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Bringing Games Into the Classroom – Video Game Inspired Homework

August 2, 2008

This is part 2 in a continuing series

Video Game Homework

There are multiple ways to integrate video games into the classroom as homework at the high school or even grade school level. All games have several things:

  • Setting: a place where the game takes place
  • Character: a token (the “car” in Monopoly), a player-created character or a game-supplied character
  • Purpose: the goal or goals that you’re in the game world to achieve.

Taking that and your students’ innate love of games, imagine if you assigned them a project where they had to select a historical “character” and create a game about him or her? In video games, we have Mario and Solid Snake and Sam Fischer, but there’s no reason that we couldn’t be equally inspired by Shaka Zulu, Brian Boru or General Lee.

Sample Assignment: Create a pitch for a game on the console that uses a historical figure in his or her natural setting for a video game. Students may turn in:

  • A description of the “character”
  • A level (on paper) that they designed based on an actual historical setting
    • Include a start and end spot
    • Include at least three quests within the level (things players have to solve before they progress further).
  • Concept art of the game or of the character
  • A storyboard for the opening cinematic for the game, again based on the historical events in question
  • A “core statement” – the one thing the game is about. Think of this as a giant summary statement. For instance, “Take the reigns as General Lee has he commands his troops through the battle of Gettysburg.”
  • Five or more separate features, each of which support that core statement.
  • Player choice – Since this is a historical assignment, ask students to imagine other ways it may have gone. After all, games allow players to tell their story and to have their influence on events.
  • Action list – what things would your character have had to do in their real world that will be presented in a video game world? Assign orders? Marshall troops? Remember that video games are abstracted, so don’t ask students to put everything under the sun in here. It wouldn’t be fun or realistic. Of course, textbooks are abstracted, too.
  • Switch viewpoints – Using the same historical setting or character, ask students to imagine a game in which they are playing something who is a witness to the conflict. For instance, if you were tasked with making a game about the farmers of Gettysburg during that period, what would that game be like?
  • Give a presentation in the front of the class to present their pitch (this works really well in groups, by the way).

Naturally, all of this will take some work and some research, and there’s probably about 10 different assignments there which you could use for a whole variety of subjects.

How will they know? How will I know?

Educators are frequently concerned about a student’s ability to complete these assignments. Seriously, have no fear. For the most part, today’s students have grown up eating and breathing these things. Also, consider that your outcomes here are not to assess their game design skills, but rather their ability to translate a certain amount of historical data to a new medium. You could assess that if students transferred this info to a play, a painting, or a passive paper, and you will be able to do it here, too.

Sample Pitch

Turn almost any video game over, and you will see a game pitch, albeit in marketing-speak. Here’s the recently released Civilization Revolution: Click on it to get the larger image.

On the back of this box, you see the core statement (“Lead your civilization…”) as well as the features in the small brown boxes. Your students can do something similar.

To be continued…

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 2, 2008 7:23 pm

    I wish this was allowed when I was in grade school for assignments; however, I’m a little worried most educators will view this as comic books have been treated by english teachers in the past.

    This can definitely be good for researching a lot of topics though. Hopefully educators see the light and respect games a bit more than other pop-culture mediums in the past have been.

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