Freedom to Fight: Video Game Rhetoric

“Get off your butt and go play outside or something!” the average mom tells her kid. “You’re going to waste your life away on stupid video games that rot your brain and ruin your eyesight and your health, sitting around in front of a screen all day!”

Hopefully, for all the video game-playing children out there, most moms aren’t quite as harsh as our hypothetical Average Mom. But her sentiments represent the concerns voiced in the general public discussion on the pros and cons of video games. While knocks to video games’ affect on a players physical health are arguably true, there’s just as strong an argument for the educational, or at least persuasive, feature of gaming.

To professor and video game designer Ian Bogost, games create models of reality through which players can explore ideologies and cultural, political, or societal values. The player is presented with a world and an end goal–sometimes it’s war time and you have to capture all the bases, other times it’s a plot of land for a business that you must make profitable, or even an open world for you to create anything you can imagine. Either way, there are certain programmed rules by which you achieve these end goals.

These rules, or procedures, governing the game create what Bogost calls possibility spaces—the multitude of ways a player can work within the games procedures. Some games have very strict, inflexible rules that limit gameplay to a specific story or path, but the most popular games right now take the opposite tack. The Grand Theft Auto series, Skyrim, Minecraft, and the like have complex, open worlds in which you can craft your own story, or at least choose which story lines you want to explore. These games allow nearly infinite possibility spaces.

    Screen shots from Grand Theft Auto 5 (left)
and Skyrim  (below).

Towerfall Ascension, a popular PS4 game released in 2013, lacks the sophisticated graphics and highly detailed world of the Skryim-esque games pictured above, but has still managed to hit success. The visuals hark back to old arcade games, as do the 2-D, static game maps but players clamor for more. The trailer below shows how creators aim to lure in gamers:

The end goal boils down to “kill the bad guys and don’t die yourself” and each map follows the same general “spawn baddies in increasing numbers” setup, but somehow it’s still addictive.

Why? How?

I would say first that the seeming simplicity offers something different from the Bioshocks and Shadow of Mordors of the gaming world, but just as important is the procedural control the creators have given to players.

Questing is simple and goal oriented, but for player-on-player games, you can modify your players abilities, the treasure contents, where the treasure appears and how it looks, and the list goes on, creating multitudes of possibility spaces in which the gamers can follow the good vs. evil story. The simplistic story itself fades in significance—the creators advertised a fight to free the tower from the evil invaders, but in the game play, all you care about is beating the level, unlocking new maps and characters, and playing out the lone assassin/vigilante taking out targets.

The story seems simple, old-fashioned, and not quite as packed with persuasive rhetoric or educational side effects as games like Animal Crossing, as Bogost pointed out in his article “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” However, as you ascend through levels of difficulties, the ease of killing, and even detecting, who the bad guys are decreases. You start off with one-eyed blobs, graduate to knife-wielding reapers, then to humanoid characters close to our level of skill, and finally shadows that take the image of whichever player’s character they see first.

Players select game variants for character battles.

Players select game variants for character battles.

badguy1 badguy2 badguy3

Through the game play, users reenact over and over the game of good versus evil, playing maps repeatedly until clearing the final stage and advancing to the next. Like the more complex, realistic assassin and warfare games, Towerfall Ascension allows players to fantasize about being heroes, vigilantes, and bad-ass warriors who are able to take down any enemy; skillful, athletic, competent killers who are able to enact violence in the name of the greater good.

While recent studies show that violent games do not, as previously assumed, create more violent teens, according to this article. Perhaps, in these worlds, we’re able to release some aggression and find satisfaction in a world where good and evil are simpler. Good will ultimately triumph, no matter what, because you can restart maps at will. We have more control over our world, in this game, and the rules are easy to understand. Unlike life, victory is certain; success is ensured.

