Minor In Video Game Studies

Video Game Studies, Fall 2022

(image credit: Lindsey Tong)

Welcome to Video Game Studies!  This interdisciplinary program examines the many ways that video games intersect with our lives.  We recognize video games as a uniquely complex media that we encounter through many different modes of experience: as games, stories, challenges, escapes, vehicles of self-creation, platforms for interaction with others, marketed commodities, cultural representations, and so much more. 

This program is designed to introduce you to the complexity and excitement of many different forms of studying video games.  It is not directly about making video games.  Rather, it introduces students to ongoing scholarship, research projects, and disciplinary approaches to the study of video games, while also building potential bridges into vibrant fields of both study and industry.

The minor in Video Game Studies focuses student learning on questions about the personal, social, and ethical impact of design, representation, and involvement in video games. We invite you to experience different disciplinary approaches to answering such urgent questions as: How have video games affected contemporary cultures and values? Do they influence our personal attitudes and choices? What responsibilities do games have for representing people, or providing safe spaces for marginalized individuals and communities? Can video games serve as vehicles for social or political change? In our program, you will develop your own unique interdisciplinary approach to complex questions facing us today.

(For "Requested College," please select Liberal & Creative Arts.)


  • CWL 180: Introduction to Video Games: A Comparative Perspective

ELECTIVES (students take only ONE course per field)

Field I: Game Design

  • BECA 352: Esports Tournament and Event Production
  • BECA/MUS 434: Introduction to Sound for Games
  • BECA 452: Live Streaming and Content Creation for Esports
  • BECA/MUS 534: Sound Design for Games
  • BECA 577: Writing for Video Games (can only count for one elective field)
  • BECA 593: Interactive and Transmedia Electronic Media Workshop
  • *CSC 631/831: Multiplayer Game Development
  • DES 252: Rethinking Digital Media
  • DES 367: Intro to Game Design
  • *MUS 451: Scoring for Games

Field II: Interpretation and Theory

  • BECA 577: Writing for Video Games (can only count for one elective field)
  • CINE 336: Video Game Culture (can only count for one elective field)
  • CWL 270: Fantasy and Fiction
  • CWL/ENG 275: Reading Video Games
  • CWL 380: Thinking with Video games (can only count for one elective field)
  • MUS 134: Survey of Music for Visual Media

Field III: Reception and Impact

  • ANTH 585: Globalization and World Cultures
  • CINE 336: Video Game Culture (can only count for one elective field)
  • COMM 595: Games, Communication, and Culture
  • CWL 380: Thinking with Video games (can only count for one elective field)
  • MUS 137: Survey of the History of Electronic Music
  • PLSI 423: Video Games, Politics, and The State

*These courses have prerequisites outside of VGS that must be met before enrolling in the course.

Please note that no more than two lower-division courses can be used toward this degree.

Video games are an integral aspect of contemporary culture experienced by over 1.3 billion people on a daily basis. The enormous industry employs a variety of experts from designers to musicians, economists to artists, historians, writers, and more. Adding a Video Game Studies Minor to your transcript will supplement your major by signaling your proficiency with a variety of analytic and technical perspectives. It will demonstrate your knowledge of the media and your ability to apply methodological tools from your major while at the same time learning, practicing, and reflecting upon very different academic approaches. 

The minor also invites you to explore questions about video games directly related to matters of well-being and social value important for individuals and communities. You will explore such questions as:  How have video games transformed the world?  How might they continue to do so?  What is at stake for players and communities in the design, distribution, and experience of video games?  What is unique about the experience of video games and how might that affect the lives of players? How might games serve as vehicles for social or political change?  Most people you know have played video games or participated in life experiences or used applications or services whose contours have been shaped by gamification.  Our program offers engaged and critical perspectives on how this ubiquitous media affects our lives in so many ways, empowering students to understand and perhaps reshape their impact.

