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PWR 1CA: The Rhetoric of Gaming

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game controller

In 2018, a Pew Internet and American Life Study reported that 90% of American teens play video games, whether on consoles, computers, or mobile devices. As a Stanford student, you probably aren’t surprised by this statistic. Gaming culture is all around us: from students playing Candy Crush on iPhones in the back of a lecture, to gamers streaming a League of Legends match on Twitch, or playing Fortnite or Call of Dutyin their dorm rooms. Games are portable and pervasive, functioning not only as a way to have fun but also as real sites of community building, social networking, and learning. However, you’re probably also aware of the controversies surrounding gaming culture: concerns over how minorities and women are portrayed in games; the proliferation of negative gamer stereotypes; questions about the link between violent games and real-life aggression; and the politics of gender in gaming communities.

In this class we will consider the rhetoric that underlies gaming culture—how the games we play help define our cultural identity and the way we approach lived experience. We'll focus on three main types of activities: practice, perspective, and production. As part of our practice we'll tackle the rhetoric of gaming head-on through our own examination of how gameplay in a variety of genres (arcade-style; first person shooter; multiplayer role playing; educational; open and virtual world experiences) operates as argument about cultural values. To gain perspective on the issue, we'll look at essays written by a variety of games studies scholars, such as James Paul Gee, Mia Consalvo, Ian Bogost, and others. Finally, you’ll draw on what we’ve learned to produce your own research- based arguments on a topic that matters to you about gaming, simulations, or virtual worlds.

In general, this PWR 1 emphasizes a spirit of exploration, discovery, and play – together we’ll learn strategies, take risks, grind through difficulties, and emerge stronger writers and researcher together.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages): This assignment asks you to analyze the rhetorical strategies of a text of your choice that makes an argument about gaming culture, for instance, an ad for the PS4 Pro; an editorial cartoon about gaming addiction; an op-ed about the dangers of hand-held gaming for children; or a game review from IGN.

Texts in Conversation Essay

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages): This assignment marks the beginning of your research project. Having chosen a topic related to gaming culture, you’ll write an essay through which you examine how the different sources, voices, and perspectives inform the larger conversation about the issue you are exploring. Some past topics have included; the use of video games for military recruitment; gaming and P.E. in elementary schools; the rise of the social gamer; user-created content in gaming environments; transmedia adaptations/misappropriations of video games from Resident Evil to The Walking Dead.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages): For this assignment, you’ll build on the work you began with the Texts in Conversation assignment and integrate a variety of sources (primary and secondary, print and non-print, possibly even gameplay and game review) to produce a complex, provocative argument about your topic.

Notes: You do not have to be an avid gamer to take this course; just come to class with an open mind and a willingness to explore and to play.