In the September 2006 issue of Harper’s Magazine, senior editor Bill Wasik organized a forum between two educators and two “video-game enthusiasts” (31) to ask how videogames might be used to teach writing. The five lessons, grammar, argument, plot, characterization, and greatness, revealed much about attitudes toward education and videogames. To all four, plot and characterization seemed beyond the capacity of videogames to teach, which struck us as peculiar as we considered the sacrifice that Floyd made in Planetfall, or the drama that routinely ensues in The Sims 2 as gamers construct their own narratives as they play. The real question that the article leaves the reader with comes from game designer and game theorist Raph Koster, who towards the end asks: “What kind of writing do we hope to teach” (39)?
We endeavored to gather our own opinions about learning, videogames and writing from designers and theorists. Of the twenty we emailed or called, four responded to our questions.
– After starting at Atari, Crawford went on to not only design great games
such as Balance of Power
and Patton versus Rommel,
but he also wrote one of the first computer game design books,
The Art of Computer Game Design.
He was the founding editor of the
Journal of Game Design,
published in the late 80s and 90s, and is currently working on the game
Jane Jensen (Holmes) – Known for her design of the Gabriel Knight series of adventure games from Sierra, Jensen’s well-researched and innovative games have enthralled many. She currently writes novels, and in 2003, she received the Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation for her work, Dante’s Equation.
Jesper Juul – Currently a lecturer and researcher at the Singapore MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, Juul’s work on game theory and narrative, including differences in games of progression and emergence, have given theorists a new way to consider games’ learning potential.
Benoît Sokal – Sokal began as a comic book artist, and applied these talents of telling stories through images to videogames, including Syberia, Syberia 2, and Paradise. His work on these narrative adventure games and his other artistic endeavors led to him being awarded a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French Culture Minister.