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Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames [Hardcover]

Ian Bogost
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Aug 2007
Videogames are an expressive medium, and a persuasive medium; they represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. In this innovative analysis, Ian Bogost examines the way videogames mount arguments and influence players. Drawing on the 2,500-year history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, Bogost analyzes rhetoric's unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field of media studies already analyzes visual rhetoric, the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively. Bogost argues that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric.Bogost calls this new form "procedural rhetoric," a type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation. He argues further that videogames have a unique persuasive power that goes beyond other forms of computational persuasion. Not only can videogames support existing social and cultural positions, but they can also disrupt and change these positions themselves, leading to potentially significant long-term social change. Bogost looks at three areas in which videogame persuasion has already taken form and shows considerable potential: politics, advertising, and learning. Bogost is both an academic researcher and videogame designer, and Persuasive Games reflects both theoretical and a game design goals.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (3 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262026147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262026147
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 19 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 619,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Do not wait: start reading this stimulating book." -- Jan H.G. Klabbers, Game Studies "Bogost's book provides a new lens -- procedural rhetoric -- to use in the analysis of games and an excellent survey of the history of games of this ilk." Steve Jacobs American Journal of Play "Bogost creates and writes about serious games, seemingly simple diversions that deliver educational political and advertising content alongside entertainment. In Persuasive Games, he offers an academic but accessible introduction to their potential, and it is very meaty reading for anybody interested in where the interactive arts meet real-world topics." Scott Colbourne The Globe and The Mail "Bogost's book provides a new lensprocedural rhetoric -- to use in the analysis of games and an excellent survey of the history of games of this ilk." Steve Jacobs American Journal of Play "Whether we call them 'serious games', 'persuasive games', or simply 'video games', it is clear that there is much of rhetorical significance to mine from the electronic representations and interactions that have captivated such a large portion of the world's population. Ian Bogost's book is an excellent step towards understanding and appreciating these materials from an intellectual, critical, and humanistic perspective." Rudy McDaniel Literary and Linguistic Computing

About the Author

Ian Bogost is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC, and the coauthor of Newsgames: Journalism at Play (MIT Press, 2010).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Originally came across Bogost after a recommendation from my dissertation tutor when researching for my third year thesis at uni.
I'm a BA(hons) Photography graduate and this book was crucial in helping me form the ideas behind my work.

Bogost's writing on the evolution of 'procedural rehotoric' and the way he rationalises it is amazing. Going as far back as Plato to explain his point really helps give his ideas some punch and it's hard to disagree with anything he says. I'm into the use of behavioural mechanics and how to learn from their deployment in interactive entertainment, in order to make my art more relevant.

Bogost is a particular favourite as I love still life and his work on Object Oriented Ontology, which gives new meaning to the objects we surround ourselves nowadays.

Any student looking at subjects that involve exploration of interactive technologies and media cannot ignore Bogost.

Incredibly long but formatted well for easy location of relevant subjects, so perfect for essay writing.
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Format:Kindle Edition
This book is an interesting discussion on how videogames can be more than just entertainment, but can be a form of expression or tools to educate, influence and inspire users of these games. It goes through a number of examples of games that try to do this, and analyses how some are unlikely to be successful because of their shallow implementation, and how some should be far better because they actually integrate the gameplay into the logic of the subject they wish to investigate.

It I found it to be a bit wordy and academic, by this I mean it conveys it's concepts in longer form than really necessary. I would have preferred a format that proposes the concept and style, then gives examples to help express the concept and back up that viewpoint. This makes the reading a bit less entertaining, however the concepts discussed are of great value so I wouldn't let that get in the way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Games as a unique form of rhetoric 24 May 2010
By M. Nelson - Published on
Bogost's central insight is that games can encode playable representations of situations and even ideas, which supports a unique form of rhetoric, "procedural rhetoric". He argues that this can be (and has been, on occasion) used to make games into a expressive medium that goes far beyond entertainment, and in some ways even beyond other forms of expressive media.

Like other forms of rhetoric, procedural rhetoric is based on representations, but while visual or textual rhetoric merely shows the viewer or reader the representation, procedural rhetoric lets *you* engage with the representation, poking at it and interrogating it, and works its power through that interaction. Bogost covers a number of historical examples of games that make good use of procedural rhetoric to engage with issues ranging from tax avoidance to cold-war brinksmanship, as well as discussing where he thinks fruitful further development lies. On the latter point, he puts his money where his mouth is, so to speak, since he also owns a company that makes persuasive games, on issues ranging from presidential elections to food poisoning.

