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Orange Coast College signs on with video game history class

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Orange Coast College professor Jamie Hitchings will lead a new course she developed, the History of Video Games, this spring semester.
(Courtesy of Erik Forssell / Orange Coast College)

A new class is sure to grab the attention of many students at Orange Coast College — the History of Video Games.

Professor Jamie Hitchings will lead the class in the spring semester under the Costa Mesa community college’s film and television department.

Though video games date only to the early 1970s, their history is rooted in “the human desire to play,” Hitchings said. The course will begin with that sort of philosophical discussion, leading into the development and distribution of video games over the past 50 years.

“It’s a great precursor for students not necessarily interested in traditional history,” Hitchings said. “It’s a lot more immediate to a lot of students because it’s something they participate in regularly.”

The class is considered a general education course until it is certified through the state as an official history course, which could take a couple of years, Hitchings said.

Erik Forssell, chairman of the film and television department, said this is the first class in a new immersive media program.

“We think this is going to be really cool for our region in Orange County,” he said. “We have all sorts of students that want this kind of education, and we think it’s a great time to launch this.”

The hope is to eventually branch away from the film department and create a department more dedicated to video game studies, according to Larissa Nazarenko, dean of visual and performing arts.

“Jamie joined our team two years ago and quickly became a very active and important member of the department,” Nazarenko said. “She’s already developed multiple courses. … [Video games are] a natural fit with film, but we’re hoping we can build out its own department in the future.”

Like a typical 16-week course, the class will include a midterm and a final, but they will be listed as a “mini boss” and a “boss” in the syllabus, borrowing from game lingo. Students also will have opportunities to go on “quests” and gain “XP boosts,” which are considered extra credit.

Hitchings will cover the timeline of mainstream games, from board to arcade to console games, with the objective of expanding students’ appreciation for the industry. Midway through the semester, she’ll bring in a guest video console archivist from the group Southern California Classic Collectors.

“The goal is for students to really understand where this art form came from and hopefully make an educated guess at where it’s going,” she said.

Hitchings has been playing video games since the early ’80s, when her brother got an Atari 2600. While completing her undergraduate studies in film and video at Kansas City Art Institute and her graduate studies in interactive art and media at New York University, she developed a deep interest in “gaming theory,” which led her to write the History of Video Games course. While the course won’t delve much into actual game design, it is meant to give students “a primer on being a game developer.”

The class is planned to be offered every semester going forward, Hitchings said.

“It’s going to be awesome,” she said. “I’m really excited to keep developing it and keep it contemporary.”

charity.lindsey@latimes.com

Twitter @CharityNLindsey