Interactive Fact: Educational Games that Engage Learners

by Hap Aziz

I’m currently enjoying my second read through Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction by Nick Monfort on a number of levels. Interactive Fiction was my first love in computer gaming and the first type of game I taught myself to design. And through all the advances in 3D animated virtual game environments, works of Interactive Fiction fascinate me in their ability to paint pictures just as well-written novels do. As much as I enjoy the visual feast of movies like The Lord of the Rings, the books are still superior in many ways when it comes to engaging the imagination.

The connection between Interactive Fiction and more widely accepted genres of literature is quite interesting, and Montfort’s treatment of the reader within Interactive Fiction as becoming a self-directed character able to participate in the story itself is quite thought provoking. The task of solving puzzles within works of Interactive Fiction in order to both advance and direct the storyline is one of the fundamental reasons the reader becomes invested in the Interactive Fiction storyline, perhaps with much greater intensity than is usually found in the more “standard” methods of storytelling. This injection of the reader as player into the story itself provides motivation for students continue to with a particular education commitment.

One aspect that Monfort’s text does not cover is the potential for using the Interactive Fiction format for the presentation of factual material in an educational context. My term, “Interactive Fact,” is an indication of the genre I feel would have great relevance within the teaching and learning environment. With the relatively small amount of development resources required to create Interactive Fiction (or, subsequently, Interactive Fact), this is an activity that college instructors may readily accept and participate in while being able to achieve meaningful results.

There are actually several strong reasons to consider the adoption of Interactive Fiction in the teaching and learning environment. For example, there is research that shows Interactive Fiction is an effective tool in significantly engaging “reluctant readers.” Part of the reason is that Interactive Fiction brings the reader into the narrative as an actual participant, giving that reader the ability to strongly identify him or herself as a character in the narrative. Here’s an interesting article published in XYZZY News titled “Player Character Identity in Interactive Fiction” by John Wood.

http://www.xyzzynews.com/xyzzy.9d.html

I was personally very interested in the section on Multiple Personalities. The complexities of dealing with one protagonist/main character is difficult enough. The analogue is the multiple POV fictional piece; especially of the type that describes a single event from the viewpoints of multiple characters that were all witness to the event. Part of what is intriguing to me is the ability to examine a situation from multiple angles as one would examine a physical object. Often our decisions are based on snap judgements with too little information. With Interactive Fiction, we can negate the element of too little time to a certain extent, and with “more time” to experience a situation, we naturally are able to gather more information.

There is a lot to explore on the topic of Interactive Fiction, and I hope to be discussing the topic in greater detail in future blog posts. In the meantime, here are several online resources related to Interactive Fiction and education:

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Filed under creativity, education, games, Interactive Fiction

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