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Final Portfolio

Hello! My name is Yono Bulis and I am a freshman at Emory University’s College of Arts and Sciences. This website serves as archive of my work for Professor Morgen’s English 101 course Play Make Write Think. Hope you enjoy reading any/all of my pieces!

A class-themed game. Made via Gimp by Yono Bulis.

By working through various media, I would say I encountered and improved the first learning objective’s tasks, which cover composing texts in multiple genres using multiple modes (Written, Aural, Nonverbal, Digital). This class being an English course, my writing was the first part of this list that I improved. Previously, I had analyzed literature or films through high school courses using a straightforward five-paragraph structure, but by working on my Game Comparison, I encountered the learning objective in that my essay, although having five paragraphs, flowed differently. My thesis was the topic sentence in the last paragraph, and the last paragraph was not an echo of the claim; rather, it was a new point in my argument altogether, that tackled how the contrast between the two games led to a real-life application of trauma recovery. Specifically, I used the similarities as something of a concession and the differences as the root for next point: “The process of healing requires consciously taking action: both Gris and Depression games demonstrate that recovery from trauma is confusing and frustrating, but the key difference in the two games is that while Depression Quest’s protagonist’s passive attempts to improve lead to no avail, Gris’s protagonist’s active changes lead to growth” (Bulis). This was a new way of writing for me, but I’m glad to say I feel very comfortable using it (more on this paper later). In terms of writing in different modes, the first two writing assignments allowed me to improve writing through the first person while also analyzing games. For example, in my Game Comparison, I write: “Minecraft taught me the value of exploration and visualization, which would come in handy for STEM courses where trying new things leads to more efficient techniques to solve problems” (Bulis). Ultimately, I learned how to adapt to writing in formal and informal writing styles to make a point to an audience.

From an Aural standpoint, I would say doing the podcast episodes strengthened my ability to compose texts in different genres as a speaker. I initially struggled with doing the podcast episodes when it came to developing a voice that walked the line between conversational/casual thinking aloud and making an argument. I had difficulty understanding the audience, which is why the first episode in our podcast series featured arguments for Minecraft intermittent with discussions about why Minecraft was fun (this was a crutch). Our first podcast fell into the trap of arguing a pointless argument essentially: this podcast’s main question reads, “What makes Minecraft’s essential games: survival and creative, so enjoyable?” (Minecraft Podcast). This thesis was problematic because Minecraft can be fun – this is subjective. But we fixed this in our other podcast episodes: in our Super Mario 64 podcast, although we did mention how the game provided for every type of player, we connected it to make the argument that this game added a whole new dimension to the Mario Universe as the first 3D game. But by our third podcast, I was much more confident in my voice. I felt like I had improved at speaking in a way that was interesting but also had a purpose – I wasn’t just talking about why Fantasy Football was fun; instead, I was making a case for why it’s more than an addictive game for football fanatics. 

In regards to Nonverbal and Digital text composition, I would say the Side Quests provided me with a unique opportunity to create meaning digitally without words: creating drawings instead of notes, making movie scenes, or throwing paper behind my back (with failure) allowed for me to express things without explicitly saying them, which was an interesting exercise as I had to figure out a way to represent a particular sentiment – for example, distrust and disappointment, as Vito Corleone in The Godfather; the endomembrane system in my visual note-taking; or humor in my paper throwing – without making use of language.

