Note: The content on this website is a portfolio of Michael Mariam’s work from ENG 101, Section 7 taught by Prof. David Morgen at Emory University during the 2020 Spring semester. Head to https://eng101s20.davidmorgen.org/ for more information about this course.
My first-year writing course was the most relevant course I have taken so far in my academic career. This class went above and beyond in teaching me the skills necessary to succeed in today’s world by using games as a guide. This class taught me that gaming is an immersive experience that promotes experimentation and development. The five learning outcomes guided me through this semester, and I can proudly say I developed new skills in each component.
The first learning goal is rhetorical composition, a way to better understand and approach a piece of writing. At the beginning of the semester, we read two chapters titled “Rhetorical Situations” and “Reading Rhetorically.”I realized these readings set the basis for the course because it is so important to think of whom you’re writing for, why you’re writing, and how you plan to explain the situation and get your point across. For each assignment, I found it necessary to break down each rhetorical component so I knew how to approach the task. Although this was a writing class, I also used audio, illustrations, and other methods to communicate which can effect one’s interpretation.
I applied what I learned about rhetorical analysis to my Introduction to Film class. For the final paper, I had to break down a scene from a film and explain why each cinematographic decision was made. This connects back to what I learned in class because I needed to understand what the purpose was behind each decision and what the producers wanted the audience to be focused on in that moment.
Going through the rhetorical breakdown process was important for the two podcast episodes I completed. One was titled “Keeping your head in the game” and focused on FIFA 20 and how e-sports can bring people together during tough times and how e-sports compare to playing sports in real life. Before Greg and I recorded, we had to consider whom our target audience was and what we wanted others to take away. Since society is social distancing, I felt it would be appropriate to incorporate how games like this can fill a void and allow people to communicate with others. Greg thought of the situation differently since he is an athlete. He thought it would be fascinating to see how people practice their sports and learn important techniques through e-sports. We combined our ideas and wrote an outline that flowed and made the most sense. Since we recorded the episode in separate locations, we wrote down our main goals and framed the episode to allow for a free-flowing discussion of the game and our ideas. This episode exceeded my expectations and taught me how important it is to consider each rhetorical component before attacking a project. Without a vision, it’s difficult to move forward as one team.
The second learning outcome involves thinking outside the box and implementing others’ ideas into writing. This came easy for me as we read Jane McGonigal’s book SuperBetter which describes how to incorporate games into our everyday lives. I now think more about how games replicate real-life situations and require similar skills. In addition, I took what I learned from McGonigal about how to approach games and used it in class. One of the chapters was about the importance of discovering your allies. This applied to when I played Betrayal at House on the Hill as each of us had to make decisions about whom to betray and whom to side with. By incorporating this outside knowledge, I was able to strategize and it resulted in my being the last one standing.
The third learning outcome pertains to the idea that writing is not a singular event and instead it is a process. This is noticeable in my final portfolio as all assignments, especially side quests, had a reflection component. Without reflection, writers can’t learn from their mistakes or analyze their work. Another assignment where the writing process was important was in the Minecraft podcast I recorded with Winslow. Our original plan was to focus on how video games can ignite nostalgia. However, we realized this idea drifted away from the podcast series’ purpose. Consequently, we revised our plan and drafted a new idea about revisiting old video games. I believe this change made our arguments more effective and allowed us to reflect more on personal experiences. As we put together the episode in segments, each of us critiqued each other to improve the episode. This made me realize how important it is to receive and accept feedback as it’s meant to strengthen your skills.
The idea that it takes multiple drafts to complete a successful text is one that I look back to as a writer for The Emory Wheel. For each article, a lot of time and energy goes into it. I start by researching the topic and conducting interviews. Then I write a draft and once I’m finished, my article is sent to departments for edits before it’s finally published. While it’s frustrating at times to see my work be torn apart, I realized how it is helping me improve as a writer and strengthening my pieces. It has been interesting to see my growth in this class help me as a writer for the newspaper as I hope to continue to do more journalism.
Many of the games in this class involved multiple players, sparking collaboration, the fourth learning outcome. My classmates and I had to work together to understand the rules and objectives of many games. One game we played where working collaboratively was required was Fiasco. Fiasco required lots of decision making and with all players trying to build one storyline, it became challenging, yet exciting, to mesh our ideas together. As discussed in my game reflection, “Fiasco was a new type of game to me because it required us to create our character and story rather than having structured guidelines. In these roles, all players collaborated and communicated clearly with each other to add to the story and work towards our goal.” By working together, we were able to overcome obstacles and write a story that integrated each objective.
Another learning outcome for the class was learning how to use online spaces appropriately. This became crucial once we transitioned to online class due to COVID-19. In my FIFA podcast, I said “in challenging times, adjustments need to be made to suit the environment and conditions we endure. Thankfully, we are living through the age of technology which fills the voids of many things.” This quote applied not only to the podcast but to our lives in general. Since the class was unable to be together, the assignments transitioned to an interactive virtual format.
I completed six “hometasks” which are video responses to fun and silly challenges. The class submitted entertaining videos for each task to make us feel together and maintain the community we built in person. I learned a lot about other people’s interests and the ways they think after watching and listening to them in class. My mindset going into these assignments was these will be easy to produce, and I was very wrong. It took lots of time to think of an original idea for each task and to do it effectively was also challenging. For example, one challenge was to blend yourself into the environment. After much thought, I eventually figured out the perfect idea. I blended in with my cap collection by curling into a ball as seen in the video. Activities like this required getting my family involved both to film me and be a part of the assignments. At school, I cannot get my parents involved with my academics, so this was a different experience.
Hometasking allowed me to exemplify my creativity in a new fashion. I typically do not post content online, so these assignments forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. When I am confronted with assignments like hometasking, I often feel I do things the wrong way because each task is up to your interpretation. However, I felt I could safely post what I thought was appropriate because the class was supportive of everyone’s ideas. This concept relates back to McGonigal’s ideas in Superbetter about challenging yourself. McGonigal explained the importance of having a challenge mindset during adverse times even though human nature is to revert to a threat mindset. I found this to be very applicable because when I heard we were going to be learning virtually, I thought classes would be harder and my motivation would decrease. However, hometasks proved to be a fun challenge and changed my perception about this class for the rest of the semester.
ENG 101 has taught me important lessons that I can apply in the future. I see myself as a more confident and thoughtful person when it comes to expressing myself. I have made so much progress in my writing ability and creativity and am extremely happy I took this course.