Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ethos, pathos, logos and games: some additional thoughts

Travis' rhetorical analysis got me thinking about some additional aspects of ethos, logos, and pathos and how they work in games which I've never considered before. I've pasted an edited version of my comments on his paper below, and you might want to consider these ideas in revisions of your own rhetorical analysis.

As always email with questions.

"In thinking about ethos, consider not just how the authors create verisimilitude (a sense of believability), but also how the reputation of the original versions of a game as a good game experience provoke players to want to play (and pay) for the new versions."

"In thinking about pathos, continue to think about how players are made to feel and how these emotions create the desire to continue play and a willingness to pay for new emotional experiences in the same vein. Part of the reason players play first person shooter games is the sense of power they gain through the fantasy experience of the game and identification with their avatars, but there's also a chance to explore emotions associated with revenge, anger, power, and status. Narrative does much of its rhetorical and cultural work through the chance to look at the world from a very different viewpoint. Think of trickster characters like Loki or Coyote. One reason we find them so fascinating is that they indulge in actions from outside the accepted set of every day actions and, usually, manage to pull it off. Through identification with these characters, we get to explore aspects of ourselves which we can't or shouldn't in society."

"Think, for instance, how players get to explore, indeed, are encouraged to explore, violence. Aristotle called this use of pathos, "catharsis", and I'll let you read his _Poetics_ if you want to get a full handle on how this rhetorical device works in fictive experience. For right now, know you can suck players in by giving them a chance to experience a darker or lighter side of the emotional spectrum than is accepted in society at large."

"In further thinking of logos, go beyond thinking about how internal consistency is achieved. Consistency--a logic of experience and play--throughout a game (or any other text, like a paper) is an essential aspect of the logos appeal, but there are other aspects to consider. Think, for instance, about the ideas which frame the game. WoW, for instance, if framed by a capitalistic economy very familiar to its players. We know how status works and is measured in a capitalist economy. Such a logos--a framing idea--leads us to identify with the game (an ethos appeal) and have a sense of power or its loss (an appeal to pathos). Note in this last example how the three appeals, as so often happens, work together to strengthen one another."

If you have questions or want to continue the discussion of how logos, ethos, and pathos work in games, I'll open a thread in the class shell.

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