#CLOUD: presenting persuasive #rhetoric in a #game

 A rhetorical situation occurs when an author, an audience, and a context come together

and a persuasive message is communicated through some medium.

(OWL purdue)

{posted as #rgmooc week 3 co-op}

Introduction

The game CLOUD features a dreamy landscape, where a boy, flying through the air, manages to collect clouds and then use them to create various shapes or induce rain upon a heavily polluted city (puzzle / adventure free-to-play PC game).  The game was created by students at the University of Southern California in 2005 and by 2006 this indie game amassed huge admiration and a considerable amount of downloads.  Journey‘s Jenova (Xinghan) Chen is credited as the lead designer of CLOUD, which was inspired by the creator’s childhood memories; as a child he suffered from asthma and spent a lot of his days in a hospital daydreaming, much like the boy in the game (Wikipedia “Cloud“).

Audience

Thatgamecompany“, which was created by the founders of CLOUD shortly after their graduation, made it clear that their target player body are the so-called “core” gamers, meaning that CLOUD is not intended for the average hardcore or casual gamer alone; preferably even a non gamer would appreciate its artistic concept and serene minimalistic design. It doesn’t take too much of your time to grasp the basics – the first stage is perceived as a tutorial –  and the actual focus is rather on creating emotion and a “powerful interactive experience” (Thatgamecompany, “About” section). Chen himself quoted the necessity of creating “mature” games (gamesindustry.biz) that have little to do with short-term lasting, basic instincts, such as enthusiasm or rage, which mostly apply to teen gamers; instead, the game industry ought to seek enhancing its emotional rhetoric to adults by fortifying game elements accordingly . A game can become a work of art and have similar impact as a good film or an exceptional painting. That, according to Chen is not only art but also entertainment in its purest, most long-lasting form:

“what I realized during the development of Cloud was that entertainment is about feelings”. (Gamasutra)

Game mechanics and elements

To achieve attracting primarily a non gamer, adult audience, CLOUD employs several game elements that contribute to structuring a beautiful, escapism dreamland. Music ought to be mentioned first, since the exquisite sound of Vincent Diamante achieves supreme levels of eliciting feelings. Flying through the air becomes something more than a childhood fantasy; it literally relocates the player to a domain free of angst and hardships.  Despite the simplicity of in-game graphics – it was after all a student project – the design is up to par, with a clever exploitation of light and dark shades to symbolise “friendly” clouds vs rainbringers. Nevertheless the strongest advantage of this endeavor is the narrative itself. The boy is held up in a tedious, depressing hospital room much like we are trapped in a daily routine; his only wish is to fly, something to which any child or adult can easily relate. The touching connotation of the boy’s illness, clouds being presented as “friends” and the original motto of the game – “Let’s make more friends” – raise expectations for a social message, larger than life. Chen and his team prove that constructing a successful narrative can make games tell a story in a most artistic – dramatic even – way. Thus, narrative aimed at arousing human emotions becomes a core game mechanic, rendering CLOUD an “art game” to be emulated.  As Brice puts it:

If game mechanics are meant to provide players with experiences such as fun and anxiety,

then narrative actually is a game mechanic, as much as game mechanics can also be narrative elements. (popmatters.com)

Consequently, it would seem that mature or non gamer audiences deem persuasive narratology and rhetoric as key to opt for a well designed gaming experience. CLOUD is definetely one of those.

Works cited:

“About.” Thatgamecompany. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100723142221/http://thatgamecompany.com/about/&gt;.

Brice, Mattie. “Narrative Is a Game Mechanic.” Web Blog post. PopMatters.com PopMatters Media, Inc., 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/153895-narrative-is-a-game-mechanic/&gt;.

“Cloud Game.” Cloud Game. The Division of Interactive Media at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television, 2005. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/game.htm&gt;.

“Cloud (video Game).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_(video_game)&gt;

Irwin, Mary Jane. “The Beautiful Game.” GamesIndustry International. Eurogamer Network Ltd, 19 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20090429105251/http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/the-beautiful-game&gt;.

Kumar, Mathew. “Thatgamecompany’s Chen On How Emotion Can Evolve Games.”Gamasutra.com. UBM TechWeb, 15 July 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100810013800/http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/24442/Develop_2009_Thatgamecompanys_Chen_On_How_Emotion_Can_Evolve_Games.php&gt;.

Pepper, Mark, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. “Elements of Analysis.” OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/725/02/&gt;.

Retrieved 15th August 2013 from http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/

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e-Portfolio setup suggestion in MOOCs

Well, it seems that despite potential flaws, the MOOC hype has turned into a MOOC domination: they are certainly here to stay. One could account for a lot of problems – we are still amidst the initial phase of the emerging trend – yet one thing remains an absolute fact: productivity and collaboration in academia were never at its highest.

Personally I am enrolled in a lot of MOOCs, in a variety of platforms. For each and everyone of them I need to watch the videos, come up with notes, do my readings and then of course manage my homework.

Multiple choice tests are not the sole method of evaluating a MOOC although they seem to be quite objective and leave less room for debate. The infamous peer-feedback of the flipped classroom educational practice has amassed plenty of critique and painful reaction among MOOC students. Still, I am not going to enter that debate. Imagine, at this point, the amounts of written text produced as homework for all the MOOC classes. Imagine what it would be like to receive feedback from more than 1-5 peers, even outside their platform.

Since the cloud-based technology is offering huge advantages to education, one should come up with portfolios based on the cloud and in synch with all devices and platforms – thus promoting peer feedback and collaboration in real time from virtually everywhere. As a MOOC supporter I would like my homework from online courses to be effectively stored and shared – yet by all means copyright-protected –  so as to promote knowledge and exchange of ideas. Coursera and other leading MOOC providers should think of an integrated e-portfolio

that would allow the student to save his/her work at one place and make it easily shareable with the rest of the world (not downloadable though). On the plus side, any academic institution or company interested in a CV’s continuing education sector could glimpse the works of potential candidates and deem their overall productivity  in one place.

To avoid any misunderstanding, not only humanities offer written assignments as homework. An e-portfolio could hold a Python program, a gamification scenario, a social science experiment report, etc.

Any thoughts?