The latest issue of Syllabus, an open access journal that explores the syllabus as a piece of scholarship that should be annotated and shared with the educational community, is entirely dedicated to Teaching with and about Games. As an advocate of games in the classroom, I was very excited when I first saw the call for this issue from editors Jennifer deWinter and Carly A. Kocurek, and I’ve just finished reading through it. There are a number of ideas from the collection (which is practically a book in itself) with possibilities for a variety of disciplines. Here are a few of the takeaways that might inspire you with a new way to bring games into the classroom:
- Games offer space to explore historical action. Stephen Ortega suggests bringing games into the history classroom as a way to look not only at the representation of history but also at the impact of action: as Ortega explains, “games give the player the opportunity to explore historical possibilities and to consider the issue of historical contingency.” It’s easy to dismiss games as flawed, oversimplified representations of history, and of course most games give players agency that makes it impossible to present history as a fixed narrative. In Ortega’s syllabus, however, that very lack of nuanced representation becomes a strength of using games to inspire discussion and research.
- Writing about games can be an exercise in communication. Stephanie Vie explores the possibilities of video game walkthroughs, an overlooked genre that gamers consult for solutions to difficult puzzles or boss fights. Such walkthroughs demand the writer to be attentive to the needs of their audience and focus on clarity of communicating, as Vie notes: “It can excite students about the fundamentals of professional and technical communication while also introducing students to the rhetorical notion of revision for a particular audience.” This type of project is particularly great as students can see the results of their communication when someone tries to follow their walkthrough in play.
- Making games can bring students into storytelling. Dean O’Donnell and Jennifer deWinter share an assignment for building alternate reality games, a form of storytelling driven game that unfolds in the real world as I’ve discussed previously. O’Donnell and deWinter discuss making ARGs with students in creative writing and game development courses. I particularly like their achievement-based rubric, which includes social media oriented tasks like using Twitter or Tumblr along with technical challenges like creating an iPhone or Android app to act as part of the game. As O’Donnell and deWinter describe, “ARGs are an excellent way to teach students how to make a story-based game without the substantial time and resource investment required to create simulated environments populated by computerized people and objects.”
These are just a few of the ideas shared in the Teaching with and about Games issue, and as bringing games into the classroom is becoming even more popular there are lots more materials out there for inspiration.