Regarding the second learning objective, which involves working with new ideas, I would say I improved to meet the requirements for this learning objective via the writing quests. In reading the scholarly pieces by Steven Johnson, Mary Flanagan, Jane McGonigal, and Ian Bogost, I would say I transitioned from a passive reader to an active reader. Instead of holding onto as much information as I could, I identified the articles’ key ideas to obtain a better picture of their argument and the rhetoric they would use. From there, I tried to denote important tenets of their argument and then connect this to past experiences, which was something of a mental velcro that would allow me to create a web of understanding. This was a step forward in my reading ability, as going over the articles numerous times allowed for each author’s claim and nuances regarding games to hold a deep meaning: Steven Johnson, for example, made an interesting point about the silliness of the “video games increase hand-eye coordination” argument. I aligned a central theme of our Fantasy Football podcast with Steven Johnson’s idea that society often undervalues a game, but as a result of one of the game’s hyper-specific properties, the game becomes a source of controversy. Our script reads: “Healthline and PsychologyToday ask questions like ‘Is Fantasy Football good for your health?’ and ‘What are the dangers of Fantasy Football?’… the articles that do support Fantasy Football do so in a passive manner[:] ‘5 Ways Fantasy Football is actually good for your health’. The word ‘actually’, of course, implies that the contrary is the accepted norm” (Mijacika, Bulis, Kesavan). Improving in the second learning objective went hand-in-hand with improvement in the first learning objective, which is why our Fantasy Football podcast is mentioned twice.

Although the first two learning objectives were important in making my Game Comparison – I would say this was the piece I’m most proud of and would like to focus on – the third learning objective was probably most present here. Initially, my Game Comparison read like a 5 paragraph essay except in 3 paragraphs, and I had great difficulty figuring out how to develop a dynamic argument that flowed. I was used to a rigid argument that increased in strength and depth, not one that took the reader from one idea to the next. My initial title sentence (this draft was before the rough draft currently on the website) read: “Ultimately, both Gris and Depression games demonstrate that recovery from trauma is confusing and frustrating, but while Gris employs an active, gamely approach to recovery, Depression Quest creates a dark, never-ending sensation” (Bulis). Thus, I had to change my last paragraph from something of a repetitive group of sentences to an entirely new argument. I took a risk and made the assumption that my already-standing argument allowed me to analyze the games’ real-life application from their differences. From there, I made my claim about the way the two games’ different outlooks responded to their approach (passive or active) in recovery from trauma.

The following two learning objectives cover the demonstration of collaborative skills in classroom discussion, working together on projects and presentations, and the appropriate use of technology to engage responsibly in online spaces. Working in a group was one learning outcome I felt very comfortable with: from the get-go, my group was communicative, hard-working, and very flexible. Each member of our trio (Andrew, Ranjan, and I) was active in providing constructive criticism, which made our podcasts robust in the sense that our ideas flowed logically and weren’t vulnerable to missing any insight or nuance. Finally, I think using the online website contributed to my meeting the final learning outcome. Running my own blog and posting my material helped me understand how I should engage in online citizenship. One example of this is the voice I learned to use when writing online, which was casual in the sense that anybody reading my website could understand most of my points, but also organized to create an actual argument. Finally, in doing the bibliographies for all three podcast episodes, I was able to learn, practice, and gain competence in citing sources. 

I would say that the first way in which I have applied insights in this course in other classes or situations is learning how to match an audience. This semester, I’ve often done in-class presentations, and indeed, these will continue in a STEM career. I’m passionate about a healthcare career, so whether through Biology Zoom presentations or interactions with hospital patients, I will likely have a wide variety of audiences on a weekly basis. Moreover, I’m looking forward to taking part in Theatre productions at Emory, so in the most literal sense, I will likely have an audience there too. As mentioned earlier, capturing the right voice for podcasts and writing for my website took some time. Still, eventually, I understood the balance between casual and formal that led to the best reading or listening experience for the audience. I think the most important thing I got from this is learning how to identify signals that I’m leaning too much in one direction – when the podcast felt repetitive, I was probably too casual, and when my writing was too complex, I was likely overanalyzing material. Finally, the most important aspect of this class I hope to carry forward is making use of various media. Prior to this course, I was rather certain that meaning could only really be expressed by books and movies, but now I understand that really anything can successfully express meaning. Moreover, games and podcasts may even do a better job of expressing certain aspects than books or movies (Depression Quest, for example, provides an interactive look at a Mental Health disorder that books and movies might not). In the future, I will make sure to think hard about which medium does the best job of expressing the argument or sensation I’m hoping to create. 

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