Topics in Media: Video Gaming as a Cultural Practice

Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Heidi L. Bostic


Welcome to Topics in Media: Video Gaming as a Cultural Practice. This project and resulting course grew out of an intense apprehension I have had about the gaming practices of my 11 year-old sons, both avid gamers who like to spend every waking hour playing video games on their PlayStation, computer, or Xbox. They began their gaming career at the age of 4 installing and playing educational games on the computer, but as they have grown older, their preferred genre of gaming has become first-person shooter (FPS) games, all of which tend to be intense and violent in nature. As I tried to determine what course of action I should take, if any, as a responsible parent concerned about the time my children spent playing games and the violent nature of those games, I realized that I did not know enough about the cultural practice of gaming to make an educated, informed decision.

I began to explore the technological issue surrounding gaming by looking at the theoretical theories of scholars such as Martin Heidegger, Andrew Feenberg, and James Ellul, whose work investigates technology and its effect on society. In addition, I studied work by James Paul Gee, who explores literacy and other types of learning found in videogames. Working through these issues with Dr. Cynthia Selfe gave me a foundation on which to explore some of the positive and negative aspects of gaming that influence society’s, as well as my own, view and acceptance of gamers.

Furthermore, with Dr. Daniel Makagon, I looked at gaming within the context of community. Exploring the ways in which people come together to form lifestyle enclaves, as formulated by theorists such as Robert Bellah, Herbert Schneider and Peter Simonson, allowed me to examine the broader societal issues that surround gaming, and to study the impact that gaming has in familial, community, and societal relationships.

Finally, I explored gaming through the lens of storytelling and narrative theory. Working through these issues with Dr. Heidi Bostic revealed the importance narrative has on the popularity and potential identity formation inherent in videogames. Investigating the relationship between narrative and interactive storytelling or character-based computer games has offered a unique window through which to better view and understand the broader cultural and social patterns inherent in gaming.

Considering gaming in the collective contexts of literacy, community, and narrative theory has helped me better understand the cultural practice of gaming, and has enabled me to be confident in the decisions I have made and continue to make with my children and their gaming practices. My studies of gaming have also highlighted how important this cultural practice is for teens and college students, yet most of these gamers haven’t been exposed to theoretical treatments of gaming. And it is this gap that I seek to fill by developing a template for a course on gaming. It has also led me to work on this project, the design of a course based on the culture of gaming. While intended to serve as a template for composition instructors interested in teaching or incorporating the subject of gaming into their own classes, the resources available will also be of benefit to those teaching New Media, Technical Communication, and other courses exploring popular culture and youth practices.

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