There are two basic audiences for this book. For those interested in how videogames can move beyond entertainment to other areas, Bogost presents a compelling vision of games as an expressive medium, and points to a wide range of things that can be done by thinking of games as playable representations. For media-studies scholars and rhetoricians, Bogost presents a strong case that procedural rhetoric is indeed rhetoric, but a new kind of rhetoric that existing discussion of film or written rhetoric doesn't quite account for.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable for critical evaluation of games and other designed interactions. 22 Jan 2010
By Ian J. Bellomy - Published on
At the heart this book is how phenomena can be expressed, with a bias, though the simulation of said phenomena. Designed processes contain an idea about how their real life counterparts work. These assumptions (conscious or not) carry an implicit point of view analogous to traditional rhetoric. Bogost successfully situates this procedural rhetoric in a historical context that elucidates the nuances of how games and other media make arguments about the way the world works. The content is invaluable if you're interested in critically assessing or deconstructing games and other designed interactions.

Most of his examples were enlightening, particularly the ones concerning his game Dean for Iowa, which unintentionally painted political action as a process of human-wealth accumulation removed from any form of actual ideology. Less helpful was his characterization of the infamous escape game as a game that "operationalizes the sensations its services seek to countermand" and how it proceduralizes the "anxiety of office work". I'm far from convinced that any procedural argument here has anything more to do with mountain biking than it does with Klondike bars. This argument struck me as so odd that I'm convinced I misunderstood something.

Personally I found Bogost most interesting when providing details that contextualize his arguments; historical perspectives on rhetoric, educational philosophy, advertising, and even references to old school non-traditional physical input devices that I had never heard of (Joyboard anyone?). On the other hand, I feel like I'm still struggling to get a complete grasp on his concept of a "unit operation", based on the "count as one" concept of Alain Badiou (who I'm less than acquainted with). I'll likely have to pull Unit Operations (also by Bogost) off my shelf for some better grounding.

It can be a little dense in places, but not without cause. (I agree with a previous review that Bogost crafted his points very carefully to make specific statements and avoid ambiguity, however they may require multiple reads to parse). This book contains wealth of condensed and relevant knowledge along with carefully made insights.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking 7 Oct 2008
By E. Raskob - Published on
As a University lecturer, I found this book very useful in showing the applications of Bogost's theories (from "Unit Operations" onwards). Some of the examples are better than others, but reading Bogost's work you have the sense that he really "gets it," as in he understands the game-changing (forgive the pun) new ideas behind the culture, audience, and especially the software that makes video games tick, and exactly why they are different from established media like cinema. This book is directly applicable to all sorts of modern media, and although the title has "Games" in it I would recommend this to any person with an interest in modern media theory.

I do agree with the other review that this book can be very thick at times, but my impression is that you are expected to re-read sentences more than once. The words seem to be carefully chosen and parsed for meaning, something I appreciate, even if it doesn't make the book a speedy reader.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Expressive Power of a Reader 24 Oct 2011
By A. L. Hochschild - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had to purchase this book for an English class where we discuss how we can use videogames to produce fiction, and also how to produce a videogame that is fiction, as well as how the two relate. From what we have covered so far it has really sparked my interest to pursue other literature in this category. Ian Bogost does a great job putting his thoughts out there, and it's been a great read so far.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wide reaching, informative, and entertaining 24 Dec 2010
By Mary Jo Mathew - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ian Bogost is both an progressive thinker and eloquent writer, and he applies them both to videogames in a way that is both academic and page-turning. The book is divided into discrete sections to which the procedural logics of videogames can be applied. He gives illustrative examples of what he means - examples that will just as often expand your mind about what future games can be as expand your conception of some older classics.

The title of the book comes from the ability of this procedural logic to make implicit and explicit arguments to the player. Most people have a sense that it's the interactivity of videogames that makes them special, but Bogost takes it one step further by discussing "procedural rhetoric," a systemic form of persuasion. As you play such a game, the way its system responds to your input builds cause-effect relationships in your mind. These cause-effect relationships can easily make "claims" about how similar real-world systems work.

Overall - excellent book. Very thought provoking and inspiring to the would-be game maker.
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