Game Narrative, Girls, and Education- Article Report #1


February 10, 2013 by jenniferashiru

Girl Gamers the controversy

Game and narrative have a rather complicated relationship.  One question that frequently arises is can games exist as narrative, and if so can they be successfully integrated into educational and cultural environments as means of serious literary work?  Games for a long time have employed the use of narrative as a means for making gaming more interesting and interactive, but game narratives have not successfully been recognized as literary works in this sense. Overall, game narrative is essentially a game that tells a story; however, there are many opposing views of the definition of game narrative, in the sense that some people are not even sure that such a thing exists or can exist. Games as narrative is a relatively new and working concept.  The problem arises in how to combine game and narrative to make something that is widely recognized and used as a serious component of literature via education, art, design, technology, etc.  However should games be more like literature, or literature more like games, and if so can they be successfully integrated into the learning environment?

Michele D. Dickey, Assistant Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at Miami University, has a rather interesting take on this topic in “Girl gamers: the Controversy of Girl Games and the Relevance of Female-oriented Game Design for Instructional Design.” Dickey believes games could actually benefit the learning process, but should first start with its audience:

The recent influx of females into this male pastime may provide even greater insight into the design of learning environments that support gender-inclusive values in the design should definitely be integrated into the learning environment (787).

Because females are becoming more interested in gaming whether it is through the means of portable devices or more traditional gaming systems, games could more readily be integrated into a the learning environment because the concept/topic of gaming is essentially becoming genderless.  Therefore games could be used as a tool of education or even topic discussion if games were no longer viewed as male-inclusive.

Dickey suggests that girl games have had their own sort of rebellion to the predominately male gaming industry—pink software, or games targeting female audiences.  With the influx of pink software (i.e. Barbie games), “various researchers have attempted to characterize underlying design elements that appeal to females” and found that girls “preferred realistic settings and non-gender-specific characters” (789).  It is interesting that this pink software movement was meant to provide girls with games specifically catered to them with themes such as fashion, makeup, and hair.  But the pink software movement actually proved that girls much preferred games with non-gender-specific characters and plot, rich narrative, and nonviolent interactive challenges such as Nancy Drew, Jump Start, and ClueFinders.  All of these games are non-gender-specific and feature educational themes and challenges.

Additionally, it is very possible for games to be successfully integrated in to learning. And incorporating such digital media in the realm of education could actually benefit the education process:

The elements of rich narrative, 3D interactive environments, communication opportunities and interactive challenges are the very elements that… foster [player] interest, and many of these same elements correspond with the types of elements that educators attempt to foster in constructivist learning environments (760).

This means that all the qualities that make game narrative could actually be quite valuable in an education setting.  For example, children are often taught through games and interactive means, so game narrative would be a fun, significant, and beneficial asset to education and learning environments in this sense. The qualities that make games and apps so captivating such as colorful narrative, interactive challenges and environments, and fun factor are also very important elements of education and of engaging children in an educational setting.

Overall, games as narrative do exist, and could serve as fun and advantageous literary works; they just have to be recognized as such.  Game narratives, however, need to exist in another realm other than popular entertainment, such as education. There just needs to be an understanding of what game narrative is and how can it benefit things like a learning environment. There also needs to be a way to integrate gaming into an educational environment where its non-gender-specific.  The best way to do such a thing may be to first integrate games as narrative into child-specific learning environments. Perhaps, a movement will arise that will allow and propel the use of game narratives in classrooms deeming game narratives actual forms of literature; with the advancements art and technology, this is a very possible reality for the game narrative.

Dickey, Michele D. “Girl gamers: the controversy of girl games and the relevance of female-oriented game design for instructional design.” British Journal of Educational Technology. 37.5 (2006): 791. Print.


3 thoughts on “Game Narrative, Girls, and Education- Article Report #1

  1. kxrodri says:

    I agree with your idea about having game narratives exist in another mediums than just the popular entertainment. It would seem like an interesting idea to see video games use narratives as an educational source. The thing that comes to mind are interactive games designed to help kids with math and science. However those computer games are not really considered as a narrative game. Nowadays video games seem to serve other purposes such as the Kinect or the Wii in which makes the players more participatory. There isn’t much in terms of educational narrative content, but I can’t really picture what that would look like. Maybe a Great Gatsby video game?

  2. pitak22 says:

    It’s interesting that the fact that females have become well-integrated into the gaming community triggered the idea of using games as a mode of education. However, weren’t weren’t war zone and flight simulations one of the first uses of gaming technology? But I suppose those were more about developing motor skills and strategy than fostering literary, social, and mathematic skills. On another note, it’s kind of sad that gender impacts whether a game should cater to purely entertainment purposes versus being both engaging and educational.

  3. trosen3 says:

    I found it interesting to read your report after discussing narratology and ludology in class.
    Is pink software easier to explore from a narratology point of view? What complications arise when trying to distinguish a player vs the viewer/reader in an educational game? I also think that educational games bring up interesting complications in evaluating gameplay from a ludology point of view. If a game uses a narrative to teach math or science, does that take away from the control a player has over the game because the main goal of the game is to teach an academic subject?
    I also think this is an important topic to look at as playing a game on a parent’s smartphone or tablet seems to be replacing more imaginative play with toys and reading. Does this shift any impact on a child’s creativity or ability to entertain himself or herself?

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