Game Advertisement Rhetorical Analysis

Overview

In this assignment, you will analyze the rhetorical features and effectiveness of a game advertisement.  This analysis will look at how ethos, logos, and pathos work within the rhetorical situation to “sell” the game/gaming to gamers.

Rationale

Most writing that you have done (and will continue to do) in school is only connected at an abstract level with the writing you do professionally, civically, and personally.  However, the larger concept of understanding rhetorical concepts does translate across writing contexts.  Your first day on the job, wherever that job will be, will not prepare you for the type of writing that you will do (and this includes the writing you will do well into your major courses—simply put, universities are not in the business of teaching professional genres because there are simply too many).  What you can do is read the rhetorical situation—Who do you need to be to write this? Who is this for and what are their values?  What are you writing about and what are you trying to accomplish?

A common language that is used in rhetorical analysis comes from two main sources.  The first, is from Aristotle (ca. 340 BC) and refers to the types of appeals made in any argument: logos (logic), ethos (ethical or character), and pathos (emotions).  The other main source is Lloyd Bitzer (ca. 1968), and refers to the rhetorical situation of writer, reader, purpose, and context.  Understanding these situations and this language can help you better analyze your own writing and the writing of others.

We will discuss some contemporary strategies for game advertising to help you find something to write about, but there are two main sources—game trailers and print advertisements.

Game trailers emulate the genre of the movie trailer (or preview).  As Lisa Kernan writes of movie trailers, the previews don’t represent the actual movie as much as they create a desire for the movie we want to see.  Game trailers follow this same logic, although some try to change the formula.  Search Youtube for “Game Trailers.”

Print advertisements for games aren’t as common as they once were.  You can find print advertisements occasionally in game magazines and some archives from the past can be found around the Internet.  These are rare any more, so I would encourage you to select one only if you have one in mind already.

Questions to ponder

How do videogame marketing campaigns work?  What sorts of appeals do advertisements for games use?  What is the ethos of the company and how is it portrayed?  What logical or emotional appeals are made?  And most importantly, are these advertisements effective?

Assignment

1.      Find a videogame advertisement, either video or print.  You can also use a website for an upcoming game, but this might be more difficult to write about given the multiple layers and complexity of such a marketing strategy.

2.      Watch/read the advertisement several times.  Take notes about how the advertisement uses logos, ethos, pathos, and kairos.  Next, consider the writer, reader, purpose, and context.  What are the values that are invoked and appealed to?  Take lots of notes first; don’t just “analyze” as you write the draft of the essay.

3.      Once you have some notes, think about what is most noteworthy to share.  What are some of the common rhetorical strategies that are used?  Logos, ethos, pathos?  Why are they effective/ineffective?  The thesis for your analysis should be fairly simple—is the advertisement effective or not?  Describe your criteria for analysis and then craft your thesis.  This will be your first graf.  A more sophisticated approach would be to consider carefully the context.  An advertisement can be effective for an 18 year-old male college student but totally fail at appealing to a 35 year-old mother of two.  That doesn’t mean that you should try to cover everything—instead, focus on something you know and identify with as you consider context and audience when crafting your thesis.

4.      The “second” graf will usually be the summary of what you are reviewing; in this case, describe the advertisement.  Every analysis needs a summary (think of how movie reviews often tell about the story first)—never assume the audience has seen/read the same thing you have read.  Save specific details for your support grafs, but you should at least describe the general point and narrative of the ad before you talk about it in depth.

5.      Next, you need to support your thesis about the advertisement.  This might include organizing by logos, ethos, or pathos. The point of this support is to “prove” your analysis is correct by using evidence from the advertisement.  These will be your criteria—you cannot select all criteria, so choose wisely.

6.      Most “school” conclusions are summaries of what you just wrote.  This isn’t how most writing is actually done.  Instead, think of a conclusion as a call to action.  What do you want your reader to take away from your piece?  End by improving your reader’s understanding in some way.

Timeline

January 14 – Hardcopy version due in class for peer review

January 15 — email final draft to richard.colby@du.edu by midnight

Requirements

  • The essay should be 2-4 pages in length, formatted in MLA
  • It should have a Works Cited page with the appropriate citation information for the advertisement.  When appropriate, visuals (screenshots or other representations) of the advertisement within the text and labeled are encouraged.
  • It should describe and evaluate logos, ethos, pathos, and rhetorical situation.  Other rhetorical terms are optional but encouraged.
  • It is worth 10 points.

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