Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Making a Case for Interactive Fiction - Part II

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.

Critical Thinking
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! 


  1. I agree that there can be a compelling case made for interactive fiction in the teaching and learning environment. If nothing else, the resources required to develop and support IF are much lower than the current crop of high-end video games. As a result, there is likely to be more willingness to adopt IF as part of the curriculum. In fact, I'm working on an interactive fiction project now, based on historical Williamsburg, Virginia, that I hope will appeal to teachers and students as well as gamers.

    1. Witness the dumbing down of education by dumbed down teachers who were raised to bow in reverence before the flickering screen and all its pseudo-magical allure.

      It's the same dumbing down that believes a faux-musical form called rap/hiphop can be utilized as a teaching tool to reach underperforming SES students.

      Instead of raising the bar and forcing kids to meet that bar, we dumbed down that bar in the spirit of inclusiveness. We care more about developing self-esteems and sensitivity than we do stealthy self-reliant individuals that can conquer any difficulty in life. Rugged individualism has been supplanted by weak-kneed collectivism for the "One World" society. This is why America is sliding towards a third world status. This is why America lags behind many other industrialized nations.

      Politically correct fools blame tests and curricula. I am perhaps the only educator blaming the legions of ill-bred teachers graduating in the last twenty years who aren't fully literate or knowledgeable about anything that isn't spoonfed to them first in a classroom led by a left-leaning professor. You know the kind, the ones who blame American first for most of the world's ills and teach history according to Howard Zinn or Noam Chumpsky.

      I guess as long as you have your iFads, your pseudo-Smartphone, your silly video games, and your gazillion meaningless texts and tweets for twits, you believe this is what's going to "save" education, right?

  2. Thank you for being the only person in education who sees things "clearly". You really know a good deal about education and here's hoping your one man crusade leads us all squarely back to 1890 where we should be. We are especially thankful for your insight regarding our "One World" collectivist leanings. Without your diligence, we might just have missed how stupid and useless we are. May your ability to influence classrooms last in proportion to your obvious wisdom and expertise.
    - Sean

    PS - I must have missed the "stealth" requirement in the old-school teaching handbook. I will be sure to make sure that my students graduate with a proper degree of silent movement and camouflage.

    1. "Stealth" meaning strong, resolute, and self-reliant. That means not looking to the government to ensure your prosperity or happiness. That's uniquely American, at least in the America I grew up in.

      Perhaps you should have grown up in a post-WW2 European immigrant household where you learned how to survive on your own by your own wits, keeping your hand on your wallet and not handing anything out to anyone but your own flesh and blood.

    2. I've always thought the definition of stealth was actually the definition of stealth, and not some made up version.

      You do not know me sir, nor my age, nor my upbringing, nor my politics. I will delete this entire conversation after your next inevitable reply. You add nothing to the discourse, no matter which log-in you use.

      - Sean

  3. And for anyone looking for Hauck's insight on hiphop, please check out the comments on this Edutopia thread. We have so much to learn.

  4. Face it, rap and hip hop music sucks. It's the musical genre for thugs, criminals, misogynists, and thug wannabes.

    Liberals always hate it when the truth is presented to them on silver platter. You can't see it because your mind is muddled with trying to keep up with fashionable trends du jour in society and sadly, education. I think people like you are more in love with the idea of being a teacher than actually taking part in raising the next generation of Americans, not "globalists."

  5. Hey Mark, you assume a great deal. This blog has maintained a civil and scholarly approach for over a year. If you'd like to argue politics, please call a talk show. Consider this a victory for you, as you've once again trolled yourself out of what could otherwise be a great learning opportunity for you. Again, this entire comment thread will be deleted after your next reply, so make it good.

    I'd also appreciate your taking your ideas elsewhere, as they are not appreciated here. I'm sure you understand, as you have turned the comments off on your own blog. I'd like to not have to resort to that, and rather just ask you politely to buzz-off. As a traditionalist, I'm sure you can appreciate a kind request.

  6. There were interactive books called programmed instruction books that worked very much like gamebooks. People are using interactive literature in education such as Strawman ( and my on gamebook, the Lindenbaum Memory Palace (,d.bGE)