During her time at USC and Berkeley, Bonnie has had the exciting opportunity to design and teach many original courses on game-making, gender/sexuality, and digital cultures. Bonnie’s teaching philosophy is inspired by the belief that students learn best when their educational environments are interactive, creative, accessible, and diverse. Some of Bonnie’s recent courses have included:
Gender and Sexuality in Video Games (see syllabus here)
Feminism and queer representation have taken center stage in recent debates around the future of video games. However, gender, sexuality, and identity have long been important to how we experience games and to games themselves. In this course, students will learn about gender and sexuality in video games, game communities, the games industry, and their own media-making practices. Through a combination of creative group projects and analytical writing, students will develop the vocabulary to think critically and speak powerfully about the cultural dimensions of the interactive media they both consume and create. In collaboration with LGBTQ organization LAvender LA, students will also be making games that engage with the queer histories and communities of Los Angeles.
Difference at Play: The Queerness and Games (QGCon) Design Workshop
Game design can be a powerful tool for self-exploration and self-expression, yet many marginalized and underprivileged students lack the structural support to enter technical fields or learn game-making tools. The QGCon Design Workshop is a free program that teaches students from diverse backgrounds to use accessible software that allows them to make video games that speak to their own experiences of gender and sexuality. A number of games from the 2014 workshop are available to play online. The 2015 workshop is scheduled to take place in September and October, leading up to the Queerness and Games Conference.
Playing Race: American Racial Identities in Video Games
For American players, issues of race pervade video games in both obvious and subtle ways. While domestically produced series like Bioshock Infinite stir controversy with racial stereotyping of African-Americans, international games, popular in the U.S., raise questions about racism and nationality: consider Resident Evil 5, developed in Japan and set in Africa, where white heroes face hoards of zombies of color. Classic games and contemporary ones alike, such as Custer’s Revenge and Assassin’s Creed III, struggle with the image of Native Americans. Through these examples and many more, this class explores how racial identity, for contemporary America, is both enacted and brought into question through the popular medium of video games.
Gender and Sexuality in Digital Cultures
The digital world may seem like an unlikely place to explore bodies. However, when we look closer, our digital lives are full of complicated issues of gender and sexuality. On social media sites we perform our genders through language instead of looks. In forums and comment sections we face sexism. Web communities provide us with spaces for exploring our sexualities, while one-on-one sex in virtual worlds allows us to re-create our bodies and desires through avatars. Even the internet itself has become sexualized; we think of it as the home of contemporary pornography. This class explores issues of gender, sex, and sexuality that surround our contemporary digital cultures.
The Language of Technology
What does new media have to do with literature? The goal of our class is to explore this question through unexpected juxtapositions of the “old” and the “new.” At a time when technology seems to threaten to render the printed word obsolete, contemporary media forms share more in common with longstanding ones that we often imagine. Far from relinquishing novels, plays, and poetry to the library, here we put them into dialogue with newer art forms: video games, social media, hypertext, blogging, and more. From the essays of Michel de Montaigne and LiveJournal.com to The Arabian Nights and The Wire, these innovative pairings challenges our understanding of the divide between old and new and bring the study of literature into the age of the digital.
What Bonnie’s students have to say:
“Bonnie’s class has been my favorite at Berkeley because of how this class was taught… My only suggestion is to make more courses like this available!”
“The structure of this class helps me to learn far better than other classes because of its interactive and therefore engaging nature. It’s also very relevant to the real world.”
“Bonnie tries her best to encourage everyone, to facilitate class discussions, get to know people and takes suggestions for the class. She is always encouraging and supportive.”
“This class helped me see things in a different light and gain exposure to things I have not noticed before, like looking critically at media and video games.”