Videogames New Narrative Interaction: What It Means for the Classroom

During my presentation on Sunday for the American Composition and Literature Association, based on my ongoing research into videogame narratives and literacy, I offered three points of action on how we, as educators can apply this narrative.

1) Use Traditional Strengths: English departments have screenplay and scriptwriting course or currently partner with Drama/Theater departments. They should create partnerships with Computer Graphics or Game Design departments

English departments can house videogame story / game narrative courses alongside of film/theater ones. Looking back at Bronsky’s game writing elements, they are traditional storytelling elements. If you or your department is not sure where to start – start there. Use it to start a discussion and incorporate what you already do well. Or partner with existing gaming courses and departments to team teach or assist with units on videogame writing. A faculty member in the English department at the University of Dubuque partnered with our Computer Graphics program. Last semester, the students had to create a proposal and design document for an original game. This semester, the English faculty member worked with some students to continue to develop the story and narrative of their videogame project. If this type of partnership is not possible, create an elective course or J-term / summer class and see what the registration is like. You have the skills, experience, and passion – continue to instill a passion for storytelling in others no matter what the format or medium.

2) Seek Transmedia Connections: Many of you already do this to a lesser extent – grabbing a film or play – as a visual representation of the text. Stretch beyond that. Allow for the additional media (TV, theater, games, film) to add and expand the students experience and understanding. Ask questions about connections and draw on their value of information across media. As someone in the audience (Mark) said during the presentation, our survey courses already do this to an extent by showing how and using all the previous analysis to help understand each new piece. Yes, draw out those connections between narratives, even if loose associations. The more our students can see the connection and how their knowledge of one adds value to others, the more engaged they will be.

Another panelist from the conference, Edward Aiken from Syracuse, described an art and religion course he once taught. He talked about looking at artistic depictions of Mary the mother of Jesus throughout history and then showing the film Terminator 2 and raising the question of narrative similarities. The topic struck a cord with students to the degree that a former student stopped him on the street years later to tell him about it. Transmedia creates meaningful lasting connections.

3) Deliberate Awareness: Be aware and deliberate in the engagement of students and narrative across mediums. The pieces described in the presentation and the forthcoming paper discusses how both our current and future students interact and what they expect out of narratives and stories. If we are aware and planning to incorporate these changes in narrative interaction we can and will continue to engage our students in meaningful analysis and creation… inspiring passion along the way.

Terminator image via solarnavigator