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Masterpiece Video Games?

posted: 3.7.11 by archived

In my last post, I wrote about the Masterpiece Comics of R. Sikoryak, suggesting that they might inspire some multimodal assignment ideas or just some discussion of the interpretive and imaginative work the author does to translate these canonical novels into new terms. My suggestion was that students wouldn’t necessarily have to draw a comic, but they could be asked to discuss or write about ways to make a novel, poem, or other literary work fit into a new genre; they could even use the comics medium and its themes, characters, and narrative techniques to distill current events. What would the gulf oil spill or the recent Egyptian protests look like when framed as a comic? Who would play the roles of heroes and villains, and what would their super-powers be?

Well, this post will stick to that theme, and perhaps give you some ways to expand on the comics assignments or discussions, asking students to translate across genres and mediums.

As you might have guessed from my title, great works of literature are also available in video game form: the Great Gatsby, Dante’s Inferno, Alice in Wonderland, and even Waiting For Godot have their own video game versions. As you’ll see from the links, many of these are available for free online.

James Paul Gee has written extensively about the possible learning benefits of video games, examining their impact on identity, interaction, production, risk-taking, agency, system-thinking, and situated meanings, among other things. He would argue that playing a canonical work of literature as a video game would harness unique learning principles and potentials that are not usually available in school. I think it’s worth a try in the literature classroom.

But I also think about the potential this has for creative assignments in the writing classroom. It’s quite possible that the model of narrative that students are most familiar with is formed by video games, not novels or “essays” (however we define them). And so when we teach personal writing, we might ask students what their experiences would look like as a video game—or what ways their lives look like aspects of the games they play. Further, the methods of critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration that many students are most comfortable with may be shaped at least in part by video games, and so we should allow for some exploration of these concepts through gaming. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, and many other writing teachers have made similar arguments much better than I could. In that spirit, I am interested in other teachers’ thoughts and experiences on this topic.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage, Literature
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