Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meet "Scaevola"

In his brief 10-day career Scaevola (Latin for "left-handed"), a Night Elf Hunter, achieved Level 5 after completing numerous quests in Teldrassil. Alas, he did not earn enough coins to purchase a World of Warcraft subscription for himself and thus extend his existence. But Scaevola will be remembered by all who knew him as a stouthearted Elf who did his best, respected others, loved the cool shady woods of his native Shadowglen, and possessed an irrepressible curiosity to explore the wonder and beauty of the world around him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Reflections of a MMOG Noob

Okay, I've downloaded the World of Warcraft (WoW) ten-day free trial and, at this writing, achieved rank as a Level 5 Night Elf Hunter. And earlier this month I created an account with Second Life (SL) and have visited such virtual sites as the Star Trek Museum of Science and the International Space Flight Museum.

These experiences leave me with a few questions:

> I can see how the designers of SL are mounting an argument by rigging their virtual table in favor of their concept of community. But while SL may be play (in Huizinga's sense), it is not a game. So does Bogost's theory of "procedural rhetoric" apply here? If a game has rules (says Huizinga), but if SL is not a game and thus by definition has no rules (in the sense of game-type rules), then is the possibility for Bogost's argumentation via "rule-based procedures" thereby vitiated? My impression is that SL players/communities ultimately set and police their own rules.

> But while WoW is a game, I can't yet see how its design is anything but what Bogost calls "self-referential" (p. 47). Though inducing players to increase their play is a type of persuasion, as Bogost explains, does it really amount to any argument? So far I don't see how the procedures of WoW do anything but what is "self-referential" for the player.

Comments on "Ideological Frames"

Had I purchased Persuasive Games as an expose of the vast rightwing conspiracy at work in the world of videogames, no doubt my expectations would be satisfied. But having bought the book out of a scholarly interest in game studies I must confess, after three chapters, my general disappointment thus far.

Following a promising first chapter in which Bogost begins to set forth his case for a new domain of "procedural rhetoric," the second chapter reports that videogames can be rhetorical (was there any doubt?) and the third critiques three games (Tax invaders, Vigilance 1.0, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas).

Premature Move to Criticism

But the move toward criticism, before theory has been more fully articulated and research conducted, raises a problem cited by Messaris in his 2003 article "Visual Communication: Theory and Research." Referring to Van Leeuwen and Jewitt's 2001 book, Handbook of Visual Analysis, he observes:

Most of the book’s chapters are based on actual studies conducted by their respective authors, and although the descriptions of these studies are typically accompanied by methodological comments, in almost all cases it is the studies themselves that will be of most use to readers looking for guidance or inspiration. . . . [T]he types of research covered in this book do not lend themselves very well to systematic procedural rules (p. 553).

Although these analyses, and others in the book, are grounded in fairly detailed dissections of the visual images to which they are addressed, they all raise what is arguably the thorniest problem in visual research, namely, how we judge the validity of the analyst’s, or anyone else’s, interpretation. . . . How do we know that [researchers'] claims are adequate reflections of how other viewers would respond to the same images? . . . One of these ways is [to build on] . . . well-understood conventions whose functions have been studied systematically in the past, not only by other scholarly writers but also by media practitioners. When that is the case, and when an interpretation stays close to those conventions, the reader may perhaps have greater confidence that the meaning inferred by the writer is likely to be shared by an image’s intended viewers (p. 554).

Of course, the most straightforward way of validating an interpretation is to ask a representative group of viewers for their own responses to an image or set of images . . . [although] this kind of research does not receive much attention in Van Leeuwen and Jewitt’s book (pp. 554-555).

In the same way I am disappointed by Bogost's premature move toward criticism in his third chapter, before his theory of a new rhetorical domain has been more fully articulated, before he has meaningfully foregrounded his claim in "well-understood conventions" of visual and digital rhetorics, and before he has produced research. Without these we are left, like Messaris, to wonder "how we judge the validity of the analyst's, or anyone else's, interpretation."

As it stands, Bogost's third chapter offers only a polemic: conservative paranoia about thieving government, conservative obsession with moral policing, conservative callousness toward the less fortunate. But perhaps this is a shrewd double-move by the author. Maybe he intends for the perceptive reader to realize that, because Persuasive Games is presented in the conventions of a scholarly tome, the author's own ideological frame can slip through unnoticed. Touche!

