Reskinning w/Rhetorical Intent

Up to 150

Reskinning with Rhetorical Intent asks students to work in groups of 3 to design/explain a new skin (a fiction, a narrative, a graphical overlay) for a common board game. In so doing, this new “skin” should situate the game as offering a commentary on a critical cultural or civic issue.

– Complete all L1 assignments
– Complete either L2 Expositing Play Strategies or L2 Current Trends Paper
– 3 group members, all eligible to work on this assignment

To complete this assignment, students need to (1) write a short paper that first identifies the basic play mechanics of an existing game, (2) build/create a visualization of their attempts to reskin a game (and provide a text that explains the kinds of graphical and operative changes they are making to that game and its mechanics), and (3) write a short paper that explores the intentions and implications of those changes. Part 1 should not exceed 500 words. Part 3 should not exceed 750 words. All project elements should be submitted with an Assignment Cover Sheet, and should include a unique title (meaning, simply repeating the title of the assignment will not work)
     Note: Students must have their focal area approved by the instructor

Diamond Reward:
Students who successfully complete this assignment will earn 2 course diamonds.

Assignment Description:
As Koster explores in his work (and as we see or will see in the works of McGonical, Gee, and Bogost), games tend to consist of at least two definable elements: an operative system (a group of mathematical patterns and algorithms that function as abstract simulations) and a design fiction (a.k.a. a “skin”). The particular combination of system and design fiction can be brought together not only to create fun and engagement for players, but to make different kinds of commentaries. For example, the game Deathrace, as Koster explores, is essentially the same gaming dynamic as Pac-Man: both ask you to catch object while moving around the screen (with some of those objects moving as well). One difference, of course, is that Deathrace’s skin has players driving cars over pedestrians while Pac-Man has players eating dots with a chomping block of cheese. One incites public concerns over media violence, the other becomes a game legend.

For this assignment, your challenge will be to find a way to “reskin” a game in order to offer some form of critical commentary on a social or cultural or even political issue of interest to you. To do this, you and your collaborators must first have an issue in mind that you want to explore: issues in education (and educational practices), child hunger, homelessness, racial disenfranchisement, gender discrimination, and so on. These, of course, are big picture gestures, but (in conversation with the instructor) you will want to narrow the scope even further as you bring together you gaming system and the focal issues: i.e., second language acquisition in education (and particularly the way it gets framed), gender discrimination in college sports. The goal is to create a game that allows people to understand your position (perhaps even argument) through the act of playing. That is, we are building an experience not just an explanation.

Once you have your issue in mind, you want to choose a common board game to reskin. In this effort, you will then produce a short paper that details the basic gaming mechanics of that game. These short papers are likely to be dependent on lists, but those lists should be framed by orienting prose (i.e., if listing all the mechanics, include an introductory paragraph and a concluding narrative about these things).

You will then need to figure out how you want to “reskin” the game to leverage those mechanics in meaningful ways and, once you have this plan in mind, you will need to create some representation or visualization of your new design fiction. You can create an image via Photoshop, for example, or you might actually recreate the actual gameboard.

As a final step in this process, I want you and your collaborators to narrativize the new design fiction in relation to the operative mechanics. Meaning, explain your design choices and how their interaction with the gaming mechanics (established and altered) leads to particular kinds of representation or commentary.

These works will be evaluated in three parts. Part 1, worth 25 points, will be assessed on its written quality and its accuracy (and depth) of mechanical identification. Part 2, worth 50 points, will be assessed on its visual/material qualities (i.e., what does the “reskin” look like, how well does it fit/function within the confines of the board, is it aesthetically in keeping with the original design or, if not, have the created a functional aesthetic ecology of their own?). Part 3, worth 75 points, will be assessed on its written quality and, more significantly, on the sophistication of understanding demonstrated in the work. Meaning, how well have students identified, explain, and explored the implications of the play experience and their intention with the pairing of play mechanics with particular design fictions.

The goal of this assignment is to help students think critically about the ways game systems and design fictions come together to create meaning, to foster particular kinds of play experiences, and to gesture toward particular kinds of representation. This also serves as an introductory orientation to game making/game design, which will be a critical skill needed for additional assignments on this assignment path.

Instant Assignment Completion:
4 Diamonds