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Back to Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative by Vanderbilt University

181 ratings

About the Course

Intended for both newcomers who are curious about video games and experienced gamers who want to reflect on their passion, this course will explore what happens to stories, paintings, and films when they become the basis of massively multiplayer online games. The Lord of the Rings trilogy—the novels, films, and video game—are our central example of how “remediation” transforms familiar stories as they move across media. The course is designed as a university-level English literature class—a multi-genre, multimedia tour of how literature, film, and games engage in the basic human activity of storytelling. Our journey will enable us to learn something about narrative theory, introduce us to some key topics in media studies and cover some of the history and theory of video games. It will also take us to some landmarks of romance literature, the neverending story that lies behind most fantasy games: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, a bit of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and poems by Keats, Tennyson, Browning, and others. Drawing on centuries of romance narrative conventions, the twenty-first century gaming industry has become a creative and economic powerhouse. It engages the talents of some of our brightest writers, artists, composers, computer engineers, game theorists, video producers, and marketing professionals, and in 2012, it generated an estimated $64 billion in revenue. Anyone interested in today’s culture needs to be conversant with the ways this new medium is altering our understanding of stories. Join me as we set out on an intellectual adventure, the quest to discover the cultural heritage of online games....

Top reviews


Jun 16, 2016

An interesting course for anyone who likes lord of the rings online, fantasy (modern and presents), literature, video games, and/or movies! It's the ultimate combination for maximum nerddom!


Feb 19, 2018

It was very interesting and fun. I liked the literature and examples of the workshop, it was very interesting and It did awaken a much slept passion for poetry and romance.

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1 - 25 of 52 Reviews for Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

By Linda R

Jun 17, 2016

This was just a life-changing perspective-changing course for me. I have always loved Tolkien and have a background in literature and theatre. However I had always thought of LOTR as genre fiction and not "serious" literature. Studying it in the context of English Romantic quest narratives and poems changed my perspective. Beyond that, the world of online gaming was opened to me. I had viewed games from a distance with fascination but they missed my generation and so I had never dived in. As a newbie gamer over 60, it WAS a steep learning curve but I loved the challenge and the community I met in the game. Such a lively and nice bunch of people. I don't know what I did with my time before.

By Catalina

Jul 24, 2018

The content of the class is very interesting, however as non-native English speaker it was hard to follow at times. Particularly, the readings have complex vocabulary. Also, I wanted to complete the honors tasks, but was unable to since downloading LOTRO requires a lot of memory space.

By Matt

Dec 6, 2016

The Course itself is fun. The videos are enjoyable. The subject matter is great. However the quizzes are way to hard. They ask to many questions with multiple answers and the online student is expected to know so much more materials that is probably taught in the actual class, and does not have access to. For that it becomes frustrating. Especially that the material is not easy to digest.

By Tatum D

Dec 7, 2018

There is nothing inherently flawed in the course, it just wasn't what I expected and keeping on it only frustrated me. I wanted to explore about the narrative in online games, not focus on Tolkien's life and works. I also dislike the live discussion parts of the lessons. The idea's great, but some of them weren't very thorough and felt more like comments. I liked the breakdowns a lot better.


Aug 25, 2020

The class is great! Serves a basic theory on video games, literature, and remediation. To my surprise, it also travels through different English literature pieces of chivalry, mythology, or adventure that serves as content to compare the narrative in videogames and films. This part was really enjoyable and so I also recommend this class if you want to know the basics of romance literature. This part also serves to show how many videogames have taken elements of this narrative into their own. Didn't have the opportunity to play LOTRO, but I must say it make me want to play it in the future and to also read the trilogy of Lord of the Rings.

By Noela L

Jun 18, 2016

A fascinating course for those who love games, digital narrative, and literature.

The course materials are done with love and it shows: the videos are fantastic, clear, entertaining and well paced.

The course revolves around Lord of the Rings (in its iterations of books, films and videogame), but discussion about art, literature, gaming and narrative in general is encouraged.

The community is supportive, helpful and very friendly, in the forums and in the game, so those who are new to gaming but are interested in the course have no reason to shy off!


Aug 19, 2017

Ce cours est très intéressant car il ne porte pas que sur l'oeuvre de Tolkien, on y découvre des textes, des poèmes etc qui permettent de comprendre la tram narrative, les choix d'écritures et ce qui a inspiré Le Seigneur des Anneaux, sans oublier le fait que ce cours explore aussi le travail effectué pour l'adaptation en jeu vidéo de l'histoire du Seigneur des Anneaux. Je ne suis vraiment pas déçue et j'espère retrouver un cours d'aussi bonne qualité sur le catalogue de Coursera!

