Thursday, March 15, 2007

Short Post on Video Games

Last semester a guest speaker in the Urban Education course I co-taught with Jabari Mahiri asserted that she had heard video games are now outselling films. Intrigued, I asked where she had heard this info. She read it somewhere, but couldn't dig up the cite. I was disappointed.

As English teachers we have been teaching film as text for a long time. NCTE's books Reading the Reel World along with many other articles and presentations at NCTE conferences confirm film's place in the curriculum. And even as there are some who still feel that watching movies and television has no place in school, most have found a way to articulate instructionally valid and valuable uses for film. How many ninth grade English teachers have taught Homer's Odyssey alongside Lucas's Star Wars?

With film we explore content themes, literary and contextual elements and syntactical elementscuts, frames, fades, composition, etc. These are fixed elements constructed collaboratively (sometimes contentiously) by the film crew under the direction of producers and directors and occassionally creative consultants. There may be different versions of a film or teachers may select segments to show rather than a full feature. This undoubtedly makes things a bit more dynamic.

But video games by their nature are dynamic, unfolding narratives where each effect experienced is based on a conscious cause by the game player. The narrative is less fixed even as its origins may be rooted in a specific and perhaps well-known literary source. What new ways will educators use the games that are related to classic and diverse mythologies, film and other literary genres? On what will we focus and how? Will the act of conscious construction of a narrative take precedence over understanding fixed content upon which the game was based? Should it?

I look forward to teachers incorporating video games into instruction in the same way we pair films and novels or short stories.


Brock said...

I have been using games in my Language Arts classroom for several years. I am currently bogging about it.

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