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A book about how videogames make arguments: rhetoric, computing, politics, advertising, learning.

Videogames are both an expressive medium and a persuasive medium; they represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. In this innovative analysis, Ian Bogost examines the way videogames mount arguments and influence players. Drawing on the 2,500-year history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, Bogost analyzes rhetoric’s unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field of media studies already analyzes visual rhetoric, the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively. Bogost 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 type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation. He argues 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. Bogost looks at three areas in which videogame persuasion has already taken form and shows considerable potential: politics, advertising, and education. Bogost is both an academic researcher and a videogame designer, and Persuasive Games reflects both theoretical and game-design goals.

Contents

  • Preface
  1. Procedural Rhetoric

Politics

  1. Political Processes
  2. Ideological Frames
  3. History and Democracy

Advertising

  1. Advertising Logic
  2. Licensing and Product Placement
  3. Advergames

Learning

  1. Procedural Literacy
  2. Values and Aspirations
  3. Exercise
  4. Purposes of Persuasion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Endorsements

“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. Backed by numerous examples from the fields of politics, advertising, and education, Persuasive Games is an important addition to the debate over what games are, do, and can be.”
—Ernest W. Adams, game design consultant and educator

“Analyzing the power of video games to mount arguments and influence players, Ian Bogost does again what he always does so very well: thoroughly rethink and shake up a traditional academic field – rhetoric – while lucidly building the foundations of a new one—game studies.”
—James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, Arizona State University

“Bogost creates and writes about serious games, seemingly simple diversions that deliver educational political and advertising content alongside entertainment. In Persuasive Games, he offers an academic but accessible introduction to their potential, and it is very meaty reading for anybody interested in where the interactive arts meet real-world topics.”
—Scott Colbourne, The Globe and The Mail

“Bogost’s book provides a new lens—procedural rhetoric—to use in the analysis of games and an excellent survey of the history of games of this ilk.”
—Steve Jacobs, American Journal of Play

“Do not wait: start reading this stimulating book.”
—Jan H.G. Klabbers, Game Studies

“Whether we call them ‘serious games’, ‘persuasive games’, or simply ‘video games’, it is clear that there is much of rhetorical significance to mine from the electronic representations and interactions that have captivated such a large portion of the world’s population. Ian Bogost’s book is an excellent step towards understanding and appreciating these materials from an intellectual, critical, and humanistic perspective.”
—Rudy McDaniel, Literary and Linguistic Computing

Reviews

(did you write a review I don’t know about? please let me know)

  • A short reviewlet with the promise of a longer one, by Noah Wardrip-Fruin at Grand Text Auto
  • “The best theory book this year”, according to Canada’s Globe and Mail book roundup
  • Jonas Heide-Smith’s review in Game Research
  • Mention and discussion of the book in Phi Beta Kappan, September 2007
  • Persuasive Games on Kotaku’s 2007 Holiday Gift Guide
  • Review in the British Journal of Educational Technology (39:5, July 2008), p. 951, by Nick Webb
  • “The paratextual pleasures of reading about playing video games,” review in New Media & Society (10:5, October 2008), pp. 793-801, by Jeroen Jansz
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Literary and Linguistic Computing (2008)
  • Review by Patrícia Gouveia (in Portuguese; auto-translation here)
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Cognitive Technology 13:2 (Winter 2008), 53-54
  • Review by Jennifer McDaniel in Kairos 14:1
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Literary and Linguistic Computing 23:4 (2008)
  • Review by Yuejiao Zhang, in Rhizomes 19 (Summer 2009)
  • Review by Steve Jacobs, American Journal of Play (Fall 2009), 230-232.
  • Tensions Between Meaning Construction and Persuasion in Games, review in Game Studies 11:2 (Summer 2011) by Jan H.G. Klabbers