A pentadic analysis of Tropico : dramatism and digital games Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/zg64tr012

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  • How do digital games convey meaning? Academic studies of video games seem concerned with creating discipline-specific new methodologies for examining the medium. From the standpoint of the rhetorical critic, however, new forms of communication can still be examined with traditional techniques. This paper analyzes the 2001 video game Tropico using the dramatistic pentad, a methodology derived from the work of literary and rhetorical scholar Kenneth Burke. Since the world created by certain video games are recreations of a series of events, then the five elements of dramatistic theory – the act, the agent, the agency, the purpose and the scene – are also present. In this paper, the game is broken down along the lines of each of the five pentadic elements, in addition to the ratios between the elements, taking into account the peculiarities to dramatistic analysis that this particular medium generates. It is argued that the dominant pentadic element in Tropico is that of purpose, that all other dramatistic elements are ultimately subordinate to monetary desire, and that this allows the designers of the game to create a world of economic and political cynicism they use to describe the benefits of modern Western-style social welfare. Studies like this will be important not only to to establish a link between traditional scholastic methodologies and the discourse surrounding the study of digital games, but to advance the academic understanding of how video games create persuasive meaning as well.
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