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Enriching the curriculum through the use of 3D immersive adventure games
Many pupils have direct experience of playing computer games at home; Minecraft, for example, is one of the most successful games of all time. For this reason, there is tremendous potential for using immersive games to enrich the 21st century curriculum, captivate pupils' interest and raise standards. Creative teachers will find endless ways of developing schemes of work based around suitable computer games
Choice of games
Digital games are subject to an age rating to determine their appropriateness for children and young people (Pegi). This is an important factor in determining the choice of game to use within an educational setting.
Suitable games might include: The Myst series, Syberia, The Longest Journey, Tin Tin - Search for the Unicorn, Room /Room 2 and Amerzone.
It is suggested that the most suitable 3D immersive games should have the following features:
- authentic storylines such as adventure/mystery
- a variety of audio-visual content
- rich texts - letters, journals, codes and puzzles
- interesting settings, characters and creatures
- links with other areas of the curriculum, e.g. science, geography, history
As an example, the game Amerzone is a perfect choice. This is an older-style, point and click, photo-realistic adventure game. It features a rich mystery-based story-line, with a variety of textual sources such as letters, codes and journals. Players are encouraged to interact with the texts as they reveal clues to solving puzzles and provide a back-story to events and characters that enhance the overall narrative. The game is set within two historical time periods and a geographical location that is often taught at KS2, namely rainforests. There are also strong science links, enabling work around creature adaptation, predator-prey relationships and habitats.
Preparation and resourcing
Developing a scheme of work around a computer game requires significant preparation and resourcing. Fortunately, most modern digital games have a wealth of resources that can be easily accessed to support learning. Screenshots and movie sequences can be captured from the actual game using software such as Fraps. Often other game players have already done much of this work already and hosted this type of material on their own website. It is also fashionable for game players to provide written and/or machinima (video-based) walkthroughs which can be extremely useful. Most game developers create dedicated websites for their games containing extra material and backstory on plot and characters. All these materials can be stored digitally, made available on shared workspaces and even printed to make displays and role-play areas/exhibits.
How games can be used within the curriculum
Modern digital adventure games usually require many hours to fully complete and it is simply not realistic, nor desirable, to visit all the locations, meet every character or solve all the puzzles. Whilst there is obviously merit in allowing pupils to play the game individually, in pairs or small groups, there is also tremendous potential in playing as a whole class, projecting game play onto a large digital display. One pupil plays the game and peers suggest where to look, which objects to interact with and generally help to decide on particular courses of action at major decision points.
Stimulating interest through a role-play/exhibit area
In this type of project, a role-play/exhibit area can be successfully employed to support learning (even in KS2 classrooms). At the start of the project a role-play/exhibit area might contain just a few objects to stimulate interest. However, as the game is played and the scheme of work develops, more and more material can be revealed to the pupils. This provides a talking point for the learners and a focal point for interaction outside of the digital game environment. Objects might include printed screenshots taken from the game (blown up large using software like PosterRazor), photos of key characters, maps/globes, different types of printed texts, realia, QR Codes (linked to digital media) and audio devices containing pre-recorded sounds and/or narration related to the game.
Developing oracy and literacy
There are numerous opportunities for developing thinking, talking and writing around playing computer games within the full range of text types. When playing interactive photo-realistic games, it is immediately apparent how fruitful the medium is for developing descriptive writing, for example around settings and characters. The format also encourages learners to produce recounts of game play sessions. Finding solutions to puzzles and making progress through the game provides opportunities for instructional and explanation-based texts. Students can discuss/argue the relative strengths and weaknesses of any particular game or perhaps the appropriateness of its age-rating from a player's perspective. Pupils can also be challenged to create persuasive game trailers and write mini-reviews.
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