Literacies at Play
Description: Formal essay about the “rules” and expectations governing literate practice in a community of practice associated with a familiar leisure activity (video games, board games, needlepoint, painting, among other things).
Most video games differ from traditional games like chess or Monopoly in the way they withhold information about the underlying rules of the system. When you play chess at anything beyond a beginner’s level, the rules of the game contain no ambiguity: you know exactly the moves allowed for each piece, the procedures that allow one piece to capture another. The question that confronts you sitting down at the chessboard is not: What are the rules here? The question is: What kind of strategy can I concoct that will best exploit those rules to my advantage?
In the video game world, on the other hand, the rules are rarely established in their entirety before you sit down to play. You’re given a few basic instructions about how to manipulate the objects or characters on the screen, and a sense of some kind of immediate objective. But many of the rules—the identity of your ultimate goal—become apparent only through exploring the world. You literally learn by playing. This is one reason video games can be frustrating to the noninitiated. You sit down at the computer and say, “What am I supposed to do?” You have to probe the depths of the game’s logic to make sense of it, and like most probing expeditions, you get results by trial and error, by stumbling across things, by following hunches. In almost every other endeavor that we describe using the language of games—poker, baseball, backgammon, capture the flag—any ambiguity in the rules and objectives of the game would be a fatal flaw. In video games, on the other hand, it’s a core part of the experience. (42-43)
Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture
is Actually Making
Unpack the above passage, paying particular attention to what it might have to do with this issue of communities of practice and—eventually—writing for school. What do you know about video games? What games have you played? How do you learn the “rules” and objectives of a new video game? What “special terminology” and/or “special knowledge” do you need to know in order to enjoy and/or succeed while playing one of your favorite video games and how/where did you attain this knowledge? What tools do you need to know to play video games well? How does this experience differ from playing other sorts of games? How is it similar? What “tricks” might strong players of this game know that others might not? Where did you learn those strategies?
WE HAVE SPENT QUITE A BIT OF TIME discussing literacies involved with various communities of practice associated with school (WA1 and WA2) and work (WA4). For WA5, let’s look more closely at those communities of practice associated with leisure—games we play (video games, board games, sports), hobbies we engage in to wind down after work and/or school.
For WA5, I’m going to ask that you to choose a leisure activity in which you are deeply involved and analyze the knowledge, rules, terminology, tricks of the trade, body movements, values (etc) you had to learn in order to become an active member of this community of practice.
Your WA5 should answer the following questions: (1) How would you define this community of practice? What’s involved? Why are people drawn to this activity? (2) What specialized terminology must literate members know? (3) What special knowledge is involved? (4) What tools do members have to know how to use? (5) What do members of this community of practice value? (6) What are the major objectives of this community of practice? (7) How is membership in this context expressed? (8) How is competency determined, by whom, and according to what measure? (9) What strategies do literate members use to get things done in this community of practice? (10) How do new members learn these strategies?
Resources: In addition to your readings and our in-class discussions on the subject, draw from this group activity.
Page-length minimum for Peer Review: FOUR PAGES (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font)
Due Date: _____
Page-length minimum for Instructor Review: FIVE PAGES (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font)