I am presenting a version of my article “Gaming as Writing” at the 2009 CCCC Annual Convention, March 11-14, in San Francisco on a panel with J. James Bono (University of Pittsburgh) and Alenda Chang (UC Berkeley).
“Save Points: Gaming as Writing, Production, and Play in the Contact Zone”
Edmond Chang, University of Washington, Seattle, “World of Warcraft, World of Wordcraft”
J. James Bono, University of Pittsburgh, PA, “Serious Rhetorics and Serious Play: Exploring the Design of Persuasive Games”
Alenda Chang, University of California-Berkeley, “Engaging Production, or Writing as Design”
This panel positions gaming as writing and critique and attempts to articulate compositional, pedagogical, and social approaches to video games respectful of their particular strengths and limitations.
Over the course of the last several years, game studies have become increasingly visible within discussions of composition and rhetoric pedagogy generally, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication specifically. Composition and literacy scholars such as James Paul Gee (2003) and Cynthia Selfe (2007), have repeatedly discussed the value of integrating discussions of digital games into composition curricula, but have done so from a perspective where we write about games, rather than considering games and play as, themselves, forms of composing. Drawing on the panelists’ experiences as teachers and scholars of composition, rhetoric, and design, this panel emerges from a perspective that positions game play as writing, gaming as critique and attempts to articulate approaches to games that are respectful of their particular strengths, limitations, and materialities, while simultaneously attending to the social, political, and pedagogical milieus of games.
In Gaming (2006), Alexander Galloway argues that “video games are actions” (p.2), that video games “come into being when the machine is powered up and the software is executed; they exist when enacted” (p.2). Might then this provide an opportunity to formulate a homology between gaming and writing? Might writing, in a sense, function as a kind of algorithm? The mind is powered up, critical thinking and language routines executed; writing only exists when enacted, when pen is put to paper, idea turned into word. For Galloway, gaming, playing, and acting invoke the language of writing: process, “grammars of action” (p.4), diegetic and nondiegetic, and culture as acted document (p.14). Moreover, gaming (like our students’ writing) does have stakes: “video games render social realities into playable form” (p.17). This panel then takes up the homology and extends it looking at the ways gaming is writing, the ways games are writing, and the ways writing (by students and scholars) must be done about games.
Speaker 1’s paper “World of Warcraft, World of Wordcraft” further defines the homology “gaming and writing,” provides a meditation on how the homology might carry into the writing classroom, unpacks some of the common and uncommon sense arguments about why video games are valuable texts, and finally, argues that video games and writing as technologies and cultural productions are socially and politically relevant and exigent.
Speaker 2 will present, “Serious Games for Serious Rhetorics: Designing Persuasive Play,” a paper that discusses ways in which playing serious, persuasive games can help students compose socially aware arguments that extend well beyond the borders of the “Magic Circle” that circumscribes both classroom and game space. In doing so, he will draw connections between the goals of both serious play and rhetorical pedagogy: enhanced civic engagement, service learning, and persuasive argumentation. Further, Speaker 2 will address the importance of considering “procedural rhetorics” employed by persuasive games alongside other rhetorics (visual, print, oral) that construct rich, multimodal pedagogies.
Speaker 3 will present “Engaging Production, or Writing as Design,” which argues that writers should not only be critics but also producers and that looking at games and game design can help us to look at our own written productions as exercises in good or bad design. Moreover, speaker 3 argues that game design can also offer valuable lessons to teachers, since game designers strive to create games that challenge without defeating players, employ extensive collaboration and playtesting during the production process, and stress play-based learning (performance) before rule-based mastery (competence). Speaker 3 will also present her film, “Confessions of a Woman Gamer” (9m 51s), a humorously ironic reflection on the nature of play and the largely unacknowledged tribulations of female gamers who belong to a culture in which gender norms as well as social expectations tend to constrain behavior on multiple levels.