In 2007, Ian Bogost published a book called Persuasive Games. He argues that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric. Bogost calls this new form “procedural rhetoric”: a medium taking the form of playable systems rather than words or images.
He defends further that videogames have a unique persuasive power that goes beyond other forms of computational persuasion. Not only can videogames support existing social and cultural positions, but they can also disrupt and change those positions, leading to potentially significant long-term social change.
Videogames lack the cultural stature of ‘legitimate’ art forms because they are widely perceived to be trivial and meaningless. But Ian Bogost makes a powerful argument that they are capable of informing and persuading as well as entertaining; in short, that they possess the power of rhetoric.
On his article “Winning isn’t everything”, written by Bogost seven years later, he sounds dissappointed about how little progress the games industry has done.
Nicky Case summarised on this excelent article a screenwriting book. He thinks it may be applied to games because they are not different to other media.
Let me highlight the sentences I liked more:
“Is your work enriching, or escapist? We need less art indulging us with what we want, and art that gives us what we need.“
“Good stories are nuanced fables: The Wire shows us we’re affected by the systems we live in. Do The Right Thing shows us the duality of human nature. A Clockwork Orange shows us the brutality of retribution-as-justice. Breaking Bad shows us how slippery morality is. Telltale’s The Walking Deadshowed me how slippery my morality is.”
“Art = Purpose. Stories are how we convey values, beliefs, and core human questions. Treat your story like a persuasive essay. A logical argument imbued with human emotions, making a strong case for its conclusion, your core message.”
“The Humans of Stories: Explore logic through humans. The difference between a dry step-by-step logical argument and a compelling story is having characters go through the emotions and messy discovery of the logic. Characters should drive the plot.“
“Be Economical. You want clear and concise arguments. And while stories definitely should allow for a lot more ambiguity, that ambiguity should be for a purpose. Clarity > Cleverness“
“Things should serve overlapping functions. The best example I can think of actually comes from games — GLadOS. Take for example her line, “any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official record, followed by death.” Not only is this a tutorial, it also characterizes her as cold, adds to the world as messed-up research lab, and is great deadpan black comedy. Four functions, one line. That’s impressive.”
A story has a message.
A story is a persuasive essay. The premises and logic is played out by characters, and given emotional stakes.
A story does this concisely and vividly, to really get us messy humans to internalize what would otherwise be a boring, didactic message.
Last weekend, The Guardian published an article about the interesting changes Madrid is living at the moment. Manuela Carmena, the next mayor of the city where I was born, is an ex-communist retired judge who has been working in many different projects for the last few years. One of them was designing a board game about judicial processes. Digging up information about the game, I found this interview in El Pais where she talks about games with the original designer of the 90’s hit Commandos. My favourite part is when she talks about how difficult is to persuade other people about your ideas when they are evident for you. Does she maybe think that games are the best persuasive media?
You can get a general impression of her educative board game at the official website.
Some extracts from the interview I really enjoyed (apologies but it was published only in Spanish):
“Cuando ideé un juego de mesa sobre la justicia pensé que en el fondo el proceso judicial es también como un juego. El juego lo que te permite es moverte dentro de unas reglas, y el derecho son reglas útiles para vivir mejor.”
“La diferencia entre las reglas de la judicatura y el juego es que el juego es impune. Las reglas son enormemente vinculantes en el mundo del derecho y en el juego no hay un castigo que permanezca.”
“Es cuestión de dedicarse, las cosas nuevas son difíciles. Es muy difícil persuadir; me pasaba de joven, cuando no lograba convencer a alguien de aquello que yo tenía claro. El entusiasmo es lo que ayuda a superar esa dificultad de comunicar aquello de lo que tú estás convencido.”
In 2015, two of the recurring discussions about the games industry are why we have not been able to attract more women to work in our projects and why we don’t use games to investigate a wider range of topics. The former problem is probably related to the latter and, while people try to propose new solutions, I found out the original Monopoly was designed by a woman, over a hundred years ago and her purpose was to defend an economic philosophy. As it often happens, the established companies didn’t like her approach and Monopoly ended up reduced to a meaningless experience.
Apologies for the cheeky copy and paste of this post from the excellent Nicky Case’s blog :
Last week I had the pleasure to attend an excellent exhibition at the Victoria&Albert museum: Disobedient Objects, examining the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. Political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design.
It was in this exhibition where I found the Cheap Art Manifesto:
It was issued by the Bread and Puppet Theater “in direct response to the business of art and its growing appropriation by the corporate sector.” Although it was written by a puppeteers company, it can be applied to any form of art. Molleindustria was mentioned in this exhibition so videogames can definitely be developed following this manifesto.
Gamergate was the controversy of the year, showing the worst face of game fans when, claiming to protect the “gamer identity”, they decided to start threatening women involved in our industry. However, I believe the result of the controversy has been positive for games because it was the start for a wider debate, including the recognition of this media as an art form. It was also an opportunity for people not into gaming to become aware that there are many different types of games out there and many women are playing them.
Annita Sarkesian, one of the harassed women during the controversy, explains in the following funny video how “women are perceived as threathening because they are asking for games to be more inclusive” and “Gamergate is challenging the status quo of games as male dominated space”.
Comedy Central was able to present the debate in a more relaxed way than it was ocurring on the social media. It was also very nice to be able to watch in mainstream media people talking about different games.
Apologies for posting in Spanish language but I have recently had a discussion about videogames and ethics with a friend of my grandfather, 70 years old, and I thought it could be an interesting read for some people. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to translate it to English.
El mes pasado estuve charlando por e-mail con un amigo de mi abuelo, Catedrático de Psicología Evolutiva, sobre videojuegos, ética y educación. Él quería conocer las opiniones de alguien que trabajara en la industria, y resultó ser un ejercicio de reflexión muy interesante para mí. He pensado en compartirlo, creo que puede servir como introducción para gente que nunca haya profundizado en este mundo.
Fort McMoney is half a documentary, half a videogame about life in Fort McMurray (Canada), a city developing the world’s largest oil sands reserves. The game will introduce you to different characters in order to show different points of view of the oil industry: from the town leaders, happy with all the capital is generating, to homeless people, dissapointed with a system which is simply not working for them.
I read for the first time about “Ultimate Gay Fighter” at this excellent article in Motherboard. What the developer calls “the first gay video game ever” is basically a Mortal Kombat rip-off featuring too stereotypical gay characters who have generated very bad criticism from the LGBT community as well as their opposing side.