Up until the late 1920s, we have had many alternatives for visionary storytelling: books, novels, drama, and cinema. Voyaging through bizarre worlds presented by the auteur was exhilarating but none allow the bystander to spawn their own footmarks into the plot. It wasn’t until much later that those two separate ingredients – storytelling and interactivity – collided and intertwined. Computerized games entered the mix and changed the face of digital storytelling. With adventure and role-playing games changed the way narratives are told – like many books and novels once did – should this be implemented into the English and history curriculum?
A report published by Sara Prot, a Researcher from Lowa State University shows that a high amount of screen time can link to poor school performance with; gamers aged 10 to 19 years, devoting 30% less time reading and 34% less time doing homework in comparison with non-gamers. Contrary to fears that video game usage can only affect learning negatively, the report claims that video games can also have several other “beneficial domains.”
It argues that “video games are highly effective teachers” and that there are “a wide range of educational games being developed taking advantage of these features of video games and using them to teach specific knowledge and skills.” By providing students with the chance to remodel video game knowledge into school literacy, particularly in English and history, allows users to develop their own understanding of a story.
Computer games have previously been implemented into schools to teach algebra, geometry, biology, photography and computer programming. The Pennsylvania Department of Migrant Education used a video game format to successfully teach foreign children maths, reading, English fluency, and critical thinking according to a study published by Lowa State University.
Videogames today, therefore offer new complex forms of interactive narrative and represent some of the most important storytelling in the twenty-firstcentury, according to video game enthusiast and life-long English teacher Jonathen Otenson. In his English journal “Exploring the Boundaries of Narrative: Video Games in the English Classroom,” he says that “Despite the dominant position the traditional written narrative has assumed in the modern English classroom, we must acknowledge that this is not the only (or even, always, the best) medium for telling stories.”
“In video game narratives, however, effort is required of the reader—the choices a reader-player makes in a video game directly impacts the outcomes of the narrative.” He insisted that the English Curriculum needs “to push the barrier and explore the frontier,” in a medium that is still growing and evolving.
Unlike traditional storytelling, in films, novels and drama, it is true video games allow playgoers to engage in the language of their generation; digital age. According to narratologists, interactive games do invite the audience to identify with characters and experience emotional catharsis. Literature educators alike also consider video games a form of literature since players experience new domains and are actively learning from the narrative.
Immaculee Harushimana, Assistant Professor at Lehman College said in his journal of “Literacy and Technology” that Derek Hidey, the editor of Bittersweet Art and Literary Magazine, reinforced the recent trend that video games emulate classical literature.
Derek said in Harushimana’s article “You can apply all those classical themes we have come to love in the English department: gender roles, class struggle, treatment of children, guest-host relationship, etc., to any videogame story.” Particularly when action-adventure games and history games alike all share the same literary features of some popular classics like Beowulf, the Odyssey and other Greek Mythologies. Much like novels, when gamers play a video game, they make new texts by the words and images that appear on screen. They both test our dexterity and intellect by immersing us into fictitious universes composed of fiction and non-fiction stories.
Contrary to narratoligists, ludologists believe video games differ cognitively from reading a novel or viewing a film. Instead they believe games are only used as a puzzle medium rather than a tool for narrative development. Considering that other subject areas use videogames as a tool for learning, shouldn’t English and other subjects built around literature use videogames to tell stories?
How this happens in each case will depend on the nature and focus of the emphasis within the classroom on different areas of the English and history curriculum.
Harushimana, I, (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High School Freshman Males. Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008. Available at: http://www.literacyandtechnology.org/volume10/harushimana.pdf
Otenson, J (2013) Exploring the Boundaries of Narrative: Video Games in the English Classroom. Available at: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/EJ/1026-jul2013/EJ1026Exploring.pd
Buckley, K. E., & Anderson, C. A. (2006). A Theoretical Model Of The Effects and Consequences Of Playing Video Game. Chapter in P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds), Playing Video Games – Motives, Responses, and Consequences (pp. 363-378). Mahwah, NJ: NEA. Available at: http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/06BA.pdf
Prot, S (2012) Video Games: Good, Bad, or Other? Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, W112 Lagomarcino Hall, Ames, USA. Available at: http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2010-2014/12PMAG.pdf.
Brown. H. J (2008).Video Games and Education. Printed USA.