Prototyping Procedural Rhetoric

Poster for game mix, with large title and five illustrated people, one of whom holds on jigsaw pieces


Scott Nelson

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Scott Nelson's RHE 309K Students

For the final project in my RHE 309K: The Rhetoric of Video Games class, I had students work in groups to develop a game concept that uses procedural rhetoric to argue a thesis. The lesson plan can be found here, but the gist is they write a classical argument on a topic of their choice, and then present both why their thesis is the preferred position and how a video game arguing this position would work. I encouraged them to use use various multimedia authoring tools for their presentations, but was still surprised by the innovation and quality of the multimedia they created. Since there were only four groups total, I'll run through their basic ideas for the games.


Game Poster for Mix

Mix is a game about broken copyright laws and the stifling of art. The group decided on a puzzle metaphor for the game, on where the individual pieces represent other artists' work. What I found particularly innovative abut their game design was that each boss battle corresponded to a different part of the four-part test for fair use. The player actually fights fair use concepts, but later these concepts come back on the side of the player to defeat record companies.

Children of the Future and the Laptops of Doom

Children of the Future and the Laptops of Doom

CFLD argues to students about the overuse of laptops in college classrooms. What I found particularly innovaive with their approach was to have a set of minigames dealing with attention and respect for the instructor. All of the minigames' win states point to the overarching thesis that using laptops in the classroom is detrimental to students' learning.The above screenshot is from the first minigame, and highlights the difficulty in processing information from simultaneous, varied sources.

Overparenting Mama

Overparenting Mama Screenshot

As the title suggests, this game is about overparenting, often called "helicopter parenting." Aside from the obvious visual rhetoric of a hovering mother, this game uses a unique point system to argue that letting kids fail is ultimately good for them.

War on the Homefront

War on the Homefront presentation

War on the Homefront argues against the military's Individual Ready Reserve policies of extending contracts beyond the three years mandatory service. The group argued that similar to the "backdoor draft" of stop-loss policies, the IRR disturbs veterans' civilian life and unethically asks more of men and women who have already served their country. The innovation in this group stemed from their decision to use Little Big Planet as a presentation platform. The above screenshot shows Sackboy literally drowning in statistics about PTSD and tours of duty.

These screenshots don't really do justice to the robust nature of the students' presentations, as each group created a multitude of digital media to supplement their arguments. Some of the presentations contained the usual PowerPoint, but some used static images, video, and even working prototypes of the game using Game Salad or the Unreal Engine. In creating procedural rhetoric, the students pushed themselves outside normal conception of argument creation and used new media in novel ways. I'll be submitting all of their projects to TheJUMP, where hopefully they can be published at a later date.


Creative Commons License
All materials posted to this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. We invite you to use and remix these materials, but please give credit where credit is due. In addition, we encourage you to comment on your experiments with and adaptations of these plans so that others may benefit from your experiences.


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