In a previous post I recently published here on this blog, I adapted a fun activity/lesson from the book for you to try involving your favorite song. In this post, I have from the book another activity/lesson for you involving your favorite video game. Let's get started.
The post involving songs has its focus on examining text closely. This lesson involves looking at the structure of something. See, authors, editors, screen writers, movie directors, playwrights, engineers, builders, inventors, scientists, artists - video game publishers - etc., etc., all create with a structure in mind. It's this structure - essentially, the way and the order in which something is assembled, packaged, and presented - that gives the final product its meaning, purpose, function, and value.
For this activity, you'll need paper, a pen or pencil, a plot synopsis of your favorite video game, and a couple video clips from the game you selected. If you have more than one favorite game in mind, great! That just means more practice - and more fun! But let's focus on one game at a time. You can come back and repeat the steps for the next game.
Now, to find a plot synopsis of your game, simply enter into your favorite search engine something like [insert name of video game here] narrative, or [insert name of video game here] synopsis. For the video clips, try searching on YouTube. Ideally, we want one of the clips to be early in the game, and the other one sometime later on. You can try search terms in YouTube like [insert name of video game here] opening, or [insert name of video game here] cutscene.
Here's our overall goal, what we want to accomplish by engaging in this exercise - let's listen to the authors of the book here for a moment:
As we look at the most popular games out there, most have one thing in common - a compelling story that stretches across the game and gets us to invest in the character we are playing. In video games, the same structures are often used as in books - ways of organizing - like the plot mountain, or techniques like descriptions and dialogue. Let's see if we can find these structures in the games we play. (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55)Next, read the synopsis of the game that you found, followed by viewing the video clips that you located.
Reflect on, and write about, what you learned and discovered by reading the synopsis and viewing the video clips. Here are some questions to guide you in this process:
Is the video game telling a story? If so, how is it telling a story? What is the story about? Who are the main characters of the story?
What is the dialogue between the characters (if any) telling you?
Are there flashbacks in time? Are there written or verbal descriptions of anything? Are there any other unique elements/effects being utilized? If so, what purpose(s) are these parts serving? Do they offer insight to a larger story, or theme, or message?
Look at the order of things - why, do you think, the game's creators chose the order of events and effects that they did? Would there be things not making sense if the order was changed, even slightly?
After going through this exercise, you may be surprised at what you learn about your favorite video game(s)! As the authors of the book point out, "In fact, some students have been surprised during this brief study, saying, 'I didn't even realize this was telling a story the whole time!'" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 55).
We'll close with another observation by the authors, this one involving a class of sixth graders:
...we read through the first part of the synopsis of the popular game Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (Sony Computer Entertainment 2011). Together, we used our structure chart (see Figure 4.2 on p. 54) and determined that the first part of the synopsis is the 'exposition,' which includes a flashback to Drake as an orphan and ends with him meeting his mentor, Sully, who teaches him to become a thief. The class then briefly talked together about the purpose of that part. First, they noticed that the flashback helped us understand Drake and even care about him. One student said, 'Drake is lost and alone as a kid, so maybe we feel bad for him, like it's OK that he is stealing things. Or at least a little bit more OK.' (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, pp. 55-56)Lastly, with our participation in this fun learning activity, we're further enhancing a number of skills, and you may not even be aware of it. Just as with the activity involving your favorite song, we're working on our listening, writing/communication, reading, and critical thinking/reflection skills. We're building new connections in our minds, and creating new meanings and understandings. As the authors state, "The first step in studying structure is being able to notice it. As students learn to see the parts of things, the steps involved, they develop the ability to see how those parts work and interact with each other" (Lehman and Roberts, 2014, p. 56).
The next time you play that favorite video game of yours, don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about it differently after this activity!
Feel free to share your favorite video game and thoughts after completing this exercise in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!