In 2007—ten years ago!—I published Persuasive Games, a book about how computer software, and especially games, make arguments. In it, I advanced a theory of “procedural rhetoric,” or argumentation through process and model instead of oration, writing, image, and the other media formats typically associated with rhetoric.
The book opens with an anecdote about my session with remarkable game. Remarkable in part because it offered such a simple and adept example of procedural rhetoric. Called Tenure, the game simulated the first year of work for a high-school teacher. The player had to get hired, manage the classroom, deal with coworkers. The point of the game—it’s argument, wrought through experience rather than description—is that the work of teaching, contra the idealism that might precede it, is mostly a slog through organizational politics.
But the game is also remarkable because it was first made by Owen Gaede in the mid-1970s, for the educational computing platform PLATO. And because the game was dead-simple to play: just a series of scenarios with choices, each feeding back on the next. I loved the example because it showed that procedural rhetoric wasn’t new (even if I was newly theorizing it) and also that it didn’t require sophisticated, bleeding-edge computation (even if the PLATO was and remains an under-appreciated and remarkable computing system).
Naturally, I didn’t have a PLATO when I encountered the game in the mid-2000s. Instead, I found a Windows port of it that Gaede himself had made. It was readily available on his website at Florida State University. But unfortunately, after the book was published, Gaede died of cancer. Shortly thereafter, his website disappeared from FSU, along with Tenure.
Many readers have asked me if I had the game files over the years. And I knew I did, somewhere, but I couldn’t seem to reanimate them from archives. For a long time, I feared it was on an old hard drive that literally exploded in flame.
But, it wasn’t. So, finally, here it is: Owen Gaede’s 2005 Windows port of his 1975 PLATO title, Tenure (27.8MB zip).