Teaching Writing Through Video Games, Part II

Today we present Part II of Sarah’s thinking on building student interest in your writing classroom by weaving in video games and video game writing. You can read her full post from Wednesday here

On Wednesday, I discussed a few small ways teachers can use to bring video games into their classrooms. Today, I want to explore some more substantial approaches to including video game-inspired writing in your classrooms with several ideas for mentor texts in specific units of study in which video games bring some interesting possibilities!

Critical Review and Top List Units

The sites I linked on Wednesday are also perfect for game reviews that teachers can use for critical review or argumentative units in the writer’s workshop. Some of the best writing craft comes from writers at these gaming outlets including hooks, descriptive language, hyperbole, humorous tone, alliteration, the list goes on! In our current game reviews unit, one student found the Horizon Zero Dawn Review by Lucy O’Brien on IGN, one of the games in the running for game of the year in 2017, and my students couldn’t stop gushing over how well-written it was! This paragraph caught their interest based on the descriptive language throughout:

On top of that, Horizon‘s ‘post-post apocalyptic’ landscape itself is beautiful and terrifying, so journeying through it in search of things to do between main quests – not that you ever have to go too far – is usually a reward of its own. Snowy vistas, autumnal forests, and vast deserts are stunningly realised, even capped at 30 frames per second as it is. (That’s true on PlayStation 4 Pro as well, where it runs in a stunning 4K mode.) Frozen mountain peaks or the calcified remains of a skyscraper make for eerie, quiet jaunts, made more unnerving by the Lost World-esque horror that sits in Horizon‘s underbelly. One of the most thrilling moments in my playthrough was when I got lost early on, skirted too close to the water’s edge, and accidentally walked across the giant tail of a half-submerged Snapmaw before sprinting to safety with sweaty palms. Being killed in Horizon isn’t Dark Souls-style punishing, but as you save via spread out ‘campfires’, the threat of death also equals the threat of losing some progress. It’s enough to make these moments of terrifying discovery into Horizon’s ‘water cooler moments’ – the ones you look back on and shiver.

IGN is a student favorite, but you can also utilize YouTube reviewers like GT Reviews, ACG, and others. Top ten lists are also an excellent genre to build argumentative skills and the gaming world has plenty of videos and written pieces zooming in on different topics within gaming; not to mention that most people get hooked on these lists! WatchMojo on YouTube is a great source for gaming top ten lists and other gaming outlets have them as well. Here are some favorites from our Game Review Unit and Top Five List Unit this year:

Creative Writing Units

Video games can be excellent for creative writing as well. My students write 100% poems and vignettes about games, characters, and topics centered around gaming; many gamers are big into fanfiction writing as well. I have had many students publish their stories set in video game worlds about a character they developed on different fanfiction sites like Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own simply because they wanted to.

YouTube is also full of “let’s plays” mentor texts where a gamer plays through a game and records commentary or dialogue. Some are fully immersive with voice acting on the gamer’s part and editing to make it seem like a movie. One great example I have found is Rycon Roleplays on YouTube who has done an incredible “let’s play” of cinematic quality entitled Let’s Roleplay The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim “Leon’s Tale” in which he plays Skyrim with voice acting, storytelling, and creative editing. Creating one of these “let’s plays” could be a project for a gaming student as well.

Video games often get a bad reputation, but in reality they can be some of the greatest pieces of art our world has to offer. You don’t have to have a class dedicated to video games or even a love of video games to get these possibilities in your classroom; you don’t even have to make a unit dedicated to them! Little changes to notebook time, discussion prompts and articles, and choice of mentor texts from gaming outlets can incorporate video games into your classroom on a small or large scale! From amazing landscapes to brilliantly designed characters to the interwoven gameplay and storyline, video games are a door to some amazing writing. How about letting them in?

What are your thoughts on including video game inspired writing in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts comments below!

Sarah Jones teaches Writing Through Video Games I and II and Spanish I and II at Cuyahoga Falls High School in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. She earned her B.S. in Education at Miami University in Oxford, OH and later earned her M. A. in Teaching through the Ohio Writing Project at Miami University. She is an avid writer, reader, and gamer and is working to incorporate the workshop approach in both her Writing Through Video Games classes and her Spanish classes. You can connect with her via email at jonessj2@miamioh.edu or Twitter @jonessjteacher.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. As a student who is currently in Sarah Jones’ Writing Through Video Games class, I can confirm that these projects and new, innovative forms of writing have been very beneficial to me. I have been through both College Composition I and II, and I can say that I have learned more in this class than I learned in either of those. I would strongly urge teachers to consider using some of these ideas in their own classrooms

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