Hello, Filamentarians! If you’ve been reading our blog for even a short amount of time, you already know that game-based learning and STEM go together like peanut butter and jelly. Bacon and eggs. Pikachu and ketchup.
The power of game-based learning is not limited to STEM, though! In fact, several recent studies (for example, here and here) have found that many types of video games have many positive literacy-related outcomes for players, including increased reading speed, memory, and comprehension. Just imagine the potential of games targeted toward English Language Arts (ELA)!
There are unique challenges when using games to teach ELA, given that English class learning outcomes tend to be more subjective than their STEM counterparts. However, one could argue that the open-ended nature of narrative games is a strength rather than a weakness. These sorts of games can provide students with entry points into subjects they’re interested in, the ability to feel inspired by and represented in a story, and also to encounter lived experiences and perspectives outside of their own. Here is a round-up of quality games that can provide learners with all of the above!
To kick off this roundup of games, we have a title that, according to The Guardian, “Succeeds in recreating the childhood joy of reading a book and being utterly transported into its pages.” Players step into the shoes of Edith Finch, the last remaining member of the large Finch family. Seeking to piece together Edith’s family history, players explore the colossal Finch family house and figure out what happened to each of Edith’s relatives, finding the clues, memories, and writings they’re left behind. This game not only takes students through a narrative, but also immerses them in concepts related to family history, autobiography, and more. Our friends at iThrive Games developed a curriculum to go along with this game called “Museum of Me,” which incorporates social-emotional learning alongside storytelling skills. Learn more about the curriculum below, and hear from students who have played What Remains of Edith Finch in a classroom setting:
You can purchase What Remains of Edith Finch on Steam, Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and several more platforms.
Similar to Edith Finch, The National Film Board of Canada and artist Randall Okita’s The Book of Distance deals with themes of family history and generational trauma. In VR, players follow the story of Yonezo Okita, a Japanese man who immigrated to Canada in 1935, through the eyes of his grandson, Randall Okita. Randall leads players through his grandfather’s life in Canada – through the challenges and violence of state-sanctioned racism and through the Okita family archives – to piece together a story of immigration, family, and recovering what is lost. In The Book of Distance, Okita combines theater, documentary, and interactive modes of narrative. This interactive journey is also a great game to teach high school and college students history, as it focuses on storytelling as a means to remember and to fill in gaps in personal, political, and familial history, creating a fuller picture of the past.
You can download and play the game for free on Steam.
Synonymy is a simple game that requires a player to search through a list of words, synonym by synonym, to find a target word. This game goes to show that a game doesn’t have to be super complex to be both educational and fun! Sure, a game about surfing through synonyms may not be everyone’s thing, but I can say from some ✨insider experience✨ that the booklover, word nerd, puzzle enthusiast, and/or poet in your life will find the premise of this game exciting. Yep, you read that right. Exciting. Speaking of exciting, the way this game was created is interesting as well. Check out the video below for Synonymy creator, Christopher Cinq-Mars Jarvis’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2015 session on how he created the game using astronomy software!
Synonymy is available for purchase on Steam, the App Store, and Google Play Store.
Similar to a game from our last ELA round-up, A Normal Lost Phone, Bury Me, My Love is a text-based narrative mobile game. On an interface inspired by WhatsApp, players follow the story of Syrian couple Nour and Majd. Nour journeys to Europe to seek refuge from bombings, while Majd stays back in Syria to take care of the couple’s other family members. This game is based on the real-life stories of Syrian citizens, several of whom worked on the game, amid the Syrian civil war. Players help guide Nour to safety, keeping in mind money, time, her relationship, and her morale. Through the game, students will not only learn reading skills but will be introduced to social-emotional learning and political concepts as well, such as the consequences of war and the difficult choices refugees and citizens have to make in its wake. Note that this content may not be suitable for young learners, and is aimed toward a high-school and college-aged audience. You can purchase Bury Me, My Love on the App Store, Google Play Store, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.
The Trial is a game adaptation of Franz Kafka’s book of the same name. Created by Nowak Games, the mechanics and aesthetics of the game are inspired by the text-adventure games of the 80s and 90s (A.K.A. the first narrative video games!). By putting the player in the role of protagonist Josef K., one can explore the bounds of literature like never before. Students will learn about “person versus the system,” one of many types of conflicts that can be found in fiction, all while interacting with a book as an active character rather than a passive reader. The game does not have a release date yet, but you can wishlist it on Steam now!
And that concludes this ELA game round-up! Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn what you think of this list, and if there are any other games you’d add to it. Happy gaming!
More arts and humanities games: