How to analyze a game

Analysis – Separating the parts to make (a) sense
of the whole.
 Examples include, a rhetorical analysis, or argumentative
 Critique – Separating a predetermined list of the parts to make
a judgment about the whole.
 Movie review, game review
Critical = criteria-based. In other words, a list of
“things” that you will use to judge a “Text” by.
 Critical thinking – judging a situation or choice based on set of
criteria. The more experience you have, the more criteria that
you can consider.
 The more experience we have taking things apart, the better we
are at seeing what parts fit together.
Criteria (singular criterion) become your framework
for analyzing your work.
 Rhetorical – how a text persuades
 Argumentative – what claims and evidence does a text use
We will call these
criteria our frame or
framework. They help
us focus our attention
on a limited amount in
the game.
 We cannot look at
Will Brooker: institution, authorship, character and
narrative, genre and socio-political connotations and
Lars Konzak: hardware, program code, functionality,
gameplay, meaning, referentiality and socio-culture
Mia Consalvo and Nathan Dutton: object inventory,
interface study, interaction map and gameplay log
You can use parts of those frameworks if you
want, but you should focus on the communicative
function of the game. However, you can consider
elements that contribute to that communication
 Rhetorical – audience, purpose, persona, logos, ethos, pathos,
 Consider procedurality – how do game rules or gameplay
 Argumentative – context, genre, assumptions, qualifiers, claims,
 What evidence do games use to communicate?
 Pick a game – you are looking for an
advergame. A game that was programmed
with specific intent of advertising something.
 The course website has a long list, and within that list
there are many more. You don’t have to pick a game on
that list, but make sure you check with me whether your
game is an advergame or not.
 Advergames can be found on iPhone, Xbox360,
Playstation3 as well.
Play the game. This involves playing for longer than
five minutes. There is no real upper limit/suggestion
for how long to play (depends on the game), but you
should at least progress through the game, learning
how its rules/procedures.
 Take notes. If something seems effective, write
down what it is and why. If something seems weird,
write down why. Consider context, genre, logos,
ethos, pathos, audience, persona, demonstrative,
illustrative, associative communication qualities.
Craft your criteria you want to use.
In a 2-4 page, this usually involves 3-4 criteria.
Why is it difficult?
 You want to remain focused. You cannot pick everything.
 You might come up with a combination of criteria that you
haven’t used in conjunction with each other.
 Some criteria might be relevant, but you just don’t have the
evidence to say enough about. Use your notes to make sure you
have evidence.
 A “sophisticated” paper (A/B) will synthesize criteria to create
new and more specific criteria (e.g. audience values, ethical
associative strategies, and contextual evidence).
Thesis. Is the game effective? Is it persuasive?
Before you get out of your introduction graf, the reader
needs to know what you are doing in this paper. Your
thesis should clearly state what that is:
 Bob’s Ranch is an effective advergame that relies on its illustrative
game mechanics and realistic graphic representation to persuade an
audience of the benefits of Bob’s tractors.
 Bob’s Ranch is a successful advergame because it presents a
authoritative and credible ethos while maintaining an emotionally
satisfying gameplay experience.
 Bob’s Ranch is a rhetorically effective game as it expertly combines
logical demonstrative qualities with emotional and ethical appeals.
Organize your notes and criteria.
Begin drafting your paper. Remember, introduce
your criteria and the game before you analyze.
Introduction: what are you doing? What are your criteria?
Summary of game
Criteria 1: Claim and evidence from gameplay
Criteria 2: Claim and evidence from gameplay
[criteria 3, criteria 4]
Counterargument: “Some would argue that Bob’s Ranch does
not address audience values. However…”
 Conclusion
In groups of three, Go to Red Bull’s Soapbox Racer
 Play through it, explore the game, take notes:
 What’s the rhetorical situation (audience, persona, purpose)?
 Demonstrative, illustrative, associative?
 Rhetorical appeals (consider music, graphics, game mechanic,
 Claims? Evidence?
In 100 words or less, describe the rhetorical situation
and evaluate the rhetorical effectiveness of the
advergame. Post this graf (make sure each of your names
is listed) to the class website (categorize it as Blog).