‘The Learning process is something you can incite, literally, incite, like a riot.’ This is what happened that year. We read and talked and disagreed, and the world, so very much world, began to shake inside us as we found our humanity in all this inhumanity, found empathy and compassion, found moral compasses, as we learned to hold history accountable, to hold the newspaper headlines accountable, to hold each other accountable. And all this in English class, not at home, not at church or temple or mosque, but from reading novels with Ms. W. In one year, she turned us into thinkers. I began to understand reading and writing as a revolution, thinking as being a profoundly active verb. I began to understand that a person writing quietly in a room might be burning down the world. And then rebuilding it, word by word, into something magnificent.” -Audre Lorde
It’s a damp, muggy, beautiful July morning in Charleston. I am doing yoga beneath the ancient oak tree that sits by my apartment. From my twisted angle, the sun flickers a honeyed-yellow light between the pieces of Spanish moss. I inhale slowly and close my eyes, forgetting the last of the moving boxes I have to pack. Imagining myself at the front of a high school classroom–finally achieving my purpose: making a difference. I love my college kids, and I am still so passionate about teaching them, but the mentality of the ivory tower drained my idealism within my teaching philosophy. Continue reading
(This article was written as part of my graduate thesis and is part of my on-going research in education, rhetoric, and games.)
A few weeks ago I took part in a panel at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco that explored the relevance of video games—of what scholar James Paul Gee calls a “problem of content,” in which we only value an artifact as educational if it provides tangible content (22). At the conference major developers and game designers gathered together to talk about what the medium of games was to become with the incessant invectives of games being “a waste of time” or “a phase to grow out of.” If that’s all games are, then what’s the point of working in them? As a field, we need to find a way to elucidate these claims. We need to shine light on video games as a medium that has the potential to serve alongside traditional artifacts accepted in an artistic and academic setting, while also realizing that some games are simply meant to be used as entertainment or escapism. Regardless, the level of interactivity games allow have proven to provide profound effects on cognitive enhancement, but we can only use them progressively if they are taken serious both by their audience and their creators. Ian Bogost argues that games should be discussed alongside “traditional media subjects,” and that “teaching games alongside reading, writing, and debating them as argumentative and expressive practices” can help evolve the way we look at rhetoric in new media (136). Thus the aim of this project, inspired largely by this conversation, is to explore how video games create meaning through their design—ultimately looking at how games apply and use multi-modal rhetorical devices to influence players in a manner that other mediums may not be able to.
As an educator, I have an interest in researching how video games can help us to better understand learning through interaction, play, and experience. Despite their often negative reputation for being a “waste of time,” video games still provide us with a unique medium of entertainment because they require direct interaction from the player. This aspect introduces a new dimension in how forms of entertainment and media affect us, especially in fields like medicine and psychology.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir
Do you remember the game Okami? It’s a beautiful title that puts you in control of Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, who comes to earth in the guise of a white wolf. Throughout the game your job is to heal the world around you, giving life to plants and animals. It is, in essence, nature fixing itself. Okami was not necessarily created with the purpose of displaying the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems, but the wolf-like character affects her environment much like real wolves do in their natural world–so much so that they can actually change the geography of the earth underneath their feet. How is this possible? How can a single animal change a physical landscape? Ultimately, they change it through the fragility and natural balance of ecosystems. Continue reading
“This is the first time I’ve ever lived downtown in a large city before.” I said insecurely, fidgeting with my diet coke. Its glass was perspiring and cool to the touch, a welcome distraction from the conversations going on around me.
By this point I had lived in D.C. for about a month; my romantic notions of this political town were already waning.
(Did I ever mention that I don’t like politics?)
“Seriously?” the man across from me scoffed in disbelief, as if I was alien to him. “Oh that’s right, you came from the south… near Atlanta, right? There’s nothing really there.” He went on to describe lack of intelligence and high obesity rates that plagued the southeastern United States. And racism. And ignorance.
It was my first time exploring San Francisco on my own.
I was already in love with the city. The cool air and lack of humidity calmed the hairs on my head, hairs that normally fly up at the sense of a single drop of southern humidity.
Here everything, including the interior of buildings, had the musty smell of the ocean. Here the earth learned to deal with a lack of rain by masking the environment in a morning fog–a fog that slowly drifted away as the day progressed, like an artist unveiling a masterpiece.
There was a point in time where I thought I was immune to the gender of a protagonist in a game or movie. The majority of games I played, unless an RPG that allowed you to build a character, presented a male as the quintessential hero. I didn’t mind. I was young and accepted it.
But a spark ignited when I first saw that Samus, from the Metriod series, was a female. Precipitously, this character meant so much more. For the first time, the vulnerabilities I often felt about being a girl were shed.