Welcome to the landing page of English 181 Read.Write.Play. Here, you will find the culmination of one semester’s work into a single website. Below, you will find descriptions as well as links to the various large assignments that were completed over the course and analytical reflection on how those processes went in comparison to predefined learning goals.
Podcast Series – Critical Thinking and Reading Resulting in Writing
The creation of the podcast series was one of the newer forms of assignment that I was able to accomplish this year. The podcasts created a lot of discussion with regards to the content, structure, and unity. Since we were creating a series that revolved around the entire class, we had to first agree on a specific set of guideline that provides some comprehension between everyone’s work. The first important issue we discussed was the number of episodes to create and subsequently, whether we would be working on the podcast individually or in pairs. I decided to argue in favor of pairs for several reasons. First of all, the purpose of the podcasts is to facilitate discussion and analysis. Not only is it easier to explore the process and learn about the game with two people, but it is also promotes appropriate discussion if the two producers are already well versed in the game of their choosing. Ultimately, our goal with the podcast is to bring something new to the table, to in a sense uncover some hidden truth about a certain game. The second important issue we discussed dealt with how closely were to use Ian Bogost’s work How to do Things with Video Games. I argued for the side that used Bogost simply as a starting point rather than a guideline for analysis. In this case, sticking too close to the text creates the risk of repeating Bogost’s arguments rather than finding some other nuanced idea.
The final product of my podcast is reflective of all the requirements I supported. Even though our eventual discussion on the Halo Series used Bogost’s idea of art in video games, we ultimately went a different direction. Our theme for the production was shown in the lines “We see that by building off the original designs for the core mechanic of halo, the graphic designers have transcended the artwork into a form of culture.” This ultimate conclusion demonstrates the learning goal of critical thinking and reading resulting in writing. The challenge we faced as we were writing our podcast was that there was too much information and not enough organization. There were plenty of cases of artwork that was both original and impactful that spanned six different Halo games. As a result, we were forced to critically think about a unifying concept that we could lay our foundation with. Our reading occurred mostly from the game itself but also from official lore wikis detailing the specification of our chosen artwork which ended up being a series of contrasts between sidearms, and starships. The resulting writing contained a comparison structure such as “We’re going to talk for a while about the design of the UNSC and the designs that are solely for this faction…The main antagonists of the UNSC, the Covenant is where the game graphic artists and designers really had to stretch the imagination” that was both easy to present and easy to follow. The entirety of the podcast work can be found here.
Manuel’s Tavern – Writing as a Process
Manuel’s Tavern was, at the very start, a strange assignment. It perhaps had less to do with videos games directly and more with analyzing a visual landscape that many production studios use in game design. However, this assignment did reflect the learning goal of writing as a process. The process here was trying to make something out of one image. Truth be told, there wasn’t much to work with. I had chosen a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign on Manuel Tavern’s north wall. The writing process here was to garner as much detail and information from that one image as possible and I accomplished this through the usage of several drafts. In the first draft I focused less on the sign and more on the brewery’s history in hopes of receiving some insight to how the brand was created. What I eventually found that I used in my final piece was the fact that Pabst had perhaps one of the more turbulent histories. It had been one of the top breweries in the 1960s and then fell off completely in the early 2000s until it was once again revitalized through crowdsourcing. This was the first step in my writing process as I used the information to setup my foundation for discussion through the line “In 2010, Pabst was almost revitalized through crowdsourcing until the US security and exchange commission forced the marketing to shut down.” The next step in completing the assignment was to focus in on the sign itself. The most obvious part of the sign that I could focus on was the color scheme. In comparison to all the other objects on the wall, the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign really stood out because of its colors. While the other objects were of a darker more rich caramel or full-bodied brown, the Pabst sign comprised of mostly white, blue and red. The final phase of the writing process was the assign some deeper meaning or value to its placement on the wall. What did the sign mean for the tavern as a whole and what place does it hold in its history? You can see the full piece on Manuel’s Tavern here.
Analyzing Wolf in White Van – Rhetorical Composition
I felt that analyzing Wolf in White Van was the class’s only traditional English writing assignment. In this paper, I focused mostly on the function of the game as a mental platform on which Sean can escape the limits of reality. This assignment specifically fulfills the learning outcome of rhetorical composition because I have able to discuss the purpose of the novel through thematic exploration. For example, I wrote that “The lack of control is a prevalent theme throughout the course of Sean’s correspondence with the players” and then followed this claim up with evidence such as “There is a certain misunderstanding in the way that Sean interprets his parents’ questions: he either misses or ignores the obvious concern in his father’s question and the nonchalance in his mother’s response.” It is also important that I realize my themes were not by any means all encompassing for the novel. There is productivity and value in focusing in on one element of a novel and understanding how it fits into a narrative. As long as there is evidence for my discussion, I believe that the paper was successful. You can read the full length paper here.
Fiasco – Collaboration
It seems that the tabletop game assignment was one of the few true forms of collaboration in the class. Although I am not a big fan of tabletop or board games, it was certainly interesting to see the dynamic between our self defined characters. This was, perhaps, literally, assuming key roles within the story. The premise of a tabletop game reminds me a lot of an exercise for writing that had to do with a train of thought. In group, we would each write one sentence to add onto what was previously written in an attempt to create a unified, sensible story. Fiasco essentially forced the group to work off of every member’s character through the dynamic of starting and finishing a turn. But, the collaboration also came, in part, from the continuous exchange of loyalties and alliances as each player attempted to keep their player alive.
I believe that the virtually unlimited freedom we had for the creation of the plot in fiasco was the key component in the game’s enjoyment. With this freedom, we were able to incorporate all of our ideas into a single storyline with ridiculous and mostly implausible scenarios. For example, as I wrote “During the setup, we got way ahead of ourselves by providing the backstory for all of our characters. In many cases, we were playing the game backwards: we picked out events that were going to happen and then created the conditions in order for that event to occur.” However, the world we ended up with was something every player had a stake in keeping alive and well. You can read my reflection of the Fiasco project here.
Building a Homestead – Digital Citizenship/Digital Identity
The idea of creating a portfolio of work online was not foreign when I entered the class. Multimedia platforms have long proven their value in presenting a culmination of work. However, I am still drawn to the more traditional idea of writing as a single piece of work that can be turned in on paper. There is importance in both parts of staying to the traditional work that allows me to focus in on one subject without having to consider its place in a whole and utilizing the online platform to really showcase the totality of one’s work.
Specifically though, there seems to me something strange about the use of images within an academic work. Of course, there are certain cases in multimedia journalism where images and videos are required for the article to function, but during the analysis of a novel or during the discussion on the function of art in a video game, I feel as though images interrupt the natural flow of content. That is not to say that all academic writing should avoid using multimedia; in many cases, multimedia can significantly enhance the content.
What you are looking at right now is the culmination of one semester’s work in ENG 181 Read Write Play. The time that I have spend on this site has resulted in a portfolio that is diverse and reflective of the thinking process that went into its construction. This website thoroughly reveals both analytical writing and creativity; both of which are important in the process of becoming a better writer.