I still find the existence of this English course magical. When I read the course description on Course Atlas, I could not believe there existed an English course at Emory that allows students to play video games and board games. Were we to spend the whole semester on games, instead of on sentence structures or classic books or root words? We did, and I think that turned out well.
For a summary of the assignments in this class, or more precisely the “quests,” please refer to the drawing below. To explicitly address the course outcomes, I assume that listing them out would be the most effective.
One, rhetorical situation. Before taking this course, the only audience I have written for was the instructor of the course. I had to write formally: no abbreviations or vague adjectives, use long sentences with complicated grammar, and of course, Times New Roman 12-point font double-spaced. Now I realized not everyone enjoy reading formal writing all the time, and not all ideas are delivered through letters printed on paper. I still prefer formal language in reflection essays, but for other assignments in this course, I forced myself to use apostrophes and more colloquial words. For example, the video game podcast I produced with my group requires aural text, and most ideally, it faces the audience in the general public, which might not enjoy deciphering fifty-word long sentences with multiple subordinate parts. Formal writing is not unacceptable in situations as such, but it could be of lower efficiency. Still, as I mentioned in my reflection essay of the Do I Scare You? Doki Doki Literature Club podcast:
I realized a tinge of humor might help. Whether I achieved this purpose I know not, but the experience of attempting to amuse the audience is new for me.
I intend to keep the audience interested by voicing out characters in the game and creating comic relief through editing. In all podcast episodes produced by the class, we chose less formal language to communicate our ideas compared to traditional essays.
Two, critical thinking, reading and writing. We read plenty of analysis of games in this class, including the book SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal. The insights of these readings and other videos were discussed in class. Games are frequently related with negative descriptions, especially after WHO classified video game addiction as a disorder. However, SuperBetter brings insight to the design of games, and how games could improve a person’s mental state, instead of leading to deterioration. We closely analyzed every game we played in class. I knew that games, including video games, were not simply for fun, but I never viewed them as a form of writing. Some games might not even use words to communicate; they deliver ideas indirectly —through a story, a feeling or even an opinion—and sometimes this could be more convincing than traditional writing. In addition, I find it interesting how this course encourages us to propose opinions against any of the readings and other possible mainstream beliefs. When I drafted our Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) podcast, I was uncertain if it were appropriate to express disapproval of some existing dating simulators. My professor told me that it would not be a problem. We can express our opinions, so long as relevant and founded.
Three, writing as a process. At the beginning of the semester, as I mentioned above, I worried whether informal writing was acceptable. For different quests, I used different writing styles. Later into the semester, I found it easier to analyze a game or talk about a quest I completed, for I knew what to look for and my audience. Here I would again mention the podcasts my group produced as a process of writing. We had limited experience from making podcasts, so listening to examples was the first step. There we learned about the use of music and effects of changing tones. Similar to writing traditional essays, after we decided on a specific game, we played through and researched for it. The draft of a podcast includes brainstorming. During the production of the DDLC podcast, I composed the first, raw draft with the main ideas for my group members and our professor to modify. Besides the recording, we still used plenty of typing. The bullet points were for ideas, while a complete script was for recording. In the beginning, I considered talking without a script, which turned out to be extremely inefficient, for my accent forbade me to speak fluently. Eventually we read from a script written in conversational style. Also due to the lack of a script at the beginning, the time we spent editing the raw recording took much longer than most. I had to edit for not only the stuttered words and silences, but to create comic relief as well. Our group learned from experience, which allowed the production time of two other podcasts to decrease significantly.
Four, collaboration. The quests of the course are open for comments for everyone on the website, which allows receiving constructive criticism. The podcast episodes also depend on collaboration. From brainstorming to recording and to editing, every step requires group members to work together.
Five, digital identity and citizenship. This course is largely based on the use of technology. Video games themselves are digital, and I have gained a better understanding of the role of video games in contemporary life. Moreover, the podcasts and the WordPress website we created require use of technology and applications such as Audacity.
And two additional points I would like to mention in this reflection letter.
Six, how this course influenced me outside the classroom. The technological skill will certainly come of use some day, but there is one more thing. As I produced the Plague Inc. podcast as assistant producer, I realized how my two interests—one in film ad media studies and one in science—might be able to overlap. Within a field of the science community communication is simple, as everyone understands the vocabulary. However, educating or spreading the information to the general public would be more complicated. In this rhetorical situation, less traditional means of writing, such as video games, might become effective.
Seven, HomeTasking. The final project of a Kickstarter empathy game proposal was replaced by five HomeTasking quests due to the pandemic. Those quests were derived from the popular Taskmaster online tasks. The threat from the virus turned into a series of challenges, and we posted videos of ourselves completing the gameful tasks. Instead of escaping from the stress from the change to remote learning, we embraced a new way to learn as a community. We supported each other as allies. Nobody would be judged for a video s/he made, and we recognized the effort in well-made videos by voting. At first, I was afraid to act out in my videos, but after watching my peers’ bold choices, I decided to follow them. I made it my goal to gain slightly more votes, and I did. It was interesting to see how everyone’s HomeTasking videos grew more creative along the way.
Overall, this has been the most extraordinary class I have taken in my life. Many of the things I learned I did not expect. Most importantly, it taught me to pay attention to my audience.