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Game-based Learning and Creative Writing

If you’re an avid gamer, reader, binge-watcher, or a combination of all three, you’ll know that more and more, people from all walks of life are recognizing and appreciating video games for their unique storytelling merits. One giant example is the record success of The Last of Us season 1, a TV show adapted from a video game. Another example is the Life is Strange comic series, a collection of graphic novels based off of a game of the same name.

Just like with any good novel or film, games are a form of art that inspires more art – and just like books and movies, they have a legitimate use in the classroom. Through the integration of game-based learning principles into creative writing instruction, educators can provide students with new, immersive avenues for literary exploration.

via Giphy

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In the classroom: A powerful creative tool and ally

In an article for Edutopia investigating the role of games on narrative writing, author Suzie Boss found that gaming is an unexpected ally to many English and writing teachers. For example, Philip Bird and Evan Manconi, educators at Monsignor J.J. O’Brien School in Calgary, Alberta, introduced their ninth grade students to Cataclysm, a fantastical world where students embarked on a collaborative role-playing adventure akin to Dungeons and Dragons. The result? A staggering 729,500 words penned by students – a testament to the power of gaming to ignite creativity!

Across different educational landscapes, Boss writes, teachers are utilizing narrative gaming to reinvigorate writing instruction. Through game-based platforms like StoriumEdu, students craft characters and plots, practicing their storytelling and narrative writing skills.

For Bird and Manconi, StoriumEdu became the cornerstone of a creative writing unit, infusing lessons with elements of play and collaboration. Students, guided by digital playing cards and a three-act structure, explored the nuances of character development and conflict resolution.

Boss also talked with Sara Tavernise, a middle school teacher at the Mulberry School in Los Gatos, California. Collaborating with student support specialist Andrea Katz, Tavernise introduced a game-based approach to dystopian literature, complementing language arts studies with StoriumEdu writing sessions. She found that her students eagerly embraced the opportunity to craft their own narratives, especially in a game-based environment, and deepened their understanding of character voice and narrative tension in the process.

All of these educators have a shared goal: to cultivate confident, proficient writers equipped with the tools to articulate their stories with clarity and conviction. With game-based virtual quests and fictional worlds, students can become more motivated and skilled storytellers!

Down the (rhetorical) rabbit hole

At the collegiate level, games also have opportunities to deepen students’ creative writing skills and literary understanding. One example is University of Georgia professor Dr. Joshua King, who leverages video games as a tool to transform his writing classroom through defamiliarization, which is meant to “‘defamiliarize’ students’ understandings of rhetorical choices and the ‘experiences’ that texts offer.” His approach introduces students to the intersection of gaming and rhetoric, prompting them to question conventional perceptions of writing and text interpretation. During “Studio Mondays,” Dr. King orchestrates a learning environment where students engage in guided workshops, play tests, and independent work sessions, all inspired by video games.

By integrating video games into writing instruction, Dr. King encourages his students to explore the parallels between game mechanics and rhetorical strategies. Through gameplay and textual analysis, students develop a deeper understanding of how language functions within different contexts. Dr. King’s emphasis on defamiliarization challenges students to deconstruct familiar concepts and recognize the inherent complexities of writing and rhetoric.

Through this approach, students gain insights into the multifaceted nature of language and its pervasive influence on society – students learn to critically examine how language shapes everyone’s perceptions and interactions. Dr. King’s method not only enriches the writing classroom, but also empowers students to navigate the complexities of language with confidence and insight. 

Outside the classroom: Creative catalysts and 21-century skill-builders

All types of games, from table-top to digital, from educational to commercial, can be conduits of creativity. Through immersive experiences and interactive narratives, players can find refuge from their daily stressors and let their imaginations thrive.

This article from VGR details all of the overarching ways that gaming can help boost the skills necessary for creative writing. For instance, gaming can foster connections that extend beyond virtual boundaries and in turn, valuable communication skills. As players engage in collaborative experiences, they hone their ability to articulate ideas, essential for effective writing. Additionally, notes author Stacey Powers, gaming instills crucial time management skills, teaching players to balance strategic planning with leisure pursuits, a vital aspect of the creative process. 

Single player games can also grow player’s creative writing skills. Through exposure to diverse storylines and alternative perspectives, players discover new wellsprings of empathy and inspiration, which is essential for forming fictional characters that feel believable. 

We believe in the power of storytelling to inspire, educate, and empower. Many of our client’s educational games are designed to spark curiosity, foster creativity, and cultivate essential literacy skills. From interactive platforms to narrative-driven gameplay experiences, we want to help you provide students with the tools and inspiration to become master storytellers in their own right. Send us a message and let’s chat about your game-based learning project!

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