Designing Education: What Video Game Designers and Rhetoricians Can Learn From Each Other

Overheard as people settle in… “Are we ARGing or LARPing?”

These are my rough notes, very lightly edited. Looks like 50 or 60 people — a good crowd. Liz Losh and Bonnie Lenore Kyburz are presenting in separate panels elsewhere… I hope somebody’s blogging there.

Chair Matt Davis

Samantha Blackmon

Designing Education: What Video Game Designer and Compositionists Can Learn From Each Other

Refers to Bogost’s def of procedural rhetoric (a technique for making arguments with computational systems, and unpacking arguments others have made).

Any of us who do games as a scholarly endeavor have to justify our process; procedural rhetorical and game design tasks and strategies relate to our pedagogy and student engagement. A focus on engaging our students, who overwhelmingly play games of all sorts. Refers to 2008 Pew study. 99% boys, 94% of girls play games.

Noted that she prepared for at TV generation that was used to changing channels; now we have to worry about students with trigger fingers who don’t read and only write l33t. But is this true?

“Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness.” Donald Murray, Teaching Writing as a Process, Not a Product, 1972.

Traditional composition does not apply to the podcasting and design that many of us are teaching in our comp classes.

Rethinking our post-process scholarship; revise the way we think about what we do in the classroom. Rather than focus on the end product (the research paper, final podcast) it’s useful to think what is the non-product end game. How do we motivate our student to do the difficult and repetitive work of composing?

Game designer has to master the tutorial process; our classes aren’t quite so mercenary but we should see our success as dependent on engaging students. Engaged students learn better. One of the main differences between Murray’s students is what keeps students engaged.

If games are really ubiquitous, they have spent more time learning from games and learning to game than they have in the classroom. Play lets people experiment with multiple solutions, without penalty for incorrect or ineffective drafts.

Invoked Mario games.. “If you failed to clear any of those damn hurdles” you get unceremoniously dumped back to your last save point. New Super Mario Bros. You must earn help videos, and you can watch the video and progress, or go back and re-do the level you’ve just seen demonstrated. Watching the video lets you skip a difficult level, but it doesn’t let you earn the coins that will help you advance the next time.

If we can lock onto the idea of earning help and raising levels, and articulate it in a way that students understand, we’ve got students engaged. Most educational software is as useful as grammar drills; Blackmon would love to hear praxis that will make our composition classrooms more like video games.

PipBoy 2000 some kind of HUD… gamers are given constant feedback. Sliders that would help students assess their progress through a course could create a culture where students think about their standing in the course before they visit Facebook.

Ian Bogost

Instead of coming to video games from rhetoric, Bogost is interested in coming to rhetoric from video games.

Thinking of how to expand his theoretrical ideas on how games persuade, and extending that beyond games.

In a game the rhetoric is in the rules. “Procedural rhetoric” argues that systems can depict things through modeling, computational modeling characterizes someone’s idea of how things work. We know the freight piracy has been running rampant since 1990s, those attacks have become more frequent and daring. Traditional media can use words to analyze the political background, images to emphasize the fear and terror; but looking at piracy as an economic system (refers to Wired’s Cutthroat Capitalism game).

Wired depicted an algorithm that teaches piracy as a system.

We might be interested in process for the sake of process itself; we tend to ignore process for the sake of narrative. Journalism does not talk a bout the financial system, but focuses on Joe Q Average’s mortgage crisis.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. A diagram on page 82 is the argument. “It’s good that there’s a book,” but the single chart is the argument. Notes that we don’t do a very good job emphasizing process; making an animated magazine with the iPad does not take advantage of the multimedia capabilities; it becomes a network appliance.
McDonald’s videogame teaches the necessity of corruption in making money in a multinational organization. As play progresses you have to start taking unethical actions in order to keep profits running. (Bogost’s students sometimes have too much sympathy for the McDonald’s execs, rather than getting the point.)

When you read a prose mission statement, and then play the game, you get the point.

Mentions Fatworld. Obama launched “Apps for Healthy Kids,” the winner was “this atrocity” ZisBoomBah, where you choose carrots in a game over candy bars.

Liz Losh Virtualpolitik; the reason you run “Apps for Healhty Kids” contest is not for the games, but to demonstrate you are hip.

Showed a mortgage equation and a short program for generating random numbers; these are documented processes. Could we use such a process to understand the complex process of food regulations? Scientific experimentation is a procedural act. Science and engineering sees its documentation — the publication — that signifies success. Even video game designers don’t use procedural rhetoric to encourage people to buy. (Would a “lite” version of a game be an example?)

Mentioned shipboard safety drills, and mocked a complex in-flight safety video with far too many steps: “I’m dead.”

Shows McCluan’s grid exploring a technology by what it Enhances, Reverses, Retrieves, Obsolesces

Multiliteracies operates as a religion in the composition community.

Multiltieracy assumes we’re playing against the house, but suggests that the results that any of us gets depends on what we’ve put into them.

Ends with a wish to interact more with rhet-comp people.

Alexander Reid

Minimal Rhetoric: Gamic Flow and Unit Operations

Growing connections between education and gaming, extenuating from early childhood to college through corporate and military training.

Echo historical complaints about our discipline — games lack substance, can mislead us. Just as we would like to see rhetoric as something that describes more than just persuasion, gaming also describes a wide range.

Calls for a more nuanced theory of affect. Process does not represent affect; writing process theory sees writing as rational.

Introduces “flow” — not a blessed out, mindless state; it’s an active state, not simply about pleasure, but a state of happiness that you achieve through pushing your limits.

Student experiences with writing do not often correspond with happiness or flow. Seeks connection to intrinsic motivation that games generate.

Cultural studies might have problems with “flow,” critiquing the concept of pure enjoyment. From a critical perspective, enjoyment is something to be met with suspicion. Invokes procedurally in Jane Murray, Lev Manovitich. Unit operations are creative, system operations are static.

minimal rhetoric; avoids establishing a firm border between the rhetorical and the rhetorical. Expand object-oriented rhetoric to include the affective forces that underly flow. Reid describes this flow as “gamic,” but notes “gaem-ik” relating to marriage and sexual reproduction; geometry refers to edges of a polyhedron. A marriage, a meeting of two shapes along an edge that propagates a third space.

Bernard Sweeds (sp?) sees games a process to overcome unnecessary obstacles. (Golf is not much of a game if you could pick up the ball and drop it in the hole.) Why do we happily engage in obstacles in a game, but not in composition? Is it that comp is required? Is it that we spend so much time convincing students that the “unnecessary obstacles” are crucial to their careers.

As game-players our students elect to overcome unnecessary obstacles with little tangible result, but in composition they work hard to avoid the obstacles in the search of the simplest path, despite the fact that the results (grades) seem at least on one level to be more tangible (but how tangible are grades?)

We know writing is not simply a form of pleasure, though it can be rewarding. Why do students engage with obstacles in games, but avoid them in writing. Students don’t seem to see the struggles they face in composition as analogous to the challenges they face in games. They see composition as an uncomplicated rational process, and see their failure to compose as a sign of their deficiency;

flow, motivation, unnecessary operations

We think of invention as the acceptance of unnecessary obstacles. We can either confront the obstacles we encounter in our writing, or we stop writing.