art historian, environmentalist, educator

Games and Digital Storytelling

Boom and the other authors discuss the idea of “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach About the Past,” in Communicating about the Past in the Digital Age.  The authors argue that historically video games are naturally not taken seriously, but (inadvertantly) still are responsible for shaping views about society, history, and archaeology.  Boom and the others than make the case for gaming as a platform of experiential learning that could be leveraged to create reality-like experiences that would teach history and meaningful and memorable ways.  I had several reactions to this idea.  As a parent, I understand the programmable, addictive appeal of video games and the subtle influences that they produce on those that play them.  However, while the authors want to leverage these qualities for learning good things, I can’t help but still question this idea.  While creating soley educational games could certainly create fun learning experiences, I still feel unsure how this would play out completely, in light of Joanna Drucker’s essay on “The Museum Opens” that imagines a completely digital immersive experience where guests can handle priceless objects.  She starts out by envisioning this virtual reality but in the end questions the validity of an experience that turns history into play.  It feels like these two articles are diametrically opposed.  What Drucker’s essay caused me to think about is whether playing a game is truly an experience?

Zimmerman and Balogh no doubt believe that at least virtual learning is a true experience and questioned why people have to “be in the same room” to learn in their Backstory podcast.  My reaction to this was mostly non-academic, and just a response in thinking what a sad statement it was in such a sad time.  While it is possible to learn things online, it is a qualitatively different experience that learning in a classroom under the tutelage of a professor and with the spaces for potential engagement with your peers.  Sadly, these two seemed dismissive of the traditional classroom that was apparently frought with “old white guys.”  I found their quick dismissal and tone offputting.

Our technical activity to bring all of these things together was Twine, which was a very fun application to work with and by far the easiest technical thing we’ve gotten to work with so far.  For once it didn’t make my brain hurt with tedium (like working through big messy data…ugh).  Twine is a storytelling device that allows you to essentially “choose your own adventure” where choices lead to different choices and different story parts.  It was fun playing around with this and especially the ability to flowchart it all.  The thing I appreciated most was working with our group and finding it also to be a useful platform to create an exhibit of images and text in a storytelling format.  For the first time, I started to think our final project was actually tangible.

References:

Krijn H.J. Boom et al, “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach about the Past,” in Communicating the Past in the Digital Age edited by Sebastian Hageneur (Ubiquity Press, 2020).

Johanna Drucker, “The Museum Opens,” International Journal for Digital Art History 4 (2019).

Zooming Ahead: How Virtual Learning is Shaping the College Classroom,” BackStory, 2020

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