Persuasive Games
The Expressive Power of Videogames

A book about how videogames make arguments: rhetoric, computing, politics, advertising, learning.

In Persuasive Games, I advance a theory of how videogames make arguments and influence players. Games represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. Drawing on the history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, I analyze rhetoric's unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field of media studies already studies visual rhetoric, the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively. Here I argue that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric.

I call this new form "procedural rhetoric," a type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation. Covering both commercial and non-commercial games from the earliest arcade games through contemporaty titles, I look at three areas in which videogame persuasion has already taken form and shows considerable potential: politics, advertising, and education. The book reflects both theoretical and game-design goals.

The table of contents and sample chapters are available on my publisher's site.

"Videogames lack the cultural stature of 'legitimate' art forms because they are widely perceived to be trivial and meaningless. But Ian Bogost makes a powerful argument that they are capable of informing and persuading as well as entertaining; in short, that they possess the power of rhetoric. Backed by numerous examples from the fields of politics, advertising, and education, Persuasive Games is an important addition to the debate over what games are, do, and can be."
Ernest W. Adams game design consultant and educator

"Analyzing the power of video games to mount arguments and influence players, Ian Bogost does again what he always does so very well: thoroughly rethink and shake up a traditional academic field - rhetoric - while lucidly building the foundations of a new one - game studies."

James Paul Gee
Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies
Arizona State University

Reviews and Reactions
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  • A short reviewlet with the promise of a longer one, by Noah Wardrip-Fruin at Grand Text Auto
  • "The best theory book this year", according to Canada's Globe and Mail book roundup
  • Jonas Heide-Smith's review in Game Research
  • Mention and discussion of the book in Phi Beta Kappan, September 2007
  • Persuasive Games on Kotaku's 2007 Holiday Gift Guide
  • Review in the British Journal of Educational Technology (39:5, July 2008), p. 951, by Nick Webb
  • "The paratextual pleasures of reading about playing video games," review in New Media & Society (10:5, October 2008), pp. 793-801, by Jeroen Jansz
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Literary and Linguistic Computing (2008)
  • Review by PatrĂ­cia Gouveia (in Portuguese; auto-translation here)
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Cognitive Technology 13:2 (Winter 2008), 53-54
  • Review by Jennifer McDaniel in Kairos 14:1
  • Review by Rudy McDaniel in Literary and Linguistic Computing 23:4 (2008)
  • Review by Yuejiao Zhang, in Rhizomes 19 (Summer 2009)
  • Review by Steve Jacobs, American Journal of Play (Fall 2009), 230-232.
  • Tensions Between Meaning Construction and Persuasion in Games, review in Game Studies 11:2 (Summer 2011) by Jan H.G. Klabbers
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