Communication and Rhetorical Studies
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Richard H. Thames
Anthony M. Wachs
Rhetoric, Video Games, Persuasion, Kenneth Burke, Jacques Ellul, Covert
Video games, through their widespread popularity and appeal, transmit meaningful ideas, beliefs, and attitudes via the use of digital worlds, narratives, characters, and play. Play has always held a key role in human life, but the video game medium accentuates and accelerates the reach and impact of play on human users. Jacques Ellul’s philosophy of social propaganda and Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theory each offer important implications to the persuasiveness of video games; however, when placed in conversation with one another, the union of Ellul and Burke leads to a more complete understanding of how video games have such an effect and what can be done when complications are found. That video games are influential is not troubling, but it is worth exploring the ways in which video games are changing players’ actions, attitudes, and ideals through covert persuasion. Video games have the capacity and potency to transmit and instill prejudicial attitudes in players through covert persuasion, and these attitudes can lead to destructive actions. Many groups suffer from stereotypical depictions in video games, but one particular group under threat from the video game industry in the current political climate of the United States are Hispanic and Latino populations and cultures. If video games have the power to spread prejudice, then they also have the power to correct those problematic attitudes.
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