Want to access the power of games for learning without committing lesson time to play? Mechanics and strategy are valuable learning tools but games can also provide a jumping-off point for other learning activities. Many modern games are context- and story-rich media texts in their own right. Your students can tap into game-worlds for motivation, inspiration and creative stimulation in all learning areas.
Write what you know
Offering students a range of subject material for writing activities encourages them to use their own passions and interests, but sometimes choice isn’t enough to ignite a creative spark. For reluctant writers who may lack the confidence to put a given idea into words, writing based on a game can be a useful scaffold. Game-worlds are fully-formed; the student can draw on their knowledge of setting, character and story to allay any fear of the blank page. The personalised experience of playing means they are the experts. One notable success for me was a student discovering he could write about his particular favourite, Fallout 4. It was like turning on a rusty tap: although the initial product was a bit cloudy, we suddenly had plenty of raw material to work with.
What about the curriculum?
Using a game as inspiration doesn’t have to compromise the intended learning outcomes of a writing activity. If students are focused on developing structural features such as paragraphs and syntax, then content is essentially irrelevant. Even work on characterisation or narrative can begin from a game. After all, who doesn’t love a sequel? This post at Edutopia looks at Minecraft as a place to start, delving into the world of fan fiction.
Jump-offs aren’t restricted to English. Use your science class to explore the threat of nuclear war from Fallout 4, or find out what a human really needs to survive as a comparison to Minecraft. Verify the outcome of a campaign in Civilization with a research project in history. Games are just another kind of prior knowledge students can access to build connections between learning and life. Because the best games are so immersive and engaging there are always multiple angles of attack when using them as source material.
But I don’t game…
Ask your students to show you the games they play. And get over the stereotype of the gamer as a teenage male – gaming crosses age and gender. A quick internet search can give you a good idea of any difficult content in most popular games. In NZ the FVLB office handles classification decisions; games are treated in much the same way as film and television when it comes to censorship.
Success stories? Creative ideas for games as classroom inspiration? Share them in the comments!