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Ian Bogost – Procedural Rhetoric

December 9, 2011


A few weeks ago in class we discussed an article by Ian Bogost. In the article, he analyzes the history of rhetoric and argues that videogames are part of a new form of rhetoric since their procedures involve interaction. He comes up with the term “procedural rhetoric” which according Bogost is the practice of using processes persuasively. According to Bogost, videogames can have a major influence on players’ views on politics, advertising and education. The idea of procedural rhetoric uses the games processes to build an underlying argument in which the player must figure out. Similar to Bogost’s idea, a games blog I found had an interesting piece on my favorite game of all time, Super Mario. According to this person, Super Mario is really just procedural rhetoric in a grey plastic case with a plumber on it. In the post, the writer lays out all these various possible subliminal messages promoting Communism. I’ve heard of Mario containing subliminal drug messages with him eating the shroom and riding on a star and what not, but Mario being a Communist, I didn’t see that one coming. And this is where I have issues with both this piece and Bogost’s. You can find subliminal messages and “procedural rhetoric” anywhere if you look hard enough or long enough depending on how bad you want it to be there. But I’ve played Super Mario all my life, actually I was just playing the other day as a matter of fact, and before reading this piece, I never picked up on any Communist messages and I’m pretty sure none of my friends did either.


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