Persuasive games

From Media Technology and Culture Change

Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (MIT Press 2007) is a book written by Ian Bogost. Bogost discusses how videogames can make arguments and influence players on many different levels as a result of videogames' Procedural Rhetoric.

Persuasive Games is also the name of an independent videogame company which focuses on social and political issues, trying to broaden the uses that games currently have. The company was funded by Ian Bogost and Gerard LaFond.

The Book

The book is divided into four main categories. The first is Bogost's definition of Procedural Rhetoric, which he uses throughout the remainder of the book. The next section is categorized as Political. This section looks at the political aspects of games, including the political process, the way games frame ideology, and the way games are a democratic process. The third section is on Advertising and discusses the ideas of Advertising Logic, Product Placement, and Advergames (games that are designed as advertisements). The final section is on Learning, and it features sections on Procedural Literacy, Values and Aspirations, Excercise, and the Purpose of Persuasion.

The Politics section includes the interesting analysis of GTA San Andreas where Bogost argues that the game features social commentary on poverty and obesity in America. By noting that the main character can only eat fast food, but must pay a higher price for healthier food, the game is arguing that it is personal responsibility that dictates one's situation in life. Those who choose not to pay the higher price, or choose not to work out in the game's gym, suffer the consequences by becoming fat, thereby losing the respect of their fellow gang members.

The Advertisement section discusses how game procedures act as advertisements for a given product. In one example, Bogost explains how a game called "The J2O Toilet" was an effective advergame for the J2O soft drink company. In the game players have to fight off drunkenness and accurately relieve themselves in a restroom at a bar. By drinking more J2O beverages, the user "sobers up" and can urinate more accurately. The goal of the game was to remind users that drinking J2O is a nice alternative to drinking.

The Learning section outlines how videogames can teach users various procedures. In one game that Bogost's company designed for Cold Stone Creamery, the user learned how to scoop ice cream in the correct portions. If they scoop too much, the employee hurts Cold Stone's bottom line. If they scoop to little ice cream, they risk angering the customer. The game had the unintentional effect of showing the Cold Stone employees how their actions could hurt the company, giving these employees more power than they had previously realized.