Political Procedures: Video Games Made with Scratch

In Persuasive Games, Ian Bogost argues that most political videogames have failed to take advantage of the procedural affordances of the medium. Instead of using procedures to make arguments, political games have mostly put new skins on existing games or have merely used games to deliver textual arguments. In How to Do Things With Videogames, he extends this argument, suggesting that political games should be less about politicking (winning elections) and more about specific policy issues. Games are particularly well suited for the latter, since they can simulate complex political processes via computational procedures.

Students in a courses called "Digital Rhetorics" created video games in an attempt to address Bogost's concern. In groups, students used the programming language Scratch to create a game that made a procedural arguments about various political issues.

Teaching Assistants for this class created sample games that demonstrated the possibilities of Scratch and that showed students how to make procedural arguments:

  • Eric Alexander's Pay 2 Play makes a procedural argument about changes to the Wisconsin State Facilities Access Policy that affected protests at the Capitol building in Madison.
  • Deidre Stuffer's Bit Breaker makes a procedural argument about the persistance of data in digital devices and the inability to ever completely "wipe" a devices such as smartphones and personal computers.

Links to student games are below. Most students in these classes had no previous programming experience.