Level 101 – Video Game Dissertation

For my dissertation, I developed a serious game entitled Level 101: A Video Game About Video Games, a playable video game that explores, explains, and interrogates the video game in order to understand the medium through a methodology of play. In doing so, Level 101 puts disparate elements of Game Studies into practice due to its branching paths, introducing players to three distinct frameworks for understanding video games: 1) history, 2) design, and 3) theory.

This is accompanied by a traditional dissertation component that addresses several issues: 1) historical and cultural contextualization; 2) theoretical and methodological investments; 3) a summation of the project’s critical contributions; and 4) a reflection of the development process.

Start Screen for Level 101

Level 101 seeks to begin filling in a crucial and overlooked pedagogical gap in Game Studies through uniting play and learning via digital means, but only in conjunction with other aspects of traditional learning. As such, Level 101 sits at the intersection of three distinct areas of inquiry: Game Studies, Pedagogy, and Digital Humanities. By drawing not just from Game Studies, but from other corollaries in such disparate fields as comic studies, literary studies, film studies, among others, Level 101 also holds the potential for further experimentations with playable methods of academic engagement and alternative scholarship.

This dissertation was successfully defended on April 8th, 2022, under the guidance of Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée.

In lieu of a full demo of the game, a 30-second video has been provided. Demos can be requested by emailing me at <wigardju@msu.edu>.

30-second demo video for Level 101

Early forms of this project have been presented at various conferences and venues, including the MSU Comics Forum (2020), the MSU Game Studies Guild (2020), and the DH@MSU Locus (2019).

Level 101 in the news:

2020 DH@MSU Summer Seed Grant Report:
Level 101: A Video Game About Video Games–Game Development in a Global Pandemic”

2018 DH@MSU Summer Seed Grant Report:
Level 101: A Video Game About Video Games – Interdepartmental Collaboration, Tutorials, and Pre-Production”