Cursory Treatment of Lakoff

Finally, I'm disappointed by Bogost's shallow treatment of Lakoff's early and important work in the cultural-cognitive role of metaphor. I have more than a passing acquaintance with Lakoff's research since his work shows up in a chapter of my master's thesis and also figures in an article I had published last month in the Journal of Holocaust Studies (where I used schema theory as a framework for analyzing how perpetrators cognized their social world).

Lakoff's work is far too detailed and nuanced to adequately treat here. But in my view, Bogost mentioned Lakoff's seminal Metaphors We Live By (1980) only in passing to establish the bona fides of his argument, and then appropriates Lakoff's later "self-professed liberal" writing to bolster his critique of Tax Invaders, Vigilance 1.0, and GTA: San Andreas.

Again in my view, Bogost would have strengthened his case better by referencing Lakoff's earlier work on metaphor and cognition to offer his own discourse analysis of an actual videogame. Lakoff himself provides a nice model for such an analysis in his 1987 study, co-authored with Kovecses, on "The Cognitive Model of Anger Inherent in American English."

But then, if Bogost's case turns to cognitivism and discourse analysis, are we getting away from his claims regarding procedural rhetoric? It's been a couple of years, but I don't remember that Lakoff was a rhetorician or was much concerned about rhetorical theory in his 1980s works. That is, he was (if I remember rightly) primarily concerned with metaphor as a cultural-cognitive phenomenon rather than as a rhetorical trope. Thus invoking Lakoff may take us away from rhetoric and into another analytical framework altogether.

Alternate Approaches?

After the first three chapters I begin to wonder if Bogost would have been better served by another approach. For example, a couple of years ago I picked up Pratkanis and Aronson's (1992) classic Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. The book didn't pretend to break new theoretical ground but usefully synthesized existing theories (such as cognitive dissonance and elaboration likelihood) and demonstrated how propaganda (which they defined as "mindless persuasion") techniques occur in everyday life. Persuasive Games could have succeeded with a similar approach. Or as I mentioned at the outset of this posting, a straightforward polemic could be effective.

But if I'm going to accept the claim that the author has identified a new rhetorical domain, then I need more substantiation than Persuasive Games has presented so far. My mind remains open, and perhaps succeeeding chapter retreat from the premature rush to criticism and instead continue the promising theory development begun in the first chapter. But I'm not yet seeing how, say, Tax Invaders is anything more than "computer-assisted rhetoric" rather than an entirely new domain.



Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G., & Kovecses, Z. (1987). The cognitive model of anger inherent in American English. In D. Holland & N. Quinn (Eds.), Cultural models in language and thought. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Messaris, P. (2003). Visual communication: Theory and research. Journal of Communication, September 2003, 551-556.

Pratkanis, A. R., & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion (Rev. ed.). New York: Owl Books.

Van Leeuwen, T., & Jewitt, C. (Eds.) (2001). Handbook of visual analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Comments on "WoW Reader" and Bartle

Some stimulating reading this week! Now we're getting into stuff that really interests me, the dynamics of "virtual" cultures. So let me offer, one at a time, some comments on our readings:

A Hollow World (Aarseth). A good scene-setter for those, like me, who are new to WoW. Not much original research here; really just a critique. But still helpful in sketching out the environment which forms the backdrop for WoW culture.

WoW as Rich Text (Krzywinska). Again, more of a critique than offering any original research, but still helpful for newbies in understanding the role of backstory in WoW culture.

A Note on Death and Dying (Klastrup). Easily my favorite read this week:

> First, there's original research here that brings me closer to actual WoW culture.

> Second, we've got gamers in their own words, which makes possible some discourse analysis as a way of unpacking their culture. This really got my mind to racing with added possibilities for my planned paper topic this semester. The distinctive speech codes here (instance, aggroing, creeps, pally, Leeroy, questing, leveling) are absolutely rife with potentials for cultural analyses, since speech always encodes cultural assumptions about social relations, truth discovery, and symbolic action.

> Third, the reading provided references to several websites where WoW culture is in evidence. Thus I checked out the discussion boards at and then watched gamer-produced movies at The latter was especially valuable not only for a novice like me to see game action, but also to observe the behaviors and values that WoW gamers prize enough to preserve as movies. The author's project website at also offers some helpful links to articles.

> Fourth, the author's premise of focusing on "death" as a microcosm of WoW culture is quite an illuminating way of approaching the problem.

