Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of English
Erika . Sparby
This paper expands Ian Bogost’s (2007) procedural rhetoric by broadening the rhetorical view of games to encompass the arguments that they make not just about the material, but about themselves. The theory of procedural rhetorical systems (PRSes) views game systems as arguing toward how players should be following their rules, and like in any form of rhetoric, players possess agency in how they take up these arguments and how closely they follow rules. To demonstrate this, this paper analyzes a specific game, the 1996 platformer Super Mario 64, alongside various digital artifacts demonstrating how players have taken it up, including videos, forum discussions, wiki entries, and comments. This paper divides the different ways players can view PRSes into three uptake lenses (ULs), which are standard, speedrunner, and modder uptake. Where standard uptake represents taking up a game’s PRSes according to their exact argument, speedrunner and modder uptake represent taking them up in alternative ways, either with intent of beating the game as fast as possible or with the knowledge that rules can be modified and even transplanted from one place to another. These varied ULs prove that game rules are argued to players via PRSes and that players have agency in how they take them up.
Klem, Sydney A., "Toward a Theory of Procedural Rhetorical Systems: Demonstrations of Player Agency in Uptake of Rules in Video Games" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 1167.