The Terrifying Freedom of Anonymous Public Forums

Go on any social media site and you’ll see users sharing personal moments, intimate thoughts, embarrassing stories, and so much more that, before the Internet allowed instant gratification and recreated the boundaries of social norms, would be thought of as inappropriately personal. On anonymous posting sites like Reddit and Wikipedia, and even on smart phone apps like Yik Yak, you’ll find similar and sometimes more intimate thoughts being shared and commented on.

As someone in the generational community of the social media-obsessed, you’d think I’d have no problem ‘putting myself out there,’ so to speak. I’m fairly open on Facebook—I don’t post a status every hour about my every move, like some people, or talk about my feelings and opinions all the time, like others. I really don’t share as much as many of my friends, and even family members. But I would consider myself fairly comfortable with the public forum posting, all things considered.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to be paralyzed by fear when I sat down to contribute to a Wikipedia page for a class assignment. I just couldn’t do it. No, I didn’t really want to. I couldn’t help feeling like I didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute, or that someone probably knows more about the topic and so deserves to be adding to articles. Or, what if I posted and then someone took it down, or changed it, or didn’t like it—that would be even worse.

I wondered to myself why I was so shy about this. I have no problem posting on Tumblr, Facebook, or Pinterest. I have no problem posting my opinions on this blogsite. But for some reason, Wikipedia scared me.

At first I thought it might be because it isn’t just a social site. People go to Wikipedia expecting to find the truth, now more than ever, when so many people are editing and adding to articles. There’s a certain level of respectability and scholarly knowledge I expect from the contributors to Wikipedia that I don’t expect from other sites.

After giving it more thought, I realized that the anonymous aspect allowed for more judgment to be passed. On Facebook, the people reading my words are, or they’re supposed to be, friends, family, at the very least acquaintances. And they know me—they have a general sense of my personality and sense of humor. So when they read my posts, they pass their judgment based not just on the content of the posts, but also on what they think of me. And hopefully that increases the amount of positive feedback I get.

On anonymous sites (Reddit, Wikipedia, Yik Yak) users are judged by strangers solely on the content of their posts. They can, and usually are, harsher because they have no personal connection to the creator of the post. Now I know Wikipedia is nothing like Reddit, but I couldn’t help feeling the pressure when I sat down to contribute to a page. In the end, I changed as little as possible, and mostly polished up phrasing and grammar and made the article have a tone appropriate for the comic book series it represented. Nothing earth shattering, and hopefully nothing that contributors after me would think was dumb, because, even though it’s anonymous, I will forever be wary of the judgment of strangers on the Internet.

33 Brilliant Quotes About The Human Experience You Never Knew You Needed Until Right Now

Thought Catalog

Azlan DuPreeAzlan DuPree


The prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets. The prettiest eyes have cried the most tears and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain.

Anonymous


She said, “I’m so afraid.” And I said, “Why?,” and she said, “Because I’m so profoundly happy. Happiness like this is frightening.” I asked her why and she said, “They only let you be this happy if they’re preparing to take something from you.”

Khaled Hossein


Never have I seen so many young, privileged, people trying so hard to be happy. There are countless articles written about it, blogs named for it, workshops attending to it. Who ever said we’re supposed to be happy all the time, anyway? We’re not. And the pressure to do so might be what’s making us unhappy to begin with. It’s OK if you’re not completely content with your life twenty-four hours a day. Can you imagine what…

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13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Ooh, I like this!

Thought Catalog

Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

ShutterstockShutterstock


1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power

They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

3. They Don’t…

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Observation Practicum

I feel like I’ve been cheating. As I laid out in parts One and Two of “So I Went to a Tutoring Session,” the circumstances of my practical applications were way too ideal for any real learning to take place. Not that the experiences weren’t good exercises to apply the theories of “student-centered learning” and “teaching the writer not the writing” that our course reading assignments advocate. It’s just that everyone involved were over-anticipating the outcomes.