Quests in WoW (Rettberg). Another good read which, after the author's lit review, was very helpful by offering actual quest examples from WoW. But where this chapter really shone was, for me, in its descriptions of actual gamer behavior. Where Krzywinska was content to critique WoW lore, Rettberg describes what players actually do. How interesting that the meaning of "quest" has been reinscribed from a transformative experience with closure to a transactional experience with no end. This says a lot about the values of WoW culture, especially in light of Bartle's (see below) typology of achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers. Also, Rettberg makes reference to websites where aspects of WoW culture can be examined including:


Players Who Suit MUDs (Bartle). The typologies here are terrifically helpful: Achievers, explorers, socializers, killers. Players vs world; acting vs interacting. The graph on page 761. Because I read this immediately after Retterg, my mind was racing to fit WoW culture and its emphasis on quests-as-transactions into Bartle's typology.


> What would a discourse analysis of gamers' distinctive speech codes, found in Klastrup's death-stories, say about WoW culture?

> What do gamers' movies, which prize action and achievement over exploration and socializing, say about the values in WoW culture?

> Isn't it interesting that the speech of NCP quest givers is so different than the speech of gamers? That is, gamers don't pattern their speech after NCPs. This reinforces Rettberg's conclusion that narrative takes a back seat to achievement.

> If Rettberg's description of gamers' attitudes and behaviors toward their quests is correct, then would WoW fit into Bartle's typology as an achiever-oriented game?

> And if WoW is achiever-oriented, then how do the game designers maintain a viable balance with explorers, socializers, and killers? Or has advanced game technology outmoded (or found ways of getting around) Bartle's assertion that a balance between the four player-types is necessary for a game to be viable?

> Assuming that WoW is achiever-oriented, then what do we learn about WoW culture and its values? Has Blizzard given birth to a virtual culture that is Social Darwinist in its basic outlines? Or are there humanistic values which provide a counterweight to the achievement-oriented culture described by Rettberg?

> Finally, referring back to Bogost, is WoW a "persuasive game"?

In his definition Bogost states, "Partial reinforcement [to continue playing] is certainly a type of persuasion, but the persuasion is entirely self-referential: its goal is to cause the player to continue playing, and in so doing to increase [spending by producing] . . . experiences that players feel compelled to continue or complete. However, this kind of persuasion is not my concern here" (p. 47).

On the one hand, Blizzard is a profitmaking corporation and, as Rettberg documents, has designed in WoW a game that endlessly carries players along to the next quest. And the Aarseth chapter ably explains how even the geography of WoW is calculated for maximal stimulation. But on the other hand, WoW uses rule-based procedures to foster certain cultural values. Do these procedures mount an actual argument for those values? Or are the procedures merely "self-referential . . . to cause the player to continue playing"?

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Comments on "Newsgaming"

Unfortunately for me, playing September 12 and Madrid did not shed much light on the questions described in my previous post. The "procedural rhetorics" of the two games are easily described:

> September 12 forces the first-person shooter to target terrorists mingling with residents of a Middle Eastern village. But missiles always arrive a moment too late, causing civilian casualties and collateral damage to homes and buildings, and thus stoking resentments that strengthen the terrorists.

> Madrid takes the player to an antiterrorist candlelight vigil. But though clicking each new candle causes it to glow more brightly, candles previously lit begin to dim. Thus the aggregate level of consciousness never really increases despite the player's best attempts (or seen another way, consciousness can only be maintained by the player's best attempts).

While at the Newsgaming website I checked out the link to Ludology blog and found an entry about McCain's new Pork Invaders videogame, clearly a takeoff on the Tax Invaders game described by Bogost.

The rhetoric of Pork Invaders is also simple to describe: Vetoes must be "shot" at invading pigs (an allegory for pork-barrel spending) before the pigs cause your house to crumble. Vetoes that shoot down pigs register points, measured in tax dollars saved, for the player. In the same way, Americans need a president, John McCain, who will veto wasteful spending.

Of course, as a class we played these games in order to explore their procedurality. But beyond that, they offered very little game value. Why would anyone other than cognoscenti who are already predisposed to the games' viewpoints actually play them? And if not, is their rhetorical power diminished?

And so once again, we return to a question I asked before: Have we set up a paradox where the most attractive games, the ones that let players control more action, have the least rhetorical possibilities for the designer? After all, you can't persuade people if you can't reach them . . . but how can you attract them without giving up substantial control to the gamers?

Comments on Bogost's "Politics"

As you know, I completed Bogost's previous chapter on "Procedural Rhetorics" with a question about how a game designer uses procedurality to actually construct an argument. In my mind is the picture of a designer who encodes rule-based procedures into a game which then compel players to enthymematically fill in the missing premises.

