises against taking the class just to play “Call of Duty” for homework.

“I don’t believe in exams, but I am rigorous,” Postigo said. “Students work on a semester-long journal based on the video game of their choice, which turns out to be some 60, 70 pages of content. Plus, they write a 15-page paper, which dives into one or two of the topics touched upon in the journal. And they maintain a weekly blog where they find new and happening information on their product.”

Patrick McGuire, a junior media studies and production major, said he doesn’t mind the written demands of the curriculum because he has been a gaming fan since his youth. He said he believes the video game industry should be considered more than just casual recreation.

“Students should take this class if they seriously think about the video games they play,” McGuire said. “There is much more to video games than just a way to waste some time. On the other hand, students should not take the class if they can’t handle a heavy writing workload because, as Dr. Postigo said to us on our first day of class, ‘the bar is very, very, very high.’”

Since the course is intended to train students for traditional media enterprises via new-age experiences, Postigo said adapting to the intense environment is crucial for surviving in the field. The subject matter should be taken seriously, in his view.

“My bar is high because I believe we’re all capable of excellence as long as we’re called to it,” Postigo said. “I have years of practice and knowledge, but once students play the games quite a bit, visit the online communities, and learn the history of the game they’ve chosen, they have adopted the excellence.”

It isn’t unusual for Postigo to be inspired by the success and hard work of his students, he said.

“I cite my students in papers and presentations because they bring new knowledge,” Postigo said. “I also tell them if they take some of their journal ideas to market, they’re going to make some money, and I want 10 percent.”

McGuire explained what he has learned after a semester of dissecting the indie sandbox game “Minecraft.”

“It’s such a culturally significant game to our generation,” McGuire said. “The game is so simple, but at the same time so complex. It can be picked up by anyone, and in a few hours they can have a strong understanding of how to play. At the same time, only hardcore gamers who devote a good amount of time to the game can appreciate the complicated aspects.”

Postigo hopes to instill progressive perceptions of the gaming industry among his students. Though he said the video game industry has advanced quite a bit in terms of social awareness, some people still have misconceptions about the nature of the gaming aspect of the media world.

He said he has no problem setting the record straight, however, when confronted with stereotypes about gaming.

“The L.A. Times called me recently to ask if Candy Crush was designed specifically for women,” Postigo said. “While women are grossly underrepresented in the video game industry to the business’ detriment, I think a question like that assumes something about gender identity. I’ve gotten owned 100 times on ‘Call of Duty’ by a girl. It means nothing.”

John Corrigan can be reached at

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