Roger Dale Jones

Telling game stories: the comic strip technique

So how do you get to the trophy in your favourite game?
So how do you get to the trophy in your favourite game?, © NextMarsMedia/Shutterstock.com

Roger Dale Jones

Players love sharing their gaming experiences with others – while competing in games, while conversing with schoolmates between classes, and by consuming and producing online narrative media, like video clips, fan-fiction and comics.
Why storytelling of game experiences?
For starters, storytelling helps players construct and reflect the meaning of highly individualized, contextualized and complex game experiences. However, storytelling also allows players to put their individual game experiences into a socially recognizable (narrative) form, connecting them to an audience and opening their experience, actions and perspectives up to social relation, commentary and criticism (cf. Jones 2015). Thus, a storytelling approach supports sense-making processes of game experience, as well as the construction of social connections and the negotiation of meaning those connections enable.
Why in the EFL classroom?
Game storytelling in the EFL classroom can promote narrative competence and game literacy (see Basisartikel), and link English language learning via gaming to the English language learning of the classroom (cf. Grau/Legutke 2015). Here, classrooms can benefit from language gains made outside school, and learners can benefit from skills, strategies and language support offered in the classroom. Such linking is necessary because learners informal contact with English via games is often complex, unsystematic and unsupported, and because game experiences are scaffolded mostly by visual elements and by action. Through opportunities to tell game stories, learners can develop the skill of translating game experiences into language, and in turn structuring language into complex genres of narrative sense-making.
Why through a comic strip?
First, the comic strip technique can support the difficult process of articulating game experiences via language with the help of visual images. In addition, the technique supports the principle of parsimony applied to communication, dictating that people share stories in the simplest, most economical way which is especially important in todays attention economy. Finally, comic strips are a popular genre of even serious communication, for social and political commentary (e.g. political cartoons) as well as for critical engagement with games (e.g. video game fan-comics).
Using the comic strip technique
The comic strip technique for video game storytelling can be achieved in four simple steps (worksheet 1 ).
Brainstorming
Learners are encouraged to brainstorm meaningful game experiences before selection. In order to help retrieve gaming memories and develop ideas, learners share their ideas in small groups.
Drafting
Stories require conventions in order to take shape, and rules of conventions to provide tools for narrative structuring and focus. The tools of comic narration are, for instance, panels for key events, thought and speech bubbles for character speech and ideas, and narrative captions for context and commentary. Focus is provided by the limited number of panels (often 3 – 9), which encourages learners to select the most relevant and necessary events.
Presenting
Presenting allows the connection to an audience and the social negotiation of meaning of the comic. For instance, such communication can occur via a gallery walk, where the comics are presented on a poster with space for a comment thread (like for much online media) for other learners to openly respond in written form to the comic itself and to the comments of other learners.
Reflecting
Learners should reflect on the relation between the original meaning of their game stories and the socially emerged meaning during presentation. This allows the discovery of the storys social meaning and changes to the learners own perspective on gaming. However, the class should also reflect on the articulation of game experiences in comic, narrative form, and...

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aus: Unterricht Englisch Nr. 165 / 2020

Games

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