Teaching with Games

Teaching with Games

I love teaching with games, but it’s not just about fun: games can offer a unique opportunity for hands-on learning in the classroom. Not only can the practice-based nature of games inspire students to look beyond the first try (and the first draft!), but the low stakes and fun of play can turn the classroom into an environment that welcomes experimentation and creativity.

I find games particularly useful when trying to encourage students to look at the familiar in a new way. For instance, I have frequently used Sam Barlow’s Her Story as a stepping stone into secondary research in introductory composition. Because Her Story’s central mechanic is a defective database with limited search options, careful and targeted keyword searches are the primary method of advancing the game’s story.

Her Story-Search Function

We all use search engines all the time. They’ve become so ubiquitous that we hardly even think about it before we start typing words into the box. But searching in Her Story – like searching in a library database – needs to be a little more intentional and considered if we want useful results. Playing Her Story as an introduction to research (and asking students to write about the interface and its functions) helps us all break away from the familiar and reconsider the tools we use a little more closely.

My colleague Bianca Batti and I reviewed Her Story for Kairos (that journal’s first game review!) and we wrote a little about pedagogy there. My work with the game (and with a text adventure called 9:05) was also included in Derek Bruff’s Intentional Tech.  I also wrote about teaching 9:05 (and A Normal Lost Phone) in the forthcoming Learning, Education, and Games 3: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom and Beyond, out soon from ETC Press.