Reflection Letter

ENG 101 in a Virtual Semester

In my Literacy Narrative Reflection, I wrote, “Writing has never been my strong suit, mainly because it’s never been my interest.” Throughout my life, right up to High School, (and honestly, often in my first semester in college, too) I tended to put off my writing assignments to the last minute. I tried to find any excuse to avoid doing the work. Still, despite my inherent bias against writing, I was pretty excited when I was assigned a First Year Writing class about playing games. To quote my Player Narrative, “Here’s the thing: I love playing games.” I was skeptical about how much English skill I could gain through games, though. I told myself that at least the class would be fun. Looking back at the semester now, I can confidently say that I have learnt more than I ever expected to learn from a class about games. But that’s because my expectation was to gain only textbook knowledge about the process of essay-writing from a Writing class (admittedly, I hadn’t read the Learning outcomes for the class at that time).

Unsurprisingly, the class has really improved my writing. I believe that the major contributor for that is all the Reflection Posts we had to write for every major assignment, and often for the side quests too. A few weeks ago, when I was overloaded with midterms and assignments and these reflection essays to write, I was frustrated and joked that there is so much reflection I have to do in this class, it’s almost like I’m a mirror. But honestly, this has been one of the greatest takeaways from the class for me, personally. By breaking down my process after every piece of writing, it became much easier to understand where I was going wrong, what I needed to change, and thus really grow as a writer over the course of the semester. The Free-Writing exercise that I did before the Literacy and Player Narratives is another factor that has influenced my writing a great deal. Talking about this exercise in my Literacy Narrative reflection, I said “It […] allowed me to express my thoughts in an unfiltered and raw manner. […] I could write down my ideas exactly as they appeared in my mind. I think this helped me produce a more honest piece, if nothing else.” It was very effective as it was liberating, and allowed a free flow of ideas. After spilling everything onto paper, I could work through it systematically and edit it, to create a final draft. Although this exercise was only meant to be done for the Literacy and Player Narratives. I did it before almost every single essay I wrote for this class this semester, including several Side Quests. I just altered the questions and points to cover as required. In fact, I tried a similar method before writing my final paper for my Intro to Psychology class as well, and it definitely worked to my advantage. I believe that this is something which can definitely be applied to future writing projects as it has worked very well for me. The reflection posts and free-writing exercises have contributed in giving me the courage to be unconventional in my writing. Talking about my Literacy Narrative, which I wrote even before our first Synchronous class, “I was more controlled and structured in my writing. I was afraid of how it would be perceived, and so I mostly steered clear of taking big risks.” In my later pieces, however, I have been relatively far more liberal with experimentation, not just with structure, but also with content.

      Free writing exercises

A lot of the things I did in this class forced me to think differently, analyze any piece of content I consume, and find things to learn from everything I do. In the discussions we had in the synchronous classes, we broke down almost every aspect of the games we played that week, from design, visual and sound effects, to genre, message and purpose. This helped me to understand and think about things that would have never even struck me in the first place. Writing assignments like liveblogging Gris and Gone Home also allowed me to really get into the depth of the game, as I had to express my thoughts and feelings at every step of playing the game. This ability of Critical Thinking, I think, was greatly improved because of the interaction and discussions with my classmates and professor. The greatest example of this would probably be the three podcast episodes I created along with my teammates, Mudita and Pratyush. I produced the episode about the popular game, Catan. An excerpt from that episode is, “Catan is a model of capitalism, it is a game of strategy and negotiation, and teaches important lessons of empathy. It promotes interesting and different ways of thinking that are important even 25 years after being released, but it is also important to note that not all aspects of the game have aged well. Today, we talk about why it is relevant, but also outdated, how it promotes selfishness and also empathy, and how it is different to play in the pandemic.” I had played Catan several times in the past, and thoroughly enjoyed it too. However, this kind of analysis is something that I only did when I produced the podcast episode. Before we recorded it, we had multiple Zoom calls that were hours long, in which we spoke about what the games did to our minds, and what we thought while playing. We also spent a large amount of time talking about what the messaging of the game could be, and what we each personally learnt from the game. This assignment also helped me to work better with other people. Teamwork and collaboration are things that were never really given any importance in my High School– we never had any group projects. This experience was interesting and different for me. I realized that there is so much more I can learn just by listening to opinions of other people. Over the course of the episodes, as well as the Twine game, I learnt to be more open and respect opinions of other people, and be able to find a middle ground when there was a difference of opinions.

