University course explores sex, violence, gender issues in video games

Visitors play

Visitors play "World of Warcraft" during the Gamescom 2013 fair in Cologne Aug. 21, 2013. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:15 PM ET

EDMONTON -- What video games teach us about sex, violence, gender and culture is the focus of a new University of Alberta course.

Understanding Video Games, or UVG, is an 11-lesson online course that will be available to the public for free and as a three-credit course for U of A students.

“People play games in school, as part of their education, they play them on the bus or at home either alone or with their friends -- it's an incredibly expressive and important medium," said Sean Gouglas, U of A associate professor in Humanities Computing and lead UVG instructor.

"We try and give students a handle on how to actually go about making sense of this incredible technology that we face every day.”

For instance, maybe the violence in video games serves a purpose.

"Pick a popular game like World of Warcraft -- the whole premise of the game is set up as a racial conflict. We think it's cute when we're talking about pandas and tigers, but is there a larger metaphor here that is being said in these games?"

Or perhaps video games can inform the issue of gender equality (or inequality).

"It's a very interesting statement about female and male power in video games," Gouglas said, noting that newer games allow gamers to play as either a man or a woman without it affecting the game that much.

The course was created with help from renowned Edmonton-based video game developer BioWare.

Sign up for UVG at www.coursera.org. The course requires three to five hours of lessons per week, and those who complete the course will receive a certification of accomplishment.


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