What do Shakespeare and Hemingway have in common with World of Warcraft? "Many of today's video games parallel the greatest literature in history, with an added immersive experience," says New York Institute of Technology English professor John Misak. While teachers traditionally encourage students to read more to become better writers, Misak suggests relying on video games to help improve students' narrative composition skills.
Misak describes his work in "Video Games as Narrative: Pedagogical Strategies for Using Games as Literature in the Composition Classroom," published in the SCIREA Journal of Education.
"In playing, students make decisions, investing hard time in crafting the narrative that plays out on their screens. In doing so, they understand narrative not only from the reader's perspective, but also from the creator's standpoint," Misak says.
Not unlike reading "Hamlet" or "The Old Man and the Sea," playing a video game like The Last of Us or Grand Theft Auto offers students the ability to analyze and evaluate morality, actions and consequences, and relationships. According to Misak, video game exercises can allow students to develop an understanding of narrative skills that transfers across the curriculum, and even students who have no experience with games find interest in this alternate universe.
Having students play video games or even watch YouTube videos of games during classroom instruction and homework assignments can also be a valuable tool in providing visual learners with a critical eye toward other works of narrative, including literature and film. "Students learn differently, and for visual learners it's often a matter of 'don't tell me, show me'," says Misak. "Video games allow new writers to gain a sense of place and to understand the difference between simply seeing their surroundings and experiencing them. In turn, their writing composition also becomes immersive, allowing the reader not only to read the details of a story's setting, but to feel them as if they are actually there."
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