The Current Logo

Can Games Support Writing Instruction?

Written by Erin Wilkey Oh
November 09, 2011

Last Tuesday, as I drove one of my students home from school (I work as a private, after-school tutor), he told me he was now running his own high school. Hmm? I shot him a curious look and saw he was hunched over in the passenger seat, eyes fixed on the screen of his iPod Touch.

It’s a game called Pocket Academy. I named one of my students James Bond, haha. Good name, right? And he’s really popular, of course. He already has seven friends. Except he just got turned down! Haha! I call my school Sunshine High School because I want it to be a happy place.

As my student filled me in on the details of Sunshine High, it occurred to me that he was crafting a story. This game was allowing him to reimagine the real life high school he attended every day. He had established a setting, characters, even conflicts. Could game design help students become better writers? I found myself wishing I still taught a creative writing course, so I could add a game design project to the semester’s writing assignments.

When I left the classroom a year and a half ago, my colleagues and I were actively engaging students in digital genres of composition. Students created digital stories, video narratives, podcasts, digital comics– but no one in my school was talking about game design. Has that changed? Are teachers starting to explore game design as a narrative genre?

Several “Digital Is” contributors have shared thoughts on how gaming and education can and do intersect. I have enjoyed these resources in particular:  

A discussion posted by Ashley Hennefer gets to the heart of my own question here. Her post, titled Read|Write|Play: Video Games and Narrative, introduces an inquiry project in which she investigates the “inherent literacy qualities of games.” She invites us to focus our conversation specifically on how gaming can be connected to literacy education. 

I would love to see more conversation around this. What do you think? Can games support writing instruction?