Takeaways…

So another semester of my journey into PhD land is nearly complete, and it’s time now to reflect on some of the most memorable things that I have learned and will (hopefully) keep with me as I continue my neverending education.

I am quite taken with Ian Bogost’s notion of procedural rhetoric. I have found that I see it operating in a plurality of contexts, and I feel in my gut that it is a more powerful mechanism than its original articulator gave it credit for. I am devoting the efforts encapsulated by my final seminar paper to exploring other media in which procedural rhetoric (may) work, and to thinking through the mechanism a little more–perhaps coming close to devising some ways in which it might end up as a heuristic to help assess the persuasiveness/expressiveness of interfaces or artifacts.

I also enjoyed the brief foray I took into World of Warcraft. I was struck by the beauty of that environment, and the quickness with which my imagination was captured. But for my lack of free time and extra money, I could easily see myself procuring a subscription to the game. Perhaps I still will–in the name of my dissertation research, which at the moment is on a concept (which may or may not already exist) called “emotioneering”–after the famous group, invented by Disney, of “imagineers” whose job it is to put the magic into the Magic Kingdom as well as Disney’s other lands and products.

As far as other digital games go, it was interesting to play a few in class, and to discuss the messages they conveyed and how, given that they were games, they worked to impress that message on the player. I’m thinking in particular about the game September 12. The question I always find myself asking when it comes to a ‘flimsy’ games like this is: “Why make this a game? Is there another mode in which this same message could be conveyed to the same effect?” I ask this NOT with more complex and immersive games precisely because of their complexity and capacity to fully involve the totality of a person in the experience–mind AND body. But the question arises with ’simple’ games, I think, because there is not that immersive quality INHERENT to the game. A person must CHOOSE to WANT to get at the message of the game, and so stick with it beyond its minimal controls, its cute graphics, and its other “lo-fi” qualities.

So it was with September 12. If you played that game for 5 minutes only, shooting Arabs (because all the terrortists in that game were Arabs) and blowing up buildings, you got only the one-sided message that shooting terroists begets only more terrorits. However, if you sat idle at the screen, contemplating this, you might have noticed that, in the course of that peaceful time, buildings rebuilt themselves, and terrorists slowly morphed into normal citizens–thus conveying the related message that an invisible hand begets stability and a return to pax. For this effect, a game was appropriate. Sadly,  I leave feeling that constructing a persuasive game like September 12 would have been a really fantastic project to include in the course. I leave regretting that, even after nearly 4 months of studying games, I don’t actually know the mechanics of games. I know procedural rhetoric. But how do I make it “go”? This, perhaps, will have to be part of my dissertation.

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