Narrative is the Key!

7 Mar

Had some very interesting discussions around the area of Games Based Learning (GBL).

However, while there are examples of learning through the mechanics of specific games such as Nintendogs, the main focus seems to be the ‘situated’ learning aspect… creating a context within which to teach other skills. What this actually means is that the game is being used as a conduit for narrative.. which I admit they are very good at, but it’s not really what I was looking for. Besides which, if I am to work in an area that relies heavily upon it’s capacity for narrative I think I would rather go direct to source and work ‘with’ the narrative… which is kind of where I started…

What ‘has’ been niggling me is the fact that my strongest memories of games are where the narrative took over.. either because it was so compelling (Fighting Fantasy Role Playing books) or because the game created a space where narrative was created in the experience of the game (Elite) or the narrative created through sharing the experience of competition with a friend (ZX Galaxians). Non of these games had sound or colour.. one of them wasn’t even a video game. Each of them was, what we termed, ‘addictive’.

ZX Galaxians (1981)

One of my discussions was with a secondary teacher, Nick Hood who has been openly sceptical about GBL and it’s place in his classroom. However, his partner works as a primary teacher and has created her own paper based game, loosely based on the Facebook game Farmville, called Parkville. Nick clearly saw the value in this game in the context of the primary classroom but it seems to me that, again, this is narrative..  (in addition, from what he had already told me about his own teaching methods it seemed to me that narrative was a key component…) so I suggested to Nick that, ultimately, what we are talking about is creating a context for a narrative and that the graphics, sound, etc of games, whether on a computer screen or otherwise, were just the cream and that the real substance was in the story:

What this brings me back to is the strength of narrative and it’s place in teaching, learning, playing, etc… Is there a ‘narrative rock’ that has been left unturned..? Is there a new way of assembling these elements of narrative, play, games and technology that would meet the needs of learning or other areas where engagement is key, such as advertising..  …  ..?

This is a presentation that, back in November, encapsulated for me my interest in narrative and engagment. Jim is a Transmedia Consultant to the likes of BBC Worldwide no less and this video, in 8 short minutes, concisely identifies three areas of narrative ‘story telling’, ‘story forming’ and ‘story dwelling’ and their place in our lives. Add to those @Documentally’s ‘Story Making’ (which I think sits squarely between (or combines) Story Forming and Story Dwelling) then you have a tempting collection of narrative domains and playgrounds in which to place yourself or the player, learner, audience, etc…

Jim’s presentation directly influenced how I approached the design of the NEoN Knights QR hunt and i’m sure will continue to influence my further adventures in narrative..!

The NATURE OF SOCIAL NARRATIVE By Jim Banister from SpectrumDNA on Vimeo.

4 Responses to “Narrative is the Key!”

  1. Blair Rorani March 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Agree. It’s all about the story. I started (started) to write about the future of books a while back and quickly realised that a book was simply a container/format for a story.

    I’m really interested in game/scenario based learning where you can’t actually learn by doing the real thing, meaning not practical (fire drills), not possible (space travel), too risky (landing fighter planes). Or if you’re in a school or something you need to simulate calculating mortgages etc.

    One thing I’m working on is the way to create the graphics and optionally sounds that accompany stories. Stories that let you learn by experience, possibly play with others and get to affect the outcome of are games.

    Stories and games together. That’s the future of learning to get better at anything.

    • hellojon March 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

      Thanks for the comment…
      I’d be interested to see what you come up with in your work.. the scenario learning is something that is used a lot over here but not specifically for areas where the real thing isn’t possible.. i’m interested in exploring areas where I can create an environment where the players generate their own narrative ad maybe then document it.. but it all sounds like a lot of work for the player, so I need to work on ways of making the process more natural and enjoyable…
      Stick around, it’d be could to continue to compare notes… 😉

  2. Fi McGarry March 16, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Let’s think for a minute about definitions of story and narrative. Narrative is the means, but the story is the thing itself. Players might generate their own stories, and the documenting of these (in whatever format) produces narratives: but the two aren’t quite the same thing.


  1. Meta Maiden « MysteryBoxes - July 22, 2011

    […] Jim Banister in his presentation to BBC Worldwide talks about 3 forms of Storytelling and he uses the example of a Soccer game to explain the differences. They are Story Telling, Story Forming and Story Dwelling. To the folks at home watching the game on TV Story Telling is being employed; the game is being fed to the viewers via the camera operators and the director (the narrator) who dictates what it is you see. The players themselves are involved in the game and therefore Story Dwelling is taking place… they ‘are’ the story. For the crowd in the stand Story Forming is taking place; they are not directly involved in the game but the game is certainly influenced by their presence. Imagine the atmosphere in the stadium if only the players and the managers were present… […]

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