My experience in the class substantially changed the way I interacted with content. I was introduced to the phrase ‘Rhetoric Composition’, and an understanding of the term caused me to better recognize how any text (written, audio, video, or even a game) interacts with the consumer. This was a two-step process. The first step was to explore the rhetoric situation of things I was consuming. Initially, I understood the meaning of a rhetoric situation after reading Andrea Lunsford’s ‘Rhetoric Situations’, and used this information to analyze the purpose, audience and genre of the games that I had been playing for the class. For example, after playing Depression Quest, I wrote in my notebook,

“Purpose:

  • To illustrate what it’s like to have depression.
  • To show the people living with depressions that they are not alone.”

Doing this created a more insightful experience while playing the game, and also helped me to answer the question, “What is this game doing to me?” The second step was to discern the rhetoric situation of things I was creating. As the semester progressed, I learnt to implement my knowledge to my own work. This is apparent in the podcast episodes our group produced. We had to think about our audience. Since it was going to be posted on the internet, it could be pretty much anyone. Still, for more popular games like Secret Hitler and Catan, the listener would likely be familiar with the game. On the other hand, Hidden Folks is relatively unknown, and we had to remain cognizant of this. An understanding of the audience would impact our purpose and messaging too. For Secret Hitler and Catan, we spent a large chunk of the time talking about interesting takes on the games that the listener would not have thought about while playing the game. We had to offer something new, something that would make them rethink their game-playing experience and look at it in a different light. For Hidden Folks, the episode focused more on fascinating aspects of the game which would pique the interest of the listeners, and encourage them to try playing the game. In all three episodes, we remained really careful to not critique the games, and just analyse them. This was a constraint that we had to be aware of.

The podcast episode production also gave me an opportunity to cultivate my digital identity, and understand how the digital medium is different from other media. I believe that 2020 has truly given us an idea of ow important and influential the internet and digital spaces are in everyday life, and thus an good understanding of digital identity is an increasingly essential skill to have. The internet has an abundance of content to be consumed, including articles, podcasts, essays, videos. It was important that our episodes provide a new or unique take on the subject, or the listener could just scroll past in a couple of seconds. We also attempted to make the episodes as interesting and conversational as possible. It was important to keep everything to-the-point and brief, as long, run-on statements would make it boring. The internet caters to short attention spans. As a matter of fact, this concept of digital citizenship played a big part in most assignments. Every piece of writing had to be posted on my blog, and thus it was essential to keep up the conversational, humorous and experimental qualities in each piece. At the same time, it had to be academic and serious to a certain degree as well. This balance was interesting and challenging to maintain.

Over the past few months, I have definitely grown as a writer, and I believe that all the posts on this website are a testament to that. What I mean by this is not just that my grammar and vocabulary has improved, but my entire perspective towards reading, writing, and even playing games, has transformed. Writing a paper is not as cumbersome a task for me as it was at the beginning of the semester. I now understand my strengths and weaknesses better. I can look at a completed essay and break it down to what works and what doesn’t, and edit it accordingly. This understanding of myself is a skill that I think will be greatly beneficial for me going into my college career, and even otherwise. More importantly, I believe that this experience has made me a better thinker and communicator. I can look at any text and attempt to gauge what the message of that text could be, and what the writer is trying to say, beyond just its face value. I can also express my thoughts and opinions in a better, more confident, and significantly less restricted manner.

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