In his article “The rhetoric of video games,” Ian Bogost writes about how video games are sophisticated statements reflecting the real life of people, their interactions, feelings, and worldviews. The games that we play can make arguments about society, persuade people to take a specific side in them, and express new ideas. However, games do not do so automatically; for understanding the intentions behind games, we should play them in a critical way and reflect on what they intend to convey. Thus, despite video games being misconceived for mindless attractions, they require in-depth analysis and the careful examination of intentions that the developers had when designing them.
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Upon reflecting on the article, my attention was drawn to the two concepts explored in it: interrogating ideology and making and unpacking an argument. To illustrate these concepts, the author uses examples from video games. The first example is taken from America’s Army, a simulation of life in the United States military. The game was intended to become a public relations tool for recruiting citizens to serve their country, thus pushing the ideology of.
The game sparked my attention because both of my parents are retired military veterans, and the idea behind America’s Army was interesting. It shows that video games may be employed for promoting an ideology and thus influence the target audience in decision-making (Bogost, 2008). Importantly, there is also a likelihood of ideology becoming a tool for doing the public act in a certain way; in the article, the author appeals to Marx’s characterization of this concept: “they aren’t aware of it, but they do it” (Bogost, 2008, p. 128). This means that the game’s developers intended their creation to influence the decision-making of the target audience.
The second example that caught my attention is the game Bully developed by Rockstar Games, the makers of the famous Grand Theft Auto. It tells the story of Kimmy Hopkins, who is trapped in a high school full of bullies. The critics were quick to dub the game as a glorification of bullying, but in reality, it is far from being true. This case was interesting to me because the school social environment is complex and often hard on people.
Confronting bullies or being bullied has never been pleasant, and the social commentary that the game provides is extremely valuable. According to Bogost (2008), Bully may be inappropriate to be played in some circumstances, which is why it was meant to accomplish a unique goal of combining entertainment with raising awareness of the social problem of bullying.
My personal opinion on video games coincides with the author’s argument that they reflect the world around us. I think that there are multiple ways in which games can be interpreted, and it is the target audience who chooses the perspective from which they will look at their entertainment. As video games challenge us as individuals to look at a social problem from new perspectives, we should be open to new ideas and rhetoric to develop our own views on different situations.
Overall, I think that Bogost’s article is an informative piece that prompted me to reflect on my own perceptions of video games: they can be both entertaining and comment on social affairs that affect us on a daily basis.
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Bogost, I. (2008). The rhetoric of video games. In K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (pp. 117-140). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.