The Rhetoric of Video Games


  • Animal Crossing = Animal village simulator
    • Character => penniless upon arrival to the village, needs to make ends meet
    • Lessons: link between debt and acquisition => more space, more debt, more goods, need more space, etc
    • Game models commerce and debt
  • Video Game play ~ community of practice => common social situation around which people collaborate to develop ideas
    • Video game players develop values, strategies, and approaches to the practice of play
  • Video games facilitate cultural, social, or political practices AND also can represent cultural values
    • games = deliberate expressions of particular perspectives
  • We play = we explore the possibility space => this is how we encounter the meaning of games
  • Procedurality
    • The core practice of software authorship
    • Creating meaning through the interaction of algorithms
    • Video games depict real and imagined systems by creating procedural model of those systems, through procedurality
  • Rhetoric
    • The field of communication that deals with persuasive speech
    • Visual rhetoric = nonverbal media mount arguments
    • Digital rhetoric = focuses on text and image content a machine might host and the communities of practice in which that content is created and used
  • Procedural Rhetoric
    • The practice of using processes persuasively = authoring arguments through processes
      • Like verbal rhetoric is the practice of using oratory persuasively
      • Like visual rhetoric is the practice of using images persuasively
    • A games arguments are made through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models
    • McDonalds game = makes ethical and material choices about third-world farming and governance
      • Procedural rhetoric = the necessity of corruption in the global fast food business and the overwhelming temptation of greed
  • Uses of procedural rhetoric
    • Expose and explain the hidden ways of thinking that often drive social, political, or cultural behavior
    • Make explicit claims about the way a material or conceptual system works
  • When we play, we explore the possibility of space of a set of rules => we learn to understand and evaluate a game’s meaning
  • Video games make arguments about how social or cultural systems work in the world or how they could work or don’t work

This reading was very interesting and it helped me understand how I should structure my game around the actions I let my players take. After reading the article, I now understand a bit more how I can curate my argument through the actions that are afforded to the player within my game. I think this is something I will focus on is making sure that the consequences of the actions taken by the player are expressed clearly and seamlessly drive the storyline. I am still struggling to maintain a proper scope for my game while creating a solid storyline, mostly because of the branching structure I am following, but I think focusing on very purposeful branching will help.

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