I was hoping that the ensuing chapter on "Politics" might shed more light on my question. Instead the chapter focused on the content of the rhetorical arguments in the games under study, rather than explaining how those arguments were constructed through rule-based procedures.

In other words, Bogost's goal for the chapter seemed to be establishing the fact that persuasive games can make rhetorical arguments. But I already concede that point. What I'm looking for is not just the basic assertion that games can make arguments, but rather how those arguments are uniquely made through procedurality. For example:

> What specific coding decisions did the designer make (and not make) to construct specific arguments? How do these functions as enthymemes within the space of the game? Perhaps by interviewing designers Bogost could have gotten insights on how arguments were constructed, rather than only telling readers what arguments were made.

> How does procedurality uniquely argue for the values of, say, the US military in America's Game? It seems to me that the rhetoric of honor, duty, country has long been made in many other ways. Why should America's Game be viewed as a new rhetorical device rather than an intensification of existing devices? That returns us to a question I asked last week: Humans have followed rule-based procedures for making arguments since classical times. So, should videogames be seen as an entirely new rhetorical domain or as "computer-assisted rhetoric"?

> How can I, as an analyst, unpack something new from America's Game that I couldn't unpack from analyzing any number of US Army artifacts? The military ethos of objectifying the enemy, which Bogost mentions, has long been an object of scholarly study. (A classic work is Dower's War Without Mercy about the race war that developed between US and Japaneses forces in the Pacific Theater during World War II.) What can I learn by studying the game specifically as an artifact of "procedural rhetoric" that I couldn't learn by studying US Army artifacts in general?

Please know I have an open mind on all these issues. My questions are not rhetorical. I really do want to explore these questions.

Thanks for Bogost's Comments

First, let me thank Ian Bogost for his thoughts comments to blog posting last week. His input was gracious and fosters a dialogue to which I look forward, because through this interchange I can better grasp his theses and increase my own understandings.

1. Last week I reviewed Bogost's first chapter on "Procedural Rhetorics" and, while I readily concede that persuasive games are rhetorical, expressed some reservations about whether their procedurality constitutes constitutes a new rhetorical domain. Should we not first see if existing theories of visual or digital rhetorics could be stretched and expanded to encompass persuasive games, before declaring a new domain is needed? That way, we could attempt to understand procedurality by tapping into existing literatures and analytical frameworks.

Ian's reply: You're right that there is a rhetorical move in claiming procedural rhetoric as "new," and indeed there are probably many precedents. I believe I mention legal process as one as well, in the first chapter. I'm not so much interested in procedural rhetoric as "new thanks to computers" but rather new as a theoretical concept, and I certainly would welcome articulations of historical versions of the concept.

My response: Ian, I appreciate your generous reply. Perhaps you agree with me that the "new-thanks-to-compuers" genre is rife with people who claim that today's challenges are "unprecedented" and thereby obsolesce all previous knowledge. Such a stance is, I believe, not very helpful in advancing understanding. We can learn much by building on scholarship which has gone before us. Like you, I would welcome collaborative opportunities to trace historical versions of procedurality that might inform current theory development.

2. In particular, I agreed with Bogost that current works on visual rhetoric seem to privilege static or filmic images and that works on digital rhetoric privilege text. But last semester I cited in my RCID 804 blog a number of visual rhetoric/communication scholars who are dissatisfied with the lack of theory development. They point out that much of the literature consists of articles in which authors simply select some image(s) and then write a critique. Yet without any theoretical frameworks to inform a repeatable research agenda, how do you know whether one author's critique is as good as any other interpretation.

It strikes me that the field of visual rhetoric may be ready for some solid theory development, that persuasive games could furnish useful cases, and that participating in this development rather than declaring a new rhetorical domain might be worth the attempt.

Ian's reply: On visual rhetoric: my position is "extreme" in relation to visual and verbal rhetoric perhaps because I think procedurality has been so ignored by (digital) rhetoricians. There is, of course, reason to consider the verbal, visual, sound, etc. aspects of games. The book takes some of them up, later on.

My response: Again, Ian, I deeply respect your forthrightness to acknowledge where you stand. The literature on the rhetoric of science suggests that knowledge-making in academe is ultimately a give-and-take process of argumentation and eventual consensus. Staking out an "extreme" position can be beneficial by, in this case, prodding those digital rhetoricians who have ignored procedurality. Though I maintain for now certain reservations as stated above, I look forward (as I mentioned last week, and as you stated in your reply) to reading the arguments laid out in the remainder of your book.

