• August 18, 2019

Teaching rhetoric through video gaming - Odessa American: Good News

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Teaching rhetoric through video gaming

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 3:00 am

MIDLAND Andrew Latham has been interested in video games since he was 10 when his mother gave him a Nintendo 64 video game console, and he has been interested in creative writing since he was in high school.

Today, Latham has found a way to combine his two interests and is actually working on a Ph.D. dissertation in rhetoric and composition that deals with modern video game research.

“My research combines narratology, the study of games as narrative (similar to a story), with ludology, the study of games as games, to show how people interact with games to produce meaning,” Latham said. “Basically, I want to rethink the ways we play and talk about video games.”

Latham explained that platform studies, his specialty, is the study of how video games are programmed and designed to produce meaning. Platform studies is a relatively new field - it has only been around for about ten years. Essentially, a video game’s programming produces meaning, similar to reading a book. The video game designer is like a book author and tries to persuade the player through rhetoric.

“My dissertation research centers on video games as hypertext, like a Wikipedia article,” Latham said. “By changing the hypertext, one can manipulate or change the rhetoric of the game. However, one must understand game literacy and how a game is structured in order to manipulate the game.”

“Everyone deserves a voice in the world of video games - whether you are playing Super Mario Odyssey or using your smartphone to play Candy Crush. My interest lies in how the game affects the people playing, whether that’s through the chat in the top left-hand corner of the screen, the facial expressions of the person playing the game, or even the fact that game players converse and collaborate with people in real time.”

Latham’s doctoral research is being conducted through the University of Texas at Arlington.

“My family has been attending UT Arlington for about 80 years,” Latham said, “so I decided to continue the family tradition.”

Andrew Latham’s father was in the army, and Andrew spent his early childhood years all over the United States, Germany and Belgium. Andrew’s mother immigrated to the United States from Greece in the 1980s when his father met her. In 2004, when Latham was fifteen, his father retired and the family moved to Arlington.

In 2010, Latham graduated from Texas State University, where he met his wife Allie in a speed dating session. During the couple’s courtship, Latham also obtained a master’s degree in Literature from the University of Texas at Tyler in 2012. Already breaking away from the traditional English major perception, Latham’s master’s degree thesis was on comic books.

In 2017, Midland College (MC) hired Latham as an English teacher, and now Latham not only teaches freshman English, but also indulges in his passion for video games by sponsoring and advising the NOVA Club, MC’s gaming and anime club. Under Latham’s guidance, club members host video gaming nights periodically for MC students and others who are interested in video game competitions.

Family and family traditions are important to Latham. Being half-Greek, Latham said that he spent a good deal of time during his childhood in Greece while visiting relatives. He speaks and reads Greek, and his wife Allie started learning Greek when they were dating. He and Allie have been married for three years and have a two-year-old son, Eli, who is also learning the Greek language. Latham’s grandmother still lives in Greece, and the family visited her last summer when Eli was baptized.

In addition to the Greek language and culture, Latham is also nurturing Eli in the art of video gaming. Allie, Eli and Andrew enjoy participating in Pokémon GO community days.

When Andrew Latham isn’t conducting research on video game rhetoric or teaching freshman English, he enjoys reading science fiction. His favorite author is Isaac Asimov. In fact, he proudly displays an autographed 1st edition copy of Asimov’s classic Robots and Empire on his office bookshelf, a birthday gift from Allie.

Latham is one of a new breed of college English faculty - those who embrace the tried and true mechanics of composition and rhetoric with twenty-first century technology, and who embrace the classics of Emily Bronte and T.S. Eliot with more eccentric interests like Japanese tokusatsu superhero shows.

“I enjoy working with community college students,” Latham said. “English 1301, the first semester of freshman English, is my favorite class to teach. I like seeing the start of students’ adaptation to the college environment, especially first-generation-to-college students. I encourage them to adapt the lessons they learned in high school into something that will work for them in college. I haven’t incorporated video games into my English classes yet. After I complete my dissertation, I may work on that project.”

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