Video Gaming (EL 250)

30 Nov 2005

Reflection Paper

For EL250, a reflection paper (see example) is an informal written statement (100-200 words) that demonstrates that you are prepared to do your part to advance the discussion of an assigned text. (It's the fourth "R" in the "RRRR" sequence.)

Copy the text of your reflection paper, and paste it into the body of an e-mail. Please don't send me a word processor document as an attachment. (You are welcome to include image or sound files as attachments, if they help you to make your point.)

Your reflection should include a direct quotation from and several specific references to the assignged text. It should also refer to a specific statement made by at least one of your peers (emphasizing how that peer's opinion differs from or modifies your own).


  1. For a reading, include at least one direct quotation from the text. For a video or game, choose at least one specific detail and describe it in detail in order to help you make your point. (You are welcome to supply a screenshot, if you like.)
  2. Engage critically and intellectually with the quotation or detail you have selected.
  3. Refer by name to at least one peer whose online reaction differs from or modifies yours (a simple "I agree with Sally" isn't what I'm looking for).
  4. Length: about 200 words (not counting quotations).

Position Statement (Thesis)

Based on the details and analysis that you have provided so far, do you see some unifying question? Identify an issue, take a stand, and be prepared to invite the class to weigh in.

Simple yes/no questions rarely spark much discussion. Neither would:

This game uses a lot of symbolism. [List of symbols goes here.] Do you agree that this game employs a lot of symbolism?

The above example is shallow. It does not invite debate or demonstrate college-level analytical skills.

Try instead:

"Pac-Man" is a game about gathering resources while fleeing from predators. It gives pleasure to those areas of our brain that remember what it was like being a tiny but clever mammal, surrounded by threats that are deadly but not too bright. Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde pass over the Power Pills without triggering them; Power Pills are resources, like sticks or chips of flint, whose secrets were beyond the grasp of the beasts that preyed on our ancestors. The Power Pills are tools. But the dots Pac Man eats are just stand-ins for the quarters consumed by the arcade game. It's the ultimate consumerist game, coming out of Japan and becoming popular in America -- two centers of capitalism. Compare it with a different sort of game, one that emphasizes sorting and organizing resources, where having too much without distributing it efficiently leads to a loss. Is it any wonder that Tetris emerged from communist Russia?

On a given discussion day, I may ask you to pair up with a classmate and discuss each other's reflections in depth. I may e-mail you some probing questions, and invite you to respond either via e-mail or on your weblog. I might only read half of the reflections. I might only look at one or two.

Even if I don't give you direct feedback on your reflection paper on a daily basis, you should keep up with the assignments anyway. If you write each reflection paper as it is due, you won't find yourself typing away furiously in the hours before a Participation Portfolio is due.

Punctuation and grammar are not terribly important in a reflection paper, and neither is finding the "right" interpretation. I'm simply interested in evidence that you are keeping up on the readings and thinking about them before you come to class.

You can think of your reflection paper as potentially focusing on knowledge, analysis, and a position statement (thesis).


What facts or details must one understand in order to make sense of the assigned text? Does the context (time, place, economic or creative history) of the text affect our understanding? What does a search of the internet tell you about the designer, the publisher, or fans? Do any terms we have recently encountered help you make sense of what the designer is was attempting? If you were teaching this text to your peers, what would they have to know first in order to understand it? What do you want to know more about?)


What cultural or ethical issues does this text illustrate? If you see symbolism, or a political message, or something confusing, break it down into parts. What are the basic themes, important concepts, or striking details? What does the designer or author conceal at the beginning? What new possibilities unfold at the end?

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