3. Finally, I asked last week about how, exactly, do "procedural rhetoricians" construct an argument. In so doing I noted that Bogost's book describes a "procedural gap" in which, like the "play" in a steering wheel before the gears mesh, gamers have "free space" to manipulate the game according to their own desires. If that is the case, is the game designer's opportunity to persuade the gamer diminished?

Ian's reply: On constructing a procedural argument; the constraint of additional rules produces a more richly meaningful possibility space. The concept of a game in which you can "do anything" (if it's even possible) is actually much less interesting than one in which you can do some very particular thing. The possibility space becomes more meaningful as it narrows.

My response: Thanks, Ian. Your reply helps me to better understand your argument.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thoughts on Visual Rhetoric

Last semester I blogged extensively on the book Defining Visual Rhetorics ("DVR") by Hill and Helmers, which Bogost cites numerous times in his first chapter. In addition, I shared several scholarly resources on visuality.

The links below should (I hope) allow you to view the relevant posts on my RCID 804 blog. If not and you need my "invitation" to join the blog community, let me know and I can (again, I hope) extend that invitation. Or if you can, just click my blog and scroll through the posts.

URL for my RCID 804 Blog

Comments on Hill & Helmers' Defining Visual Rhetorics
Initial comments on DVR Introduction:
More comments on DVR Introduction:
Final comments on DVR Introduction:
Some thoughts after reading DVR Introduction:
Comments on DVR Chapter 1:
Comments on DVR Chapter 2:
Comments on DVR Chapter 3 and other readings:
Comments on DVR Chapter 4:
Comments on DVR Chapter 5:

Thoughts on "Visual Communication"
Where does visual communication fit on comm studies?
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #1:
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #2:
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #3:
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #4:
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #5:
More thoughts on visual communication and comm studies #6:

Various Musings
Thoughts on Havelock:
Thoughts on randomness:
Thoughts on Eisenstein and Ulmer:
Thoughts on performative anthropology:

Recommended Scholarly Resources
Resource #1:
Resource #2:
Resource #3:
Resource #4:
Resource #5:
Resource #6:
Resource #7:
More thoughts on resource #7:
Resource #8:
Resource #9:
Resource #10:
Resources #11 and #12:

Comments on "Procedural Rhetoric" (#2)

Now let me turn to the substance of Bogost's argument that a new domain of procedural rhetoric is required to adequately analyze procedural expression in general and persuasive games in particular. My potential objections revolve around these questions:

1. Is "procedural rhetoric" really new?

Bogost notes, correctly, that procedures are followed in many human activities. The raison d'etre for a new domain of procedural rhetoric, however, is the capacity for computers to execute rule-based procedures at superhuman speed.

Nevertheless, allow me to look back rather than forward. Is not classical stasis theory a rule-based procedure? (As you recall, the theory holds that rhetors proceed through a series of steps to identify actual points of contention.) And is not Aristotle's theory of pathos, which George Kennedy has called "the earliest systematic discussion of human psychology," a rule-based procedure? (The sage suggested how rhetors could alternately induce anger or mildness, love or hate, fear or confidence, shame or shamelessness, indignation or pity, admiration or envy.)

So I remain skeptical of Bogost's claim that procedural rhetoric is an entirely new domain, rather than a computer-assisted version of earlier theories with long antecedents. But I will reserve judgment until I read the next chapters in which Bogost provides examples of his thesis.

2. Is the domain of visual rhetoric really inadequate for videogames?

Though Bogost makes a case for a new domain, he frames his argument according to the old domain he desires to leave behind. Bogost notes how Hill's "continuum of vividness" omits videogames and software, and then proceeds to place those procedural media within Hill's continuum. But if that is so, then why can we not expand theories of visual rhetoric to encompasse videogames, rather than establish for those games a whole new domain?

By the same token, Bogost takes issue with Blair's contention that visual images do not make "propositions" with which audiences can agree or disagree. Thus, asserts Blair, visual images may have presence (a term he takes from Perelman's new rhetoric) but they do not make arguments in the conventional sense. But of course, Blair's thesis (on which I have favorably blogged in another forum) is not the final word. Again, why not take on Blair first, before creating a whole new domain?

Do not get me wrong: I have read widely on visual rhetoric/communication and I agree with Bogost that the literature seems to privilege static and filmic visuality. Further, my readings about digital rhetoric affirm Bogost's objection that the literature is largely concerned with textuality. But why not correct these shortcomings first?

