Disapproving connotations are usually placed on the mind-numbing tendencies of video game play; in fact, the term play itself has a lethargic tone to it. However, in his article The Rhetoric of Video Games, Ian Bogost argues that play and work often too commonly segregated. When creating any sort of game to be played, a creator must invent constraints of some sort, giving the game order and direction. Bogost introduces the entailments of game play: that they are procedural models of systems, rules that create particular possibility spaces for play, and make representations of ordinary world that can give players new perspectives on the world they inhabit. Games that yield such outcomes frequently use the method of procedural rhetoric, or the “practice of effective persuasion and expression using processes” (125). Often we overlook the efficiency of modern video games, and how well they are able to change opinions, breakdown operations, and make claims about specific issues. Enveloped in these hypothetical, model environments are arguments about how social, cultural, and political processes work.
Also adhering to the methods of procedural rhetoric was the game I choose to play, Third World Farmer. In this game, players are introduced to rural farm life in a third world nation. The African soil is arid, technology is essentially nonexistent, and those from western nations, like myself, are confronted with the difficult choices that poverty and conflict can yield. Players initially are given $50, which they can use to buy livestock, crops, tools, and shelters. Careful consideration is placed on the season in which crops are planted, what type of soil the crops are placed in, which shelters are designated for specific animals, and what each animal is fed. Outside factors are frequent, such as encounters with corrupt officials, raid by guerrillas, civil war, and sudden fluctuations in market prices. Facing these hardships through the simulated farm life, players are introduced to problems these third world countries often face, and are motivated to make positive social changes.
Creators of Third War Farmer use appeals to emotion to model certain characteristics of a society- in this case, accentuating the difficulties of indigenous farm people. The game serves a more informative purpose than a persuasive agenda, relying heavily on the present ethos of game players. Each player to encounter the game will have a differing view on what is normative in terms of cultural tendencies. Third World Farmer uses visual rhetoric, depicting the harshness of African climate, and its effects on farming families. Having been given a family from the outset of the game, one feels included by the implementation of farming processes. Methods of procedural rhetoric, showing step by step farmers’ daily lives, are used to make a point- that fortunate, first world countries should appreciate the lifestyle they are familiar with. Using this form of processes, one can make their own claims about the world, while simultaneously challenging previous ideologies.