Bogost's "Persuasive Games" pt.2

Continuing my kitchen project and my summary of Bogost's book, here is a more detailed discussion of some of Bogost's specific arguments within his book.

Bogost’s discusses the political application of procedural rhetoric with games that force choices on a player or limit the interaction the player has. This choice or limitation helps create associations of a political message. The message may be success in a field of gray choices without a clear right direction or an intentional failure. This forced failure helps the player experience the limits and struggles of an given political situation. Bogost’s application of the “rhetoric of failure” extends beyond serious political games to political satire games and satire in other disciplines. Examples in both advertising and value focused games emphasis games as satire and a means to present a subversive culture. Games can teach a process by showing how the process fails or how the system breaks down intentionally creating a negative view of the policy, product, or decision.

Some of the examples used in the book are very overt, while others are more complex and challenging to understand. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing videogame and the online flash game McDonald’s Video Game is critiqued and the messages and materialism are discussed. The satire and subversiveness in the McDonald’s Video Game is apparent as the player slaughters cattle for burgers amidst disease and feces. But in Animal Crossing, which is targeted to a younger audience, is the satire of materialism and how some game characters work against it apparent to the players? Without further discussion and guidance do players see or understand the social and cultural criticisms? This lack of application and active discussion is an area Bogost treads lightly around. His focus is not on how educators, activists, and others can apply videogames as persuasive communication. Bogost does not provide practical guidelines or “how to” recommendations. The book’s focus and intent is on providing a framework and explanation of how and why games can influence people and ideas. Not how to create games to do so.

Bogost’s analysis of games with social messages is not unique. Barrett (2006), Murray (2005), and others have critically analyzed Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the past as both a commentary on society and a contradiction in race relation. Bogost applies his theory of procedural literacy to this previous work to discuss how GTA: San Andreas is effective in achieving this social and racial commentary by actively requiring the player make decisions about what to wear or eat, and who to spend time with. Bogost also builds on the work of others in his discussion of licensing games and products. His discussion of Harry Potter and licensing is similar to the research done by MIT’s Henry Jenkins (2006) on transmedia. Bogost describes how the Quidditch World Cup game, published by EA , created a larger experience in a licensed world. Through the gameplay, players experienced events beyond the books and movies. Andrew Burn’s research (2004) describes a similar relationship between children and the cross media experiences of Harry Potter. Bogost does not build on the work of literature scholars, but as was his method with Grand Theft Auto he provides a procedural explanation of why the videogame experience influences the player and enriches their experience of a licensed world.

Bogost continued his creation of a procedural rhetoric by setting up a theoretical framework in a variety of disciplines. He did so in his discussion of the political, social, cultural, and educational applications of persuasive videogames. His discussion of educational games begins with a detailed review and application of educational theorists. Vygotsky, Dewey, Piget, and others all are applied and related to videogames and learning. The argument that procedural literacy creates learning is easier to make for Bogost, since much of the text describes what people are learning and experiences in games. Procedural literacy creates educational experiences where the player learns through action, decision, and consequences. Videogames like Civilization, SimCity, and Flight Simulator have actively used process to teach players experiences and put them into real life roles for decades. Bogost sees this procedural learning as the key of what games can teach. To this extent he levels criticism at Gee (2003) and Beck and Wade (2004) for being too limited in their discussion and application of what games can teach. For Bogost, games can do more than simply serve as a metaphor to create a new ways of thinking and problem solving. Games teach specific relationships and put players into experiences they can directly connect to life. Bogost’s analysis of the educational application and connection to videogames gives further support to those looking to create serious and educational games. The learning done in games is more than just a metaphor, there are specific skills, processes, and relationships that games can teach.


Kiara said...

You know what, I love reading your post. Every time I laid my eyes on the article, I get something new. I hope you continue posting informative blogs. Now I am learning something about persuasive games, what this kind of Download Games are giving, I mean the benefits of playing.