Finally, I would point out that the literature of visuality contains three strains of thought which are labeled visual rhetoric (how visuals constitute sites for argument), visual semantics (how visuals are structured to convey meaning), and visual pragmatics (how visuals function to create their effects). My question is: Though Bogost has taken the rhetorical route, would it be possible to analyze what he has called "persuasive games" through seminatics or pragmatics?

3. How does a "procedural rhetor" actually make an argument?

Bogost claims, "[P]rocedural rhetorics do mount propositions: each unit operation in a procedural representation is a claim about how part of the system it represents does, should, or could function" (p. 36).

Here my mind pictures a game designer writing code and setting up rule-based procedures that will guide gameplay. Then as gamers play the game, their play enthymematically fills in the missing propositions of the syllogistic arguments intended by the designer. Thus the gamers persuade themselves as they complete the designer's claim.

But as Bogost points out, by way of quoting Murray,

"[The] mere ability top move a joystick or click on a mouse" is not sufficient cause for "agency"--genuine embodied participation in an electronic environment. Rather, such environments must be meaningfully responsive to user input. . . . "Procedural environments are appealing to us not just because they exhibit rule-generated behavior, but because we [the users] can induce the behavior . . . the primary representational property of the computer is the codified rendering of responsive behaviors. This is what is most often meant when we say that computers are interactive. We mean they create an environment that is both procedural and participatory (p. 42).

The more participatory the game, the more the user is embodied, the better. Such participation and embodiment best occur within "the free space of movement within a more rigid structure," like the play in a steering wheel before the gears mesh (p. 42). Bogost calls the space between rule-based representation and player subjectivity the "simulation gap."

But if embodiment is maximized in "free space," and this free space is a gap in the rule-based representations of the game, then is the game's rhetoric attenuated as free space increases and players become more embodied and in control? In other words: the better the game, the less possibilities a designer has to make rhetorical claims? If that is so, then technological advances would diminish rather than enhance the designer's opportunities for making arguments, since those advances would create more free space for players to control the experience.

Though I do not necessarily assert this argument at the moment--and will await further reading of Bogost's examples in succeeding chapters--at least I pose this question at the outset for everyone's consideration.

Comments on "Procedural Rhetoric" (#1)

In a series of three posts I will comment on: (1) the structure of Bogost's argument; (2) his claim that procedural rhetoric constitutes a new domain; and (3) applications of my own studies in visual rhetoric to Bogost's claims.

As you may know, I am wary of claims that today's technologies pose unprecedented problems that obsolesce all previous knowledge and require entirely new analytical frameworks. So I was skeptical of Bogost's early suggestion of "the name procedural rhetoric for the new type of persuasive and expressive practice" of "using processes persuasively" (p. 3).

Yet while I reserve the right to ultimately demur, I must confess that Bogost's argument in Chapter 1 is effectively laid out and nicely anticipated (tough not necessarily answered) my objections at nearly every turn. Thus I found his argument a thoughtful one that merits sobser consideration.

Let me lay out Bogost's argument:

1. Define the term procedurality
2. Explain the tropologic nature of procedurality
3. Provide a (admittedly garden-variety) history of rhetoric
4. Argue why procedurality is not adequately covered by visual rhetoric
5. Argue why procedurality is not adequately covered by digital rhetoric
6. Argue why a new domain of procedural rhetoric is required
7. Explain why videogames are a privileged category of procedural expression
8. Define the term persuasive game
9. Distinguish persuasive games from--
a. Serious games
b. Rhetorics of play
c. Persuasive technology
10. Introduce examples of persuasive games

As an example of inventio Bogost's case is effectively constructed: When after Point 3 above I found myself asking "Yeah, but what about visual rhetoric?" then Bogost nicely anticipated that objection. And when after Point #7 above I found myself asking "Yeah, but how do 'persuasive games' align with our readings last week in Huizinga" then Bogost carefully distinguished between his concept and Sutton-Smith's rhetorics of play (p. 52).

(By the way, Sutton-Smith's thesis gets me far more interested in "the reasons people play and the cultural function of that play" than did Huizinga's somewhat vacillating musings. The notion that rhetorics of play are "placed in context within broader value systems" and thus serve to reproduce culture is a notion I would enjoy studying in more depth. For example: Are Sutton-Smith's seven rhetorics of play--progress, fate, power, identity, the imaginary, the self, and frivolity--exhaustive? Do they function as archetypes across all cultures? Thoughts, anyone?)

So to conclude this post: Bogost has made a thoughtful and reasoned argument that merits consideration. In my next posts I turn some thoughts of my own regarding his thesis.