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"Creating" Visual Rhetoric Through Student-Designed Flash Games

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Brief Assignment Overview: 

This assignment gives students a chance to make their own (very elementary) argumentative, flash game. By actively engaging in the process of game design, students will have to think through their intentions and the process of piecing together visual, aural, and verbal rhetoric.

Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Writing: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

This is meant to be a long-term group project (at least a month), ideally assigned as a final media presentation which sums up elements of effective argumentation in an entertaining, yet carefully thought out, fashion. It follows a previous assignment in which students analyze a flash game by PETA for various forms of rhetorical appeals/fallacies (

Required Materials: 

Computer/media console for the instructor
Optional: computer for every student

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

Though there are many sites of varying difficulties from which instructors can choose, is both easy and flexible to work with. It’s intended to inspire elementary school students (around the ages of twelve) to become interested in coding and game design; as a result, this lesson plan does not require extensive tutorials or a large amount of in-class time set aside for instructional purposes. allows the user to “design” his/her own game through preset conditions. There are five different game types – among which include “retro arcade” and “classic shooter” – with protagonist options, movements, and attacks already installed. The user, then, is left to “make”: the environment for each level, tools, weapons, text boxes, non-playable characters, bonuses, bosses, and music. For my class, I placed particular emphasis on in-game text/dialogue and atmosphere/visual cohesiveness as ways for the groups to make whatever persuasive points they intended.  As an additional hurdle, I required that my students include “switch” events within the game (linked events in which the player cannot progress unless another task is accomplished first. For example, the big boss cannot appear until a specific minion is destroyed or, a “barrier” in the path will not disappear until a token is collected).

Completed games will be played through on the last day of class using a projector and the instructor’s computer.


Below, I’ve posted the prompt I handed out and a general rubric. I also offer my students three comprehensive tutorials for specific game types available to Sploder.


Goals: You and your group will be presenting your own persuasive video game designed on In addition, you will turn in a 500-word group essay discussing this project.

The purpose of this assignment is for you to take what you have learned from PETA’s Pokemon Black and Blue (or the McDonald’s one and apply it to your own platform game. Questions to think about: what rhetorical strategies does the parody engage with? What visual strategies? How does it convey its message, and how explicit or implicit are its arguments? What are potential weaknesses of this media form that you must avoid in your own creation? What are potential strengths that you should focus on?

How to begin:

1.    Make an account on (one for your group) and let your instructor (me) know what your group account name is.

2.    Go through video tutorials (if you google or search on youtube, you will find plenty of fine tutorials. Do not ask your instructor for search help; at this point in the semester, you should be proficient on your own)

3.    Experiment with as many components as you can.

To earn a C+

Your game must have:

1.    At least 2 complete levels to your game.

2.    An observable and understandable message

3.    Text (whether that be on signs and/or dialogue boxes)

4.    At least 2 Switch events (for example: the player can only deactivate a barrier if (s)he kills a particular monster; or, the boss monster will only spawn if the player presses a particular object)

5.    An environment (minor characters, decorations, etc.) which contributes to the persuasive argument and overall atmosphere.

6.    At least 60% of the game must involve some type of action (rhetorical, visual, textual, etc.) and not just walking around like a derp.

Your 500-word essay must have:

1.    One section discussing the argument your game is meant to present and what the game’s position is.

2.    One section discussing the visual and rhetorical strategies your group employed in the game to convey the opinion in #1 to the player. Be detailed as to what various elements are meant to specifically accomplish.

3.    One section covering how group work was divided.

4.    One optional section discussing how you think this assignment could be improved to teach you more about digital rhetoric, or, alternately, what you thought was the best part of this assignment.



2.    “Retro arcade” seems to be the easiest and most popular form. If your group is having difficulties, I suggest starting out with this. Be aware, though, that because this is the one with the most tutorials available, I will expect a more complex game should you choose this style.


Student samples from Fall 2013:

1. Anti-bullying and methods of conflict resolution:
Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Spend maybe an hour or two on the website just experimenting with the different game types and design options. Students, for the most part, have more technical questions such as “how do I save?”. When students present, you'll be moderating - asking questions about the narrative, devices used, etc. I asked one student from another group to play, and as this student played, the group would explain their intentions and techniques. 

Instructions For Students: 

That entire prompt posted above.
1. Make the game in groups, fulfilling instructor requirements.
2. Write a 500-word essay detailing intention, process, rhetorical devices, and workload.

Evaluation Suggestions: 

Students will play each other’s games. As a student plays through another group's game, that group will be in charge of explaining and presenting on their game at the same time (it's basically an interactive powerpoint presentation). The instructor will grade based on a preset rubric. The general hope is that students will incorporate the rhetorical skills they have developed all semester into the game.

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

I tried to put students into groups of 4, with each group containing someone familiar with video games of any sort (the earlier PETA’s Pokemon Black and Blue exercise helped me see who in my class was proficient and who was uncomfortable with this type of media).

To my surprise, I found that the next time we met (after I’d first introduced the project), half of the groups had already started the project without any prompting from me. I’d anticipated having to devote a class or two to work-shopping the groups’ games, but this turned out to be unnecessary as they were all fine and highly motivated on their own. This may have to do with the nature of the 500-word essay (in which students must discuss the division of labor).

Students really will go above and beyond for this project. They'll make complicated and involved projects that will constantly surprise you!. 

Course Description: 

Rhetoric 306 is a course designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of research and argumentation.  They are asked to research a controversy, summarize and analyze the arguments of the major stakeholders in that controversy, and then develop their own arguments.

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