Reading: The Rhetoric of Video Games

The Rhetoric of Video Games

Ian Bogost


The Rhetoric of Video Games -> My IF Game

 I think Ian made many good points throughout this paper that are relevant to any game development process, but I’ll just point out the ones relevant to IFs. During his Animal Crossing example, he said, “The game simplifies the real world in order to draw attention to relevant aspects of that world”. It’s a good way to evaluate a game’s design-and a good check for my game, which is meant to draw attention to increasing loneliness and the byproducts of rapid land development. Ian’s comment on the game’s rules (allow and disallow certain gestures, experiences, and interactions) dictating the game’s significance also rings in my mind as something I’ll keep in mind as I create the rules of my game.  


Animal Crossing

    •  improving home (one of the main goals) -> consistent work (catching fish, hunting for fossils, finding insects, and doing jobs for other towns animals)
  • buying living space -> creates more debt -> impulse to acquire more goods -> more demand -> even more space = vicious cycle


Seeing Tom Nook’s Profits

  • shack -> department store, nook benefits from our debt, he is the corporate bourgeoisie.
  • nonplayer characters (NPCs) are much less materialistic, they’ll sternly berate the player if they haven’t seen him around 
  • when they do express desire for an item, it is due to inveterate longing—“I’ve always wanted a Modern Lamp!”


“The game simplifies the real world in order to draw attention to relevant aspects of that world


Play and Not Learning

  • when we play video games: we explore the possibility space its rules afford by manipulating the symbolic systems the game provides. 
  • rules don’t just create the experience of play—they also construct the meaning of the game (gestures, experiences,
  • and interactions a game’s rules allow (and disallow) make up the game’s significance)


Video Games and Procedural Models

  • games depict real and imagined systems by creating procedural models of those systems
  • imposing sets of rules that create particular possibility spaces for play
  • helps players learn to “read” the key argument in the system of play -> players interpret the relevance of the argument in the context of their own live
  • ex: McDonalds game that forces players to make immoral decisions (feed cows hormones, bribe local gov) to succeed (get more wealth, expand corporation)


As Educational Material

  • as interest in games as a cultural activity increases -> importance of computing itself increased -> can use game development as an entry point into computer science
  • Video games are appealing, kids want to play them -> they also want to make them.
  • can attempt to increase dwindling interest in math, science, and technology


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