By Michaela S

Jun 21, 2016

Exceptional course that explores the remediation of books, narrative, and other artwort like paintings into MMOs. The discussed example is Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and the games "Lord of the Rings Online".

The support is outstanding on Coursera as well as in the game. Several servers are home to course accompanying groups who offer support and guidance with course related in-game assignments and the game itself.

Great fun, great people, great content.

By Courtney R

Jun 20, 2016

Although I’m not really a gamer, I took the first session of this course since I was studying art and computer science in school, and I thought this course would give me some insights as to what decisions people make when they design a computer game based on a well-known existing story, and as to how art and technology are integrated into the overall game design. It certainly did! And I found it so engrossing that I’ve continued to play LOTRO ever since.

By C-Louise T

Jun 23, 2016

A very enjoyable course that shows art can be appreciated in many forms, people of all walks of life and ages enjoy online games and that you can be anything you want with a little imagination.

The course videos are a series of discussions between the course tutor and his team of young enthusiasts. Its an unusual method and one I thought was lively and entertaining.

By Thamires P

May 16, 2020

Even for someone who is not much into games (but who is very much into literature and LOTR) this course was a pleasant surprise. I loved to see the interaction between the students during the course, everyone is very knowledgable, and everything is discussed in depth and detail in the course. I absolutely loved the course!

By Joseph B

Jul 13, 2016

Fun and engaging course with a lot of material I would have otherwise not looked into. I made so many friends and have a deeper appreciation for Tolkien and LOTRO than I did before this course! I highly recommend this to anyone looking to take a course that can truly be informative and fun at the same time.

By Yudhanjaya W

Dec 3, 2016

Loved it. A pleasure from start to finish. Jay Clayton is so clearly in love with what he teaches that you cannot resist being pulled along for this ride. I gained a great deal of knowledge on the construction of stories and how they've evolved across the years, from books, to painting, to video games.

By Marni

Oct 10, 2022

This course was fun and challenging in the best possible way. The only thing that would have made it better is if I would've been able to play the video game used as the central example (Lord of the Rings Online), but it's not compatible for Mac users.

By Alina S

Apr 24, 2017

This was a very interesting course that brings together different and unexpected sources and ties them with Tolkien's classic narrative in ways that help you gain new perspectives on LOTR, but also on modern and classic works of art, books, games.

By Ricardo J P D L T

Apr 25, 2021

Filled with emotions and amazing content, this course delivers a complete notion of how narrative works in video games, films, and literature. And in some others that we wouldn't have considered before, such as architecture or painting.

By Tanya B

Feb 1, 2017

This course was incredible! Jay is such a passionate instructor and the course materials between literature, gaming, and narrative are so engaging. The only thing I wish is that I could have been present for the discussions!

By Ross

Dec 20, 2016

very special course, combines; literature, gaming, lord of the rings, creative writing structures,

rarely do i find a course so specifically right for me it could have been personally tailored for me.

simply mind blowing.

By Amy S

Mar 6, 2024

Really enjoyed this course. The course material was interesting and I liked the vibe of the lectures/video discussions. I would have done the Honors Track, however I encountered difficulties thanks to my pc.

By Nikoleta M

Aug 13, 2021

Extremely fun, well-designed course, with an awesome professor and incredible students, which made me observe storytelling in different media in a completely new way. Thank you for the wonderful 6 weeks!

By Guivien D

Jun 17, 2016

An interesting course for anyone who likes lord of the rings online, fantasy (modern and presents), literature, video games, and/or movies! It's the ultimate combination for maximum nerddom!

By alejandro m G m

Feb 20, 2018

It was very interesting and fun. I liked the literature and examples of the workshop, it was very interesting and It did awaken a much slept passion for poetry and romance.


Feb 13, 2021

A great course for any gamer who doesnt know much about litterature, or any avid reader who has never given games a chance. Or even better, for anyone who enjoys both!

By Jaime R

Jan 11, 2017

I am really grateful for the course that gave me the idea and theorethical background to create a transmedia experience with my daughters around the Hobbit and Lotro

By Анна П

Jun 19, 2023

I enjoyed it a lot. This course helped me to reguard storytelling in different ways, includind its path from the Middle Ages to my console! Thank you!