After a decade long push for “proficiency” in education, the transition to college and career ready standards is quickly working through school districts across the country. In my district, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication has become the central focus in every classroom; it is these skills that students need most to compete in the academic and business worlds they will encounter when they graduate from high school. And in my opinion, there is no better time to turn our attention to interactive fiction.
The majority of today’s top selling video games have some sort of multi-player component. And in many cases, the multi-player component is the primary reason players buy the game. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, for example, made a billion dollars after only 16 days when it was released in late 2011.
So what’s the draw? Communication and collaboration!
Games like Modern Warefare 3 or World of Warcraft provide players with opportunities to communicate and collaborate in an environment that is unlike the one they live in every day. Players can communicate and collaborate with other players from around the world to carry out objectives and reach goals. The players are forced to use clear communication skills in order to sustain team objectives and initiatives. (In my world this sounds like a professional learning community!)
In the end, it is these types of communication and collaboration skills that colleges and businesses are expecting our students to know...and video games are teaching them!
While one argument against interactive fiction is that it limits the creative capacity of the players because the world is already created for him/her, games like Minecraft give players an unlimited amount of resources to create a brand new world.
Minecraft allows players to create items and objects to use in the game world with only the resources that they can harvest in the game. As many RPG games allow players to craft items, Minecraft provides players with an opportunity to truly stretch the limits or their creativity to populate a new world.
Similar arguments can be made for the multi-player components of games like Halo: Reach. In many of these types of games, players can create maps for use in multi-player games. With trial and error, players create maps that are both challenging and enjoyable and stretch the limits of their creativity.
There are many times that I sit down to play a game to simply allow myself to be immersed in a new world. However, there are other times when I sit down to play a game and want to think critically. With games like Portal 2, Myst, or World of Goo, I get the opportunity to think deeply about how to solve difficult puzzles and problems.
These games give players a chance to solve difficult puzzles and problems within the confines of the game world. While there may be more than one way to solve the problem, players use trial and error to find a solution that works to advance to the next level. This type of critical thinking, along with immersive interaction, is what keeps players engrossed in these types of games.
With all this said, it's time that we meet our students where they are. We know they go home at night and play video games. Let's begin to use their knowledge of interactive fiction to teach collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. It's time to start making the case for interactive fiction!