Critical Analysis – Feedback and moving forward

The final (well, the last one that isn’t the logbook) submission for Critical Analysis is right around the corner, and I have the feedback from both the presentation and the research board. With that in mind I wanted to write up some sort of guidelines for my essay, based on what I want to write about and what was missing from my previous projects.

Breaking down the feedback

Let’s start by looking at the two pieces of feedback I’ve received. I’m going to try and list some areas I need to improve my essay in.

  • Colloquial language – Avoid it like the plague in academic writing. I think I managed to fix this already in my presentation. Thankfully the only thing required here is a little bit of extra focus on my writing. If I can do that, and leave a few days before the deadline for proofreading, I should be fine.
  • In-text citations – On my research board I didn’t have enough of this. While I had an extensive bibliography, I rarely indicated which section of my text came from where. In my presentation I had a lot more citations, however I was paraphrasing instead of using quotes, so Turnitin thought I had very little material from other sources. While Gerard said this isn’t a big issue, if I can I’m going to use more quotes in my essay.
  • Too narrow focus – My presentation was focused on the gameplay mechanics of Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM (2016), which is fine, except it didn’t really tie into the second learning outcome (more on this later). The research board on the other hand looked at a more generalized subject, which was “storytelling in video games”. For the essay I’m aiming to find some kind of middle ground that’s not too narrow, but is still focused on something specific.
  • The second learning outcome – Which is the following: “Understand the relationship between historical, social, economic and political influences that combined to enable the development of the visual culture and associated media and cultural industries.” This is not an easy thing to accomplish with my video game theme, but I’m going to try with the essay. The biggest issue is that books about games usually focus on either the mechanics, development, or business side of games. So I might have to find some other sources from the internet and back other aspects of my essay with printed material, but I will make an attempt to avoid this.

The learning outcomes and assessment criteria

Before I delve into my subject matter for the essay, I want to take a quick look at the learning outcomes and how I could improve at them.

  • Identify, evaluate and utilize information, research and source material, employing traditional methods as well as information technology.
    • I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of this, although I should use more quotes, as Gerard suggested in the feedback for the presentation. Other than that, I might try bringing in some more online sources that can be deemed trustworthy, just to get some extra angles for my essay.
  • Understand the relationship between historical, social, economic and political influences that combined to enable the development of the visual culture and associated media and cultural industries.
    • This is the one I’m struggling with, but I might have the right topic this time around, as the games I want to write about reference political and/or social movements in their storylines, which seem to reflect on events that were happening during the time they were made. Their development was also influenced by the technological limitations, for better or for worse.
  • Make effective use of references to historically important and influential practitioners.
    • This one will have to depend on how many words I can spare to reflect on the earlier works of the games’ creators, and the influences they took from earlier works in the medium. I will definitely make an attempt to include things that help with this learning outcome, although it might not be as easy as with the “history of First Person Shooter” segment of my presentation.
  • Compile and present a structured and analytical seminar presentation and essay to demonstrate understanding of the subjects studied.
    • I seem to be doing well in this regard, although I am not one-hundred percent sure what this learning outcome means exactly.

The topic of my essay

When I was researching interactive videos for Digital Practice I ended up writing a lot about interactivity in those “games”, and how they handle player choices. After that blog post I felt like I should write about something along those lines, so my first idea for the essay was “Player choice in video games”. Then I realized two things. One: this is way too broad for a 2000 word essay, so I should focus on something smaller instead. Two: it’s a topic that is too abstract to properly include things that would help with learning outcome #2, which seems to be my biggest weakness.

So what I will do instead is write about the four main entries in the Deus Ex series (Deus Ex (2000), Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003), Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)). I think this will be a good choice for multiple reasons:

  • The original Deus Ex is held in high regard, which means that it’s not that hard to find references to it in books about video games. With later entries in the series I might have to rely on developer commentaries, interviews, or online articles that analyse the games.
  • Choice is emphasized during the series, both mechanically and thematically, although the way this developed over the years could be an interesting bit in the essay. Essentially, the first game was fairly hands-off about giving the player different options all the way through the storyline, but in the latest entry the “choose your play style” thing feels artificial.
  • The original Deus Ex was influential to the medium of video games as a whole, but it also drew inspiration from a variety of sources. With each subsequent entry in the series however, these inspirations changed more and more substantially, which creates a strange sense of dissonance between the four games. This can directly tie into the third learning outcome if I’m able to properly research each games influences.
  • All of the games are filled with political and social themes. The first one is about a bunch of conspiracies on the surface, but the actual questions it asks relate to subjects such as government structure, control versus anarchy, kleptocracy, etc. Human Revolution retains some of the conspiracy bits, but it is actually more focused on transhumanism and how society reacts to it. Mankind Divided continues the themes of Human Revolution but it is also a commentary about segregation, governmental corruption, and the rise of extremist right wing politicians. All of these can easily feed into the second learning outcome, and also lead to interesting discussions about how themes like this fit with the established conventions of video games.
  • Another thing that can feed into the third learning outcome: both Deus Ex and Daikatana were developed by Ion Storm. But while Deus Ex received critical acclaim, Daikatana is considered one of the biggest failures in gaming. The creative director of the former was Warren Spector, while the latter had John Romero at the helm; this difference points out how much influence the creative director had on a game back in the late 90’s. I don’t know whether or not this could be inserted into the essay in a relevant way, but it’s an interesting bit of information.

So that’s it for now. I’m going to keep working on the research, gathering quotes, sources, and so on. I’ll probably post my progress here later on.

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