What can story-driven games teach students about literature?
- Allowing students to read story-driven digital games as texts can introduce them to a variety of literary concepts, as graphic novels and other mediums before them have also done, Matthew Farber University of Northern Colorado assistant professor of technology, innovation and pedagogy, writes in Edutopia.
- In one example, Farber notes that Connecticut teacher John Fallon has used this approach in a high school English class with the digital police game "Her Story" to teach students about the concept of the unreliable narrator, which is also found in works like Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club," Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," and TV shows like "Mr. Robot" and "Westworld."
- In another example, Toronto teacher Paul Darvasi used the digital game "What Remains of Edith Finch" in a "hot seat" model, where students took turns controlling the action in teams or as a whole class, to teach skills like communicating, discussing and reflecting upon decisions, in addition to setting up a critical thinking debate over an Ian Bogost article published in The Atlantic, titled "Video Games Are Better Without Stories."
Presenting concepts to students through the lens of mediums they're already familiar with and interested in isn't new, but it can help expand learning beyond the classroom. In addition to demonstrating various storytelling devices to students by recognizing them in story-driven games, this approach can also help them better recognize where they're using critical thinking and problem-solving skills in games such as "The Legend of Zelda" or the "Batman: Arkham" series.
By no means is anyone suggesting that this should overshadow focus on classic pieces of literature, but it can help students make the connections that result in better understanding. And better acquainting them with concepts like the "unreliable narrator," as Farber notes, can also improve their media literacy at a time when those skills are crucially needed.
Ultimately, the approaches described serve as a way to liven up lessons as opposed to completely changing them, but finding the right fit for other classrooms will require some experimentation — with ample support from administrators to do so.
- Edutopia Reading Digital Games as Texts
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