Game Review

Overview

You have analyzed the rhetorical features of a text, how writers appeal to their audiences and represent themselves and their products.  In this analysis, you will review a game for a particular audience.  For the assignment, you will pick one game, choose specific criteria to evaluate that game based on the needs and values of a specific audience, and make a claim about the value of the game to that audience.

Rationale

Understanding audience, your own ethos, and purpose is only one layer of any writing assignment both within and beyond academic writing.  Argumentation is the second layer.  “Argument” in spoken and written discourses doesn’t mean disagreement, but instead, means making a case for a belief.  Just as communication is rhetorical, it is also argumentative.  Aristotle discusses arguments, namely the enthymeme, in some depth, and much later, Stephen Toulmin gives us some language to talk about different parts of an argument, and we will be talking about this in more depth in class.  For our purposes here, you will be considering arguments as claims and evidence—and additionally, how enthymemes, qualifiers, and warrants make up the argument and what types of evidence is most effective for an audience.

Important to this assignment is the concept of criticism. Criticism is a method of judgement, specifically that of applying criteria to an artifact. It can be positive, negative, or in most cases, a judgement that attempts to present the merits of the artifact to a particular audience. For example, a Gamespot audience expects the author to use gaming criteria (mechanics, graphics, story) and determine whether the audience should buy a game. Slate magazine, on the other hand, might focus on the political or cultural impact of a game.  They are both game “reviews,” but they are written for their rhetorical situations.

Questions to ponder

What makes a good game? What is the role of a reviewer? Does the critic persuade the audience to like the game he/she thinks they should or what the critic likes?

Assignment

  1. You will be assigned an audience to write a game review for.  Your first task after being assigned that audience is to research that publication and find out what sorts of arguments and evidence appeals to that audience.  Do NOT assume from a title or what you think you know about a publication–you need to read some articles, look at the advertisements, Google/Wikipedia the publication looking for audience specifics.  What sorts of evidence do writers for those publications use?  What sorts of assumptions are made?  Are arguments qualified?  You will be a bit overwhelmed at first; that’s ok.  The more time you spend, the more you will begin to see patterns. Write a <50 word “audience analysis.”  You should paste this “audience analysis” as an appendix in your “final” draft.
  2. Find a videogame to review for your audience.  There are two important constraints here: it has to be either a game you have played and completed or it has to be a game you can play through enough in a short amount of time (a casual game such as those on Facebook or mobile).  Once you have an idea what to review, you should make sure the publication you are writing for hasn’t reviewed the game already: The New York Times and Popular Science occasionally publish reviews, the DU Clarion has a few more, but not as many as a gaming site.  If you get a gaming website, you have to find a game they haven’t reviewed (look to casual games such as those on Facebook and mobile platforms).  The best advice here is to have fun and take some chances–maybe you really wanted to review Assassin’s Creed IV for the DU Clarion, but you cannot because it’s already been done–instead, find out what DU students are actually playing or should be playing and review that.
  3. Begin constructing your criteria based on the needs of your audience.  Does your audience want to know about story and gameplay, or does it want to know about depictions of violence or learning potential?  Your “thesis” is whether the game is valuable for that particular audience to play based on the criteria you select.  You should stick to 3-4 criteria given the length of this essay.  You could have fewer criteria if you have a lot of evidence (e.g., if you are reviewing Grand Theft Auto V for Ms. Magazine, you would maybe spend most of your review talking about misogyny and negative portrayals of women backed by lots of evidence).
  4. Begin drafting.  Many of the publications you will be able to select don’t have reviews, so you will have to follow more common organizational patterns for a review: thesis, summary, analysis.  But for those who do have reviews, follow the pattern in the publication.  Remember, as with assignment 1, you need to summarize your game before you analyze it, usually in the “second” graf; every analysis needs a summary (think of how movie reviews often tell about the story first)—never assume the audience has played the game.  Save the specific details for your support, but you should at least describe the general point and narrative before you talk about it in depth.
  5. Next, you need to support your thesis about the game in the support grafs.  The best way to do this is by criteria.  As many gaming websites do, there is a section about graphics, a section about gameplay, and a section about story.  But these “criteria” will change depending on your audience and publication (the Chronicle of Higher Education doesn’t care about those specific things).  The point of this support is to “prove” your analysis is correct by using evidence from the game.  These will be your criteria—you cannot select all criteria, so choose wisely.
  6. Most “school” conclusions are summaries of what you just wrote.  Your publication will probably treat conclusions different than this. A conclusion is a call to action. In the case of a review, in might make a decision about the game (worst game ever, most offensive game ever, classic game), or it might implore the reader to buy (or not) the game. Follow the pattern of your publication.

Timeline

January 23 – Hardcopy version due in class for peer review

January 24 — email final draft to richard.colby@du.edu by midnight

Requirements

  • The essay should be 3-4 pages in length, formatted in MLA.  However, above and beyond points are awarded to reviews formatted for the publication you are writing for.
  • It should have a Works Cited page with the appropriate citation information for the game.  When appropriate, visuals (screenshots or other representations) of the game within the text and labeled are encouraged.
  • It should use appropriate claims, evidence, and warrants for your publication.
  • It should have an audience analysis for your publication as an appendix of the review.
  • It is worth 10 points.

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