English Ph.D. Dissertations


Tools of Play: Developing a Pedagogical Framework for Gaming Literacy in the Multimodal Composition Classroom

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Gi Yun (Other)


Since the publication of James Paul Gee’s (2003) seminal text What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy, scholars in the field of rhetoric and writing have been looking at the ways video games have made an impact on modern literacies. Paralleling this research, rhetoric and writing teacher-scholars have also been exploring the benefits to teaching multimodal composition skills to their students. My dissertation examines the intersections of these two related fields of study in order to help construct a pedagogical framework that utilizes gaming literacies in the multimodal composition classroom.

Using the gaming literacy narratives of three student gamers at a rural Midwestern university, I address the following research questions: How do students acquire gaming literacy? What kinds of multimodal skills are acquired through gaming literacy? What does one’s gaming literacy narrative reveal about his or her literate practices? The answers to these questions help to inform my approach to the more pedagogically-driven research question: How can gaming literacy be effectively used in the multimodal composition classroom?

My findings are influenced by technofeminist research methodologies so that I explore not only the role that video games have played upon my research participants but also the social adaptations that the participants have exerted over their gaming experiences. Similarly, I help breakdown the rigid line between researcher and research participant by inviting my participants into a discussion of my findings, allowing them to maintain agency over their representations. My research reveals many connections between gaming literacies and the skills required to create and consume meaningful multimodal compositions. In my analysis of these findings, I establish the importance of these connections—specifically the social and technological skills obtained through gaming—and develop a pedagogical framework that utilizes the literate skills of gamers in order to institute practical course goals and objectives for the multimodal composition classroom.