The Rhetoric of Video Games


Animal Crossing as an Example

  • The article begins by identifying key components of Animal Crossing that make it more than a game about everyday life in a small town. 
  • It is a game about customizing and caring for an environment. 
  • It is a game about making friends and about collecting insects.
  • It is also a game about long-term debt. It is a game about the repetition of mundane work necessary to support contemporary material property ideals


Using this example, it’s argued that “video games are not just stages that facilitate cultural, social, or political practices; they are also media where cultural values themselves can be represented—for critique, satire, education, or commentary.”


Play and the Possibility Space

  • We encounter the meaning of games through exploring possibility spaces which is explored through play; play -> possibility space -> meaning
  • Video games can represent processes in the material world that can then be explored


Procedurality and Rhetoric

  • Procedurality crafts representations through rules -> creates possibility spaces
  • Subject centered procedurality vs learning about procedurality itself
  • Visual rhetoric and digital rhetoric are too limiting


Introducing Procedural Rhetoric

  • The practice of using processes procedurally 
  • Allows a new way to make a claim about how things work
  • Can understand it by thinking about how we make models but can also make arguments about conceptual systems
  • Can extend far beyond physical and formal models to include arguments about how social, cultural, and political processes work as well
  • Procedural rhetoric can make arguments about how things work and DONT work


How do we use Procedural Rhetoric?

  • We can use it to expose and explain the forms of thinking that drive social, political, or cultural behavior -> ideology
  • Both cultural artifacts and games bear biases of their creators which can be inadvertent, hidden, or sometimes explicit
  • A risk can be blindly following such values in epistemic games. We might want to question such values which is what procedural rhetoric allows
  • Playing in the possibility space the rules create -> player discovering a procedural argument -> procedural rhetoric



  • Playing video games allows us to interpret these arguments and consider their place in our lives
  • Educators should consider videos games as an artifact equivalent to other art mediums
  • Kids should be taught both procedural literacy and rhetoric’


How I would apply this:

This article was quite helpful in understanding how I can implement procedural rhetoric, especially in drawing between the distinction of explicit argument vs allowing the player to arrive at their own conclusions. In continuing to develop my game, I want to be mindful of this as I choose the consequences of decisions. I believe there will be some difficulty in striking a balance between guiding players to an assumption and letting them experience it, but I hope that the emotional impact my game creates allows players to grasp the central argument.

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