Procedural Rhetoric in the Context of Gaming – Micro-Essay #1

Jadzia Genece (40019177)
Carolyn Jong
Micro-essay #1

In the past week, I have played three games with significant political messages; September 12th, The Republia Times, and The Parable of the Polygons. While two of the three games used symbolism, such as personification or metaphor to convey their messages, September 12th was outright with what they wanted the player to know; terrorism is cycle fueled by foreign intervention and political destabilization using violence masked as democratic liberation tactics. I found this interesting, as this game had no end; if you tried to kill terrorists in an air strike and killed civilians, which was highly likely, you would create more terrorists, as those mourning the deceased became opposed to the enemy who killed their loved ones. The Republia Times deals with government censorship and control; you must create propaganda that leads the people of the nation of Republia to trust the government after a large conflict. You manipulate the news, focusing on positive events while the government monitors you, keeping your family hostage in case you choose to disobey. However, rebels appear to be slipping coded messages into the news that you receive. If you obey the rebels, your family is executed, but you may carry on to edit a rebel newspaper. The coded messages encouraging you to reduce people’s loyalty to the government continues to flow in, however. The third game, which is also very political, deals with race and neighborhoods, personified through squares and triangles. In the end, the creators express through interactive statistics and scenarios that diversity is necessary for a stable neighborhood and society overall.

Procedural rhetoric is a term that describes a medium’s ability to convey its message to the person interacting with it: in this case, this person is the player, the medium being games. I’d say that since I was able to successfully glean the meanings of all of the games listed above, I’d say that the procedural rhetoric of these games shone through. September 12th used simple gameplay to emphasize the game’s meaning rather than the mechanics; the point-and-click function is the procedure. All you do is click and a missile is fired, striking the scrambling targets below. Even if you were to skip the dialogue at the beginning expressing that this game is infinite, and that you cannot win or lose, this fact becomes evident in the gameplay, as the people below begin to reconstruct the city you have been destroying, rebuilding apartments, markets, and other crucial structures. The player will also notice that they create more terrorists by accidentally striking civilians, which is unavoidable, which is the game asserting that the war on terror will never end as long as innocent people are being murdered in towns and cities that were transformed into war zones. There is no point system, and the player is given no praise for killing the terrorists. The player is meant to keep pointing, clicking, waiting, and repeating until they have had enough. At this point, what the game is trying to convey has set in, even if the player goes into the game blind. Procedural rhetoric is crucial to this game, or simulation, in particular, because if it had been flawed, the game might convey a completely different message, perhaps even the opposite of what they mean to get across to the player. Although it is far from what people think about when they play games, this idea is well-embedded into the gaming world, and makes games, particularly those that are primarily political, meaningful.

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

The Parable of the Polygons (Nicky Case & Vi Hart 2014)

The Republia Times (Lucas Pope 2013)

September 12th (Gonzalo Frasca 2003)

Procedural Rhetoric in the Context of Gaming – Micro-Essay #1

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