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The Mechanic is not the (whole) message: Procedural rhetoric meets framing in Train and Playing History 2


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My DiGRA/FDG 2016 talk on how contextual and visual framing answers how different people respond differently to the same procedural rhetoric.

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The Mechanic is not the (whole) message: Procedural rhetoric meets framing in Train and Playing History 2

  1. 1. the mechanic is not the (whole) message Procedural Rhetoric Meets Framing in Train and Playing History 2 Sebastian Deterding (@dingstweets) Digital Creativity Labs, University of York DiGRA/FDG 2016, August 3, 2016 c b
  2. 2. <0> introduction
  3. 3. “Procedural rhetoric is the practice of using processes persuasively …. Each unit operation in a procedural representation is a claim about how part of the system it represents does, should, or could function.” ian bogost, persuasive games, 2007, 28, 36
  4. 4. “Rules control the meaning of the game, and players, by following rules, create the meaning that is already predetermined by the designer(s). For the proceduralists, a game means what the rules mean… Players are important, but only as activators of the process that sets the meanings contained in the game in motion.” miguel sicart, against procedurality, 2011
  5. 5. “Videogames represent in the gap between procedural representation and individual subjectivity. The disparity between the simulation and the player’s understanding of the source system it models creates a crisis in the player. I named this crisis simulation fever, a madness through which an interrogation of the rules that drive both systems begins. Procedural rhetoric also produces simulation fever. It motivates a player to address the logic of a situation in general ... Players are persuaded when they enter a crisis in relation to this logic.” ian bogost, persuasive games, 2007, 332-333
  6. 6. “Rather than producing assent, ... the game [Howard Dean for Iowa] produces deliberation, which implies neither immediate assent nor dissent. Like literature, poetry, and art, videogames cannot necessarily know their effects on individual players.” ian bogost, persuasive games, 2007, 329, 339
  7. 7. jfk reloaded, traffic games, 2004
  8. 8. “Although the designers encourage player’s to re-create the assassination as realistically as possible, no player was able to re-create the event successfully within the constraints of reported history. Given that JFK Reloaded had an explicit persuasive goal – to affirm the Warren Commission report and disprove conspiracy theories – it would appear to be a retorical failure. But emergent features in the game’s design facilitate other interpretations, suggesting that the developer’s stated goal was a ruse meant to inspire new perspectives on the historical event itself.” ian bogost, persuasive games, 2007, 133-134
  9. 9. How and why do different players come to different understandings of the same procedural rhetoric? research question
  10. 10. Blindly focusing on outcomes and following rules (as in gameplay) leads you to dehumanise the people affected by your actions. the (meta-)mechanical message
  11. 11. game no. 1: train, brenda brathwaite, 2009
  12. 12. game no. 1: train, brenda brathwaite, 2009
  13. 13. audience responses
  14. 14. media responses
  15. 15. game no. 2: playing history 2: slave trade, serious games interactive, 2013
  16. 16. game no. 2: playing history 2: slave trade, serious games interactive, 2013
  17. 17. game no. 2: playing history 2: slave trade, serious games interactive, 2013
  18. 18. audience responses
  19. 19. audience responses
  20. 20. reader responses
  21. 21. WHY? same rhetoric, opposite reaction
  22. 22. 1. Genre as contextual framing 2. Contextual travel of meta-media 3. Visual framing three interconnected answers
  23. 23. <1> contextual framing
  24. 24. genres as normative and epistemic frames
  25. 25. What is accepted and expected in … genres as normative and epistemic frames educational games for children artworks for adults
  26. 26. train: expressive medium/art for adults • Single physical copy • Presented at art galleries, universities • Always accompanied by author guiding follow-up debate
  27. 27. ph2: edugame for 8-14 year olds in school • Digital copies • Distributed through Danish schools • Accompanied by educational material for teachers
  28. 28. critiques by audience
  29. 29. controversional topics: known and expected … in art
  30. 30. complicit subject position: challenging but not unknown … in art
  31. 31. <2> contextual travel of meta-media
  32. 32. released & announced on steam/twitter outside educational context
  33. 33. educational framing doesn’t appear here
  34. 34. in-game framing doesn’t appear in screenshot
  35. 35. how ph2 travelled through twitter & the media
  36. 36. games travel culturally as meta-media
  37. 37. <3> visual framing
  38. 38. visual framing shapes understanding
  39. 39. visual framing shapes understanding
  40. 40. what everyone saw of ph2 in the media
  41. 41. how train travelled through the media
  42. 42. what everyobody saw of train in the media
  43. 43. carefully considered & managed visual framing
  44. 44. summary 1. Genres as contextual frames affect what content and form are expected and appropriate. Thus, activated genre frames shape how a game is interpreted. 2. Games regularly travel through culture and make meaning as (easily decontextualised) meta-media. 3. Visual framing shapes how audiences perceive intended authorial and reader stance toward a game.
  45. 45. @dingstweets thank you.