We had all read the same essays on tutoring and teaching writing—the tutor followed their advice to the letter and the tutees (myself and my classmate) could predict nearly every correction and suggestion she made. We discovered a few tidbits about ourselves as writers along the way and were able to correct some previously overlooked mistakes, but the lack of challenge led to a lack of satisfaction. It felt as if we’d found out that our friends were throwing us a surprise birthday party, but we had to play it off like we didn’t know—we were lacking a little Wow Factor.

I didn’t get any “I’m actually seeing this new knowledge play out right in front of me” feeling. I didn’t get the “I just learned something!” factor that I was expecting.

That is, not until a spontaneous, unofficial tutoring opportunity fell into my lap.

–+–

In the first class of the semester, during a discussion about personal tutoring experiences, I brought up a story about helping my brother with his senior thesis. All my other tutoring and group writing sessions fell in line with the common tutoring experience: we focused on lower order concerns both because we were too afraid of stepping on the writer’s toes to point anything else out, and because we didn’t trust in our own revision skills. My experience went a bit differently.

My brother has difficulty bringing his arguments straight to the page; he’s great at debating with other people, but as soon as he has to sit down at a computer and type, everything seems to leak out of his brain.

So, in order to keep my mom from yelling at him about idle hands and the sin of laziness, I decided to help him out. I sat down at his computer with his document open and asked him to explain to me what he was trying to say. He talked, I typed, and we got through a couple paragraphs pretty smoothly. Without having read any of Kenneth Bruffee’s theory on social construction, Lisa Ede’s essay on collaboration, or Donald A. McAndrew’s guide to tutoring writing, I’d managed to pull off a student-centered tutoring experience.

Now, after having officially studied techniques of tutoring, I can say with confidence that I think the best approach to tutoring is spending extensive time in the development stage of a paper talking it out with another human being…before even sitting down to the isolated act of writing.

My personal experiences working and studying in the film industry add fuel to that belief. Producing professors can’t emphasize enough the importance of the development stage of a project. The Producer’s Business Handbook spends a whole chapter on the funding and planning and strategies of development, marking it as one of the most crucial aspects to creating a solid story and successful motion picture.

The writing process is no different. By spending time discussing ideas, writers have the chance to formulate, in their primary mode of communication, what their argument will be and what points are most vital. This development stage should happen without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard; it should allow for social construction to better shape the writer’s ideas and method of persuasion.

I would go so far as to say tutors should employ dictation as an important teaching tool for tutees that struggle with bringing their ideas into written form.

Both of the writers who I’ve helped via the dictation method find that hearing their words better helps them craft their arguments and organize their thoughts in a cohesive structure. Working with them in this manner brought my mind back to our first ENG 481 reading assignment of the semester by Walter J. Ong, which stressed the inextricable connection between our primary use of oral language and our dependent written language. For these writers, building with the written word confused the flow of their primary language to the point where a fluency of ideas and argument was nearly impossible.

Understanding the importance of the development stages of any writing process wouldn’t have been such a Wow Factor Moment for me if professors gave as much weight to the process as they did to the product. As aspiring tutors and teachers (and maybe story developers in film and TV), it is imperative that we continue to give development the attention it deserves, because there’s no doubt that products come out of the writing process more complex and well-crafted when the writer remains patient and uses his voice throughout the entire journey.

13 Ways You Know You’re Dating A High-Quality Woman

Preach.

Thought Catalog

Forgetting Sarah MarshallForgetting Sarah Marshall

1. She encourages you to pursue your goals, but she doesn’t micromanage. She trusts you to make the right decisions in your own life. She’s the cheerleader, not the coach.

2. She doesn’t try to make you jealous. She’s secure in her worth, and your ability to recognize how valuable she is. She doesn’t need to play games to “trick” you into seeing her her for what she is.

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3. She doesn’t have a princess complex. She demands that you treat her with respect — but because she is a person you love, not because she is a woman and therefore magically entitled to something. Just as she would expect you to treat your friends and family with respect, she knows you wouldn’t treat her any other way. A high-quality woman wouldn’t be with a man who was disrespectful to the people he is…

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