Procedural Rhetoric and the Appeal of Video Games

            The Republia Times deconstructs news media by providing us with a brief demonstration of how it is created, and how content is selected throughout the production process. Working as an editor for the fictitious Republia Times, a part of the Ministry of Media, everything from article size to your choice in content has the power to influence people’s loyalty to Republia’s government. Omitting information that casts the government in a negative light not only proves to be detrimental to the government, but also comes at a personal cost by placing the player in extreme circumstances. Part of the decisions made will be influenced by your wife and child are being held in a “safe location”; with their safety being determined by your job performance.

The game makes players more conscious of the media that is being consumed by making one reflect on what is being published, why it is being published, where it is coming from, who controls it, and the circumstances it is created under. Pathos makes one want to abide by the government’s instructions to avoid harm to the player’s fictional family, yet the game assumes that a player may go in the opposite direction and attempt to publish correct information at a great personal cost.

September 12th is similar as it also functions rhetorically by using pathos as an appeal. The player attempts to eliminate terrorists [easily identifiable by using a cliché image] by dropping bombs in a specific area. The terrorists are shrouded in the crowded streets of the area, surrounded by men, women, children, and even a few animals. However as the player learns, it is difficult to eliminate their target without casualties – it is a nearly impossible feat. Unlike other games, when an NPC gets hurt, their bodies litter the streets and the destruction the player creates is highly visible and emphasized by the horrifying screams of the surviving civilians.

As the title implies, September 12th follows September the 11th, a clear reference to the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the response that followed. It allows one to offer a different perspective and removes the detachment from the Bush administration’s War on Terror, allowing the player to see the very real consequences of a war that they otherwise would not have direct involvement with. It forces the viewer to think about the rhetorical question of “Is an attack justified after what happened?”, and assumes the answer will be “No.” by making an emotional appeal to result in the player making a judgement.

Both of these games use procedurality in order to establish players as an audience, and capture their attention by creating emotional appeals by clearly outlining issues in a more demonstrative fashion that allows players to consider the results of their actions in the fictitious realm in order to illustrate how similar actions translate into real world consequences.


By Alexandrina Wilkinson-Mitropoulos

Bibliography

Bogost, Ian. “Procedural Rhetoric.” Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. 1-39.

Frasca, Gonzalo. September 12th. 2003.

Pope, Lucas. The Republia Times. 2012. <http://dukope.com/play.php?g=trt&gt;.

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Interactive Fiction and Accessibility

A large issue within the video game medium is the question of accessibility. Questions frequently asked often involve people wondering, “Who can play games?”. However in light of more recent technological developments, we are starting to ask “Who can make them?”. It’s no secret that if we look at who creates highly commercial, AAA titles for the masses, we see the dominant trend [and somewhat cliche] image of the white guy in his 30’s, able to afford the education that his parents bought for him. Where a lot of people find issue with this image is it creates several key assumptions that keep people out of the game industry:

  1. You need to have a formal education in order to create games.
  2. You need to work for a major video game company to create games.
  3. You need to know how to code.
  4. You need to have money.
  5. You need to have graphics.

While a number of years ago these ideas may have been true, I use the term “assumption” to mean exactly that: an idea that is accepted to be true, but does not necessarily possess the proof in order to cross the realm into the real world.

In Creation Under Capitalism, Porpentine breaks down these assumptions by making note of the many ways people are creating games that go against the dominant model by creating works of interactive fiction. The beauty of the interactive fiction model is that it is highly accessible, easy to learn, does not require a supercomputer, and won’t break the bank if you try to create one. All an author of these types of games needs is a little imagination, and some patience to create their work. If you can write, have access to a computer, and an internet connection, you can create a game that fits within the realm of interactive fiction. Voila — you can become a part of the gaming industry.

An important part in the distribution and creation of media is allowing for a diverse selection to challenge the status quo, and allow for more accessibility. We need a type of ethical dualism in media in order to keep our priorities straight, and challenge traditional uses that may not work within our best interests. For every newspaper article that states a government’s justification for bombing a foreign country, there is a blog belonging to someone in that country, explaining the effects those bombs had on them. It’s a means of removing the blindfold and creating an empowered audience, creating content for themselves, by themselves. The dawn of the internet brought seemingly limitless potential for access to knowledge, and allowed the voices of the masses to be cranked louder than the more institutionalized shouts that have been heard for a very long time. If this has been viewed as a change for the better, then it’s about time the same thing to happen to the realm of gaming – maybe interactive fiction iz the answer.

 


By Alexandrina Wilkinson-Mitropoulos

References:

Porpentine. “Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.” Nightmare Mode. November 25, 2012.http://nightmaremode.thegamerstrust.com/2012/11/25/creation-under-capitalism/