The Challenges of using Commercial- Off-the-Shelf Narrative Games in History Classrooms


DiGRA/FDG ’16 – Proceedings of the 2016 Playing With History Workshop
Dundee, Scotland: Digital Games Research Association and Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games, August, 2016
Number: 3
Volume: 13
ISBN / ISNN: ISSN 2342-9666

As part of an Arthur Vining Davis-funded project conducted by the MIT Education Arcade, the author designed a lesson plan for a Lynn, MA teacher’s 9th grade World History class, focused on the beginning of her World War 1 unit. This plan utilized a commercial, offthe- shelf game, The Last Express (Mechner 1997), originally developed and published for entertainment purposes. The lesson plan was developed to test the feasibility of using storybased narrative games with historical elements as a prelude to a critical writing exercise. The test was to see how students reacted to the game, both as a gameplay exercise and as a source of content, and whether students would be able make logical connections between the game and their other non-game classwork. This paper outlines the research that went into designing this lesson plan and identifies challenges educators might face bringing these games into their classrooms.