Course Assignment & Description – Ultra-Ego: Agency in Alter Ego (8.1)

COURSE ENG 263: Digital Literary Studies


Do you have favorite text you want to pore over? Do you want a job writing about video games? Are you interested in editing digital media? Here’s a way to get started on these goals and more. This course offers you an introduction to digital literary studies. Topics to be addressed include digitizing and analyzing print texts, comparing and critiquing electronic literature and video games, and creating video essays. This course also covers the creation of digital portfolios.


Theory Application Project

Overall Task

Put forward an original argument about the role of agency when engaging with electronic literature. Present this argument (using text and images) in the form of an Adobe Spark site.


When studying electronic literature, we will discuss what it means to interact with texts and whether a reader/viewer/player has agency. Dene Grigar defines agency in this context as “the degree of freedom and choice a user has” (30). For this project, you will pick a single work of electronic literature (which includes video games) and make an argument about your agency when interacting with the text. You will want to apply media-specific analysis to the text to make your argument. Questions you might consider:

1) What options do you have and choices do you make when interacting with this text?
2) How much do your choices impact the trajectory or narrative of the text (for example, can you change the ending)?
3) How does the text’s aesthetic (what it looks like, what it resembles) shape your
understanding of your agency?
4) How does the text’s technical elements (what platform it is built in) shape your
understanding of your agency?

While this final project will be shaped by your focus, it should meet a few specific requirements. You must have a clearly stated argument, indicate the importance of your particular point of view, and contextualize your argument within a larger scholarly conversation. You will very likely want to draw on Grigar, Hayles, or other theorists we read who will help you define agency and explain how you’re analyzing your text.


You will convey your argument in the form of an Adobe Spark site ( You will need to include screenshots of your chosen text and you will analyze those screenshots to support your argument. The written portion should be between 1,500 and 2,500 words.


I will expect that your Adobe Spark site essay will contain the following:
● a thesis statement that is clear, original, and argumentative,
● relevant evidence used to support your thesis–this must include textual examples from your chosen text, including screenshots,
● developed and sustained analysis of the evidence you offer in support of your thesis,
● logical organization,
● clear knowledge of the text(s) you choose and of any secondary material you include, and accurate formatting (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) for any citations you use.

Please feel free to meet with me (early and often) as you develop your argument and begin thinking about how to support that argument.


This project fit into the semester pretty easily as ENG 263: Digital Literary Studies was a co-taught class by three professors, each teaching one unit with a major project due at the end. The unit that this particular project came out of was taught by Dr. Lillvis, and was to create a project about agency in e-lit by using media-specific analysis and then turning it into an Adobe Spark project, which we would turn into a video essay in the next unit. The project was right to be situated in the middle as it gave us time to study and learn the texts before needing to transform it into a video.

Alter Ego is a text I was well acquainted with prior to this project, but I needed to think about it using a different lens, so for the first week or so I just kept playing the game over and over again. It’s not a super long game, and you can play it online, or there’s an app version for iOS, so I used both to run through the game multiple times with different choices just to see the options and outcomes. While I was playing, I would take screenshots and jot down notes if I noticed something interesting.

From there, I went through the game once more to specifically pull screenshots I wanted to supplement the section on game mechanics based on an outline I wrote, and then wrote that section in a word document as Adobe Spark isn’t the easiest platform to use when it comes to writing text, especially since this project had a minimum word count to meet. The section on software specification went the same way, adding in time to research the coding language used to write the program.

The last portion of this project was the analysis I needed to write on Alter Ego, and while agency was the assigned focus, I decided to focus more on how this game has lost player agency as it ages due to our own cultural shift. During my playthroughs of the game it occurred to me that while the UI was pretty impressive for a text based game, I had less choices for my persona than other text based games/visual novels I’ve played. When I did background research on the game, it was very obviously acknowledged by other players who were going through it as a community, and even the publishers themselves. So with the background of the game, screenshots, and notes, I wrote the analysis section in the same word document as the others.

Once the actual paper portion of the project was finished, I popped it over into Adobe Spark and started adding graphics to supplement the essay. Some were the screenshots I had taken, others were stock photos used to aid the section along in what it was about, or a point I was making. I honestly would have liked to use videos with Spark, but videos of text based games doesn’t make for a particularly exciting experience. That’s essentially the process I had when creating this project.