Rhetoric in Video Games

Right from the beginning I knew I was going to enjoy this article. Animal Crossing was one of my favorite games as a kid, but Bogost took it to a way deeper level seeking to explain the rhetoric within the game. As a child I just enjoyed it for what it was, a game. Bogost explains the rhetoric within the game and the deeper messages of the financial industry and the hardships of living. I never interpreted as that, but it’s an interesting topic to discuss, especially on a children’s game that most wouldn’t interpret in that way.

Another game Bogost referenced was America’s Army, another game I played when I was younger. I just took it as a realistic FPS, but I obviously realize that I’m older, that it’s much more of a rhetorical tool and PR tool.

Bogost presents many different games and how they can be used as rhetorical tools. Every example he gave, from the previously mentioned Animal Crossing and America’s Army, to Bully, Spore, and others the rhetoric seemed obvious once he mentioned it. To me they were games, to him he explained the deeper meanings and rhetorical tools and ideas within the game. Spore was a fun game about evolving a creature, to him it was about the fight of natural selection and evolution.

Maybe I’m being influenced by these rhetorical ideas in a more subconscious way, because at the time I almost assuredly wasn’t consciously processing them. That said, I played Spent, of the example games given, and that was an interesting rhetorical tool. At first I figured it would be a fun game, but it immediately threw me into the shoes of someone living paycheck to paycheck and all the costs along with that. I thought it would be easy “$900 a month? No problem!” Then my friend wanted me to come to a wedding in another state and I ruined my coat. I was left with little money my first playthrough. The second time I was more lucky, but only because a friend had to stay with me and I got some extra money from that. It was a powerful rhetorical tool especially for a game. In fact, I can’t think of a more efficient way to display these ideas than through a game like spent. It’s one thing to read about it, it’s another to actually have to live it.

My question goes back to an earlier topic I discussed, what games have you played that, looking back, perhaps had deeper rhetorical aspects to them?


This game does a good job at making you realize all the little costs of living that you don’t think about.


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