While children sit in holding pens and parents are sent away — while lives are broken — we are sitting behind our screens debating the legality and blame of a horrific situation. We are blending and bending facts to our will when, by definition, facts should be defended as iron-clad objective reality. Lines that do not bend to petty rhetoric. The general argument surrounding immigration and detention is derailing us from the conversations we should be having. Instead of what is right or wrong, we need to shift to something akin to how do we fix this… or what are possible solutions? What is the damage we are causing? In the face of these questions, who did it and who could be arrested for it should be overshadowed by the blatant fact that it is happening in the first place.
The rhetoric behind the click-bait title “I Went on a Date with Aziz Ansari. It Turned into the Worst Night of my Life” beacons a bias that is hard to ignore. Unfortunately, it attempts to evade its one-sidedness by milking current trends: predominately the progressive #MeToo movement that began in October 2017 with the Harvey Weinstein scandals. #MeToo is an international narrative of women speaking openly about sexual assault and mistreatment in the workplace–something women are often reticent to discuss amidst threats of unemployment, the ambiguity of sexual violence, and the unfortunate stigma that follows these things.
How language is manipulating our thoughts and why it is drastically important to teach.
The trouble with words is that, regardless of their size, whether they are salient or subtle, they matter. In their weightless form, they can move mountains and manipulate realities. They can inspire genocide and create peace. America’s national parks are built on their formless back. The Nazi Party was founded on their circulation (e.g., all race other than what Hitler deemed Arian were described as parasitic “bastard races” in schools). The anger, or hatred, or disdain you may feel toward our current political situation in the United States could be based on the graceful words from our president’s mouth, or his Twitter.
The question mark is, perhaps, the most powerful syntactical mark that exists. The nature of the interrogative clause or phrase is that of thought–you inquire as a response to a problem. You draft, you adjust, you adapt, you grow, you think, you try, you test, you risk–all thanks to a question mark. All thanks to a question. What is inquiry but a hypothesis waiting to be tested? What is testing a hypothesis but progressing towards something extraordinary?
(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.