Our program invites students to think through this incredibly complex media from a variety of perspectives.  Students will develop their own unique purchases on the value of video games and the possible applications of their own fields of expertise and learning at SFSU. 

Our minor helps students

  • Deepen their knowledge and proficiency within fields of study that align with their primary academic focuses
  • Accent transcripts with a focus on video games that designates both knowledge of the field and interdisciplinary critical thinking
  • Compare and critique different disciplinary approaches to video games
  • Explore applications of knowledge and interests to vibrant fields of industry and study
  • Connect with others from a variety of disciplines to collaborate on the study of video games

Our program invites you to apply a variety of academic points of view and personal experiences to the comparative study of video games.  You will take a single required introductory course and then a total of three more courses, each one in a different field of study.

The rigorous introductory course provides a comparative framework for the minor.  It establishes basic proficiency with video games, defining key components and concepts in form and function.  It also introduces the three main fields around which our program is structured: analysis of design, analysis of content and play experience, and analysis of context and cultural impact. 

After the required introductory course, students can choose their own pathways of study through the minor program by taking one course in each field of study. Whatever path students choose, they are guaranteed by the structure of our program to learn and apply very different disciplinary methodologies while nevertheless enjoying the freedom to define their own focuses. 

Courses in our minor

  • Contextualize the creation and distribution of video games and their complex cultural influences
  • Analyze the design, structure, and effects of video games, with an emphasis on topics like meaningful mechanics, visual aesthetics, narrative, representation, and identity.
  • Explore the historical and socio-cultural influence of video games and technology in society

Students in our minor will

  • Identify the design principles that compose game structures and mechanics
  • Discern the types of interactive engagements promoted by various types of games and how they invite players to experience or value them
  • Interpret games as complex narrative and ludic forms that involve both performance and spectatorship
  • Distinguish the varying roles of games in society, including the cultivation of perspectives on race and gender
  • Analyze the ethical dimensions of game play as both individual and social experiences as well as cultural phenomena
  • Play and critique games from design, historical, cultural, and theoretical perspectives that reflect a variety of disciplines within and beyond the College of Liberal & Creative Arts.


Introduction (3 units)

  • CWL 180 – Introduction to Video Games: A Comparative Perspective

(To complete the minor, you will need to take just ONE course in each of the three fields listed below.)

Field I: Game Design (3 units)

  • BECA 577* – Writing for Video Games (can only count for a single field)
  • DES 367 – Introduction to Game Design
  • MUS 451 – Scoring for Games I

Field II: Interpretation and Theory (3 units)

  • BECA 577* – Writing for Video Games (can only count for a single field)
  • CWL 380* – Thinking with Video Games (can only count for a single field)

Field III: Reception and Impact (3 units)

  • ANTH 585 – Globalization and World Cultures
  • COMM 595 – Games, Communication, and Culture
  • CWL 380* – Thinking with Video Games (can only count for a single field)

We strongly recommend that students begin with CWL 180.  However, classes taken in any order will still count toward the minor degree. 

Some courses listed here may require you to contact the instructors before enrolling.  Simply inform them that you are enrolled as a VGS minor, and they should permit you to add the course if there is sufficient space. 

To ensure adequate planning of a student’s program, all minors must consult an adviser at least once per year.

For advising, please contact Prof. Chris Weinberger (csw1@sfsu.edu), the VGS program coordinator.

Bachelor of Arts students must complete at least twelve units of complementary studies outside of the primary prefix for the major. (Note: Students may not use an alternate prefix that is cross-listed with the primary prefix for the major.)

Students who complete two majors or a major and a minor automatically complete the complementary studies requirement.

Students who have earned AA-T or AS-T degrees and are pursuing a similar B.A. degree at SF State are required to fulfill the Complementary Studies requirement as defined by the major department. Students should consult with a major adviser about how transfer units and/or SF State units can best be applied to this requirement in order to ensure degree completion within 60 units.