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Blog #3: Storium

Written by Nicole Mirra
January 14, 2017

By Courtney Magnuson

What if there was a way to make writing fun for students in a game-like setting? Now there is! Storium is an online creative writing website that incorporates a game-like feeling with the introduction of player cards and attributes (strengths and weaknesses) that the writer gets to choose. The website is easy and fun to use, while creating an incentive to flex those writing muscles. 

I played with Storium for a few weeks and once I got over the initial learning curve, I was able to see how the website can be used in an ELA classroom. Signing up for the site is quick, painless, and free. You only need an email, username, and password. Once I signed up for the site I did a bit of browsing. I browsed through the stories in progress and I went through the forum.

All stories are public and can be read by anyone. I read a few stories that sounded interesting to me so I could understand the basics of how the game/storytelling elements worked. I then then went to the forum, which is always a good place to go to begin understanding a new website. I went through the forums called ‘Help for Newcomers’ and ‘Looking for Group’. The ‘Help for Newcomers’ forum helped me understand how the site worked a little better. Once I was comfortable with the idea of beginning my own story I entered the ‘Looking for Group’ forum where I posted my “players wanted” ad.   

I decided I wanted to start a story based on a literary work (Hamlet, The Odyssey, The Great Gatsby, etc.) and people on the forum were replying that they would like to join a Hamlet themed story. The story I ultimately ended up narrating was a modernized version of Hamlet, titled This Be Madness- Hamlet AU.  

Before I created the game, I also had to learn about the point system the characters can use within the story (which is explained in detail in the link provided). The narrator can set up obstacles within the story that the characters can choose to overcome with their pre-chosen strengths. This game aspect of the story does not have to be utilized if the narrator or players do not wish to use it. 

Creating the game is rather simple, there are pre-made worlds you can choose from that come with their own set of characters which accompany the world. Once you choose the setting you are then allowed to invite your players to your story. Once the players accept the invitation they are prompted to create an account if they don’t have one, then they create their own characters.

The player has different character cards to choose from depending on the chosen setting.  These cards include a character’s nature, strengths, weaknesses, and subplots. The player can create their own biography for the character they are playing and upload an avatar, as well. The narrator writes out the first scene of the story and the rest of the players respond with their character’s reaction. 

There were a few interesting findings I discovered while playing with Storium. Firstly, the game experience is unlike anything I have come across with writing role-playing websites. The game aspect would be a factor to help students become more engaged with the writing and differentiate it from other writing assignments. Storium has nine free starter worlds to choose from with the free account and offers the option to create your own world from start is you are feeling adventurous. The player cards were also an interesting find since each person can fully customize their character to their own liking. This could also be helpful for those who feel they are not creative enough to create their own character from scratch.

I saw infinite potential for Storium to be implemented into the ELA classroom. It is essentially getting students excited about writing with a game aspect that usual assignments do not have. Teachers can tweak a writing assignment on Storium to be about any book, play, short story, etc. Students can pick or be assigned characters to portray in the game.

Henry Jenkins discusses the importance of a participatory culture for students in which they have a sense of belonging and community. This sense of belonging/community can be felt within Storium. Students would have a character to play who is a vital role within the story. The story could not go on without their input, which would make a student feel valued and important within this web-based community.

Researchers have found that students are not being given opportunities within the classroom to collaborate which makes it harder for them to engage in productive collaboration. Working collaboratively helps students to be more engaged when sharing responses since it provides them with a sense of purpose and audience. When using Storium, students would have the opportunity to collaborate with their peers which would give them a sense of purpose. Their writing would also be seen by others besides the teacher, making them want to put more effort into their responses.