Dissertation Blog #1
Citation of the Day
Bogost, Ian. (2008). "The Rhetoric of Video Games." In Katie Salen, ed., The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning (pp. 117-140). MIT Press.
Ian Bogost was the first scholar of video games I was assigned to read in UCF's Texts and Technology program, and his work rekindled my lifelong interest in video game design and showed how I could channel it into something academically valuable and socially significant.
This book chapter defines the key concepts of procedural rhetoric: Video games are models of real and imagined systems, and developers can create games that make deliberate expressions about how the world works. Playing a video game means exploring the possibility space created by its rules. Procedural rhetoric is the practice of authoring arguments through the construction of dynamic models.
With procedural rhetoric, the argument is in the game's rules rather than its exposition or narrative. In my game Field of Cures, I want to use dynamic models to show connections that may not be obvious or intuitive: the link between natural biodiversity and medicine development; the potentially diverging outcomes that can come of emphasizing either clinical significance or statistical significance in research; and the workings of genetic inheritance.
Design and Mechanics
In one of the exercises in the class reading for this week, I had to write my own list of dissertation guidelines after reflecting on my accomplishments and disappointments up to this point as well as my personal values. One of the guidelines I wrote was "Remember that I am doing this for Elly and that it is more important for Field of Cures to be an inspiring experience than a finished commercial product."
Elly is my daughter; in two months, she will be eight years old. I try to maintain a habit of reading one page from a book about science with her every night. Currently we are working through Smithsonian Explanatorium of Nature. During my first year in the Texts and Technology program, I came up with many ideas for what I could do my dissertation on. I made my final decision by focusing on these questions: What will make the most positive difference in Elly's life? What will make me a better father? What will inspire her? What could make her world a better place?
My goal with Field of Cures is to design a game that can teach some basics about genetics, raise awareness of ethical issues in pharmaceutical development, and also raise money for science advocacy at the same time. In the course of prototyping this game, I am teaching myself computer programming, which will better position me to help Elly learn technical skills as she grows up. And hopefully when my dissertation is done and Elly is nearly ready to start middle school, she'll be able to enjoy the product of my research as a thoughtful and enjoyable game, rather than just an oddly formatted hardback tome full of dry prose and citations.
As much as I truly desire for my game to one day find an audience in the open market and generate revenue for a good cause, I cannot lose sight of the fact that I am doing all this first and foremost for Elly. It makes it feel like a more human-sized endeavor, and not quite so impossible.
To write this blog five days a week, I have set my alarm earlier. (Luckily I work at home for the time being, so I still do not have to set my alarm very early.) My plan is to try to do this writing before work every weekday -- we'll see how it goes. It helps immensely that the girls had already taken over the jobs of walking the dog and making breakfast. I work full-time and do school in my spare time, so the only way I can survive this is to stay organized. Wish me luck, Dear Reader!