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"Polarizing politics": Audience narrative decisions in video games
Testa, Andrew C.
Sheppard, JenniferGoehring, Charles
As interactive media, video games allow players to make distinct choices and decisions throughout the story, which I call “audience narrative decisions.” These decisions do not directly influence the plot of the game, but they do complicate the ethos of the respective game’s main character, who functions as not only the eyes through which the audience sees the story but also as a blank canvas for the audience to paint with their own political ideologies. Giving the audience the power to make a choice for these social decisions affords us a greater look at how the audience—and not merely the speaker or game’s creator—crafts ethos in the face of an otherwise rigid story structure. This complication has implications for not only ethos construction and the audience’s beliefs but also rhetorical techniques and the art of narration. Moreover, in audience narrative decisions, we see a co-creation of ethos by both the video game player and the video game developer. I perform a linear, chronological analysis in which I examine four games from different time periods – Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout 3, and BioShock Infinite – in order to scrutinize the most important audience narrative decisions they enable. Following Ian Bogost and James Paul Gee, I show that video games are significant rhetorical artifacts. Finally, I explore ways in which the evolution of audience narrative decisions in many ways mirrors the contemporary political climate of the United States. Whereas in the early days of video games, the audience had many possible options, in current games, players are mostly stuck with binary choices and polarizing options. Thus, the audience narrative decisions in video games seems to mirror the polarization of the American political climate over time.
Rhetoric And Writing Studies
Rhetoric and Writing Studies
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2018
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