Exploiting two computer-based RPGs

In this article I’d like to look at how we could use two computer based RPGs (Role playing games) as the basis for language development.

The two RPGs that I’m suggesting you use are both very similar and very different.
  • They are very similar in that they are both simulations of everyday life scenarios and involve day to day ‘survival’ type choices.
  • They are very different in that the situations they are based around are a stark contrast between life in a rural developing nation and life in an urban developed nation.
The first is called Stick RPG and features a small blue man living in a hotel. The player manipulates the man and makes choices for him whilst helping him to survive life in the city. The player has various options each day including fining a job, studying, eating various foods, gambling etc.

The player has to maintain health and keep his finances in check and see what he can achieve within the cycle of the game.
The second game is called Third World Farmer and features a small rural family. In this game the player needs to make decisions about how to spend the yearly budget, what crops to plant and what tools or animals to invest in.

At the end of each turn, the player gets a yearly report showing how successful the year was and how much money they have for the next year.
The games would be appropriate for teens or older learners with an intermediate+ level of English.

How to use these games with students.
Here are some suggestions for using these games in class. You could combine all or just some of the suggestions.
  • Get half of the class to play one game and the other half to play the other. Then in class get them to describe, compare and contrast the games in pairs.
  • Get the students to collect any new words they find while playing the games.
  • Get each pair to describe their own ‘story’ in the game. What happened to them and what was their outcome?
  • Get the students to compare the different problems their character had in the game. Which game do they think was harder?
  • Ask them to compare strategies. What things did they do in the game that helped them to be more or less successful? How did they change their strategy?
  • Ask them to rate the game. How good do they think it was? Did they enjoy playing it? Would they recommend the game?
  • Develop some of the themes from the games for a class debate.
  • Who do they think these games are aimed at?
  • What did they learn from the games?
  • How accurately do they depict the two different lifestyles?
  • Does playing a game like this trivialise the situations?
  • Can computer games like these educate people and change their opinions?
  • Do these games depict stereotypes rather than realities?
  • What do they think the makers of these games wanted to achieve?
  • What other political or educational computer games do they know about?
Of course you could just forget about all of the suggestions above and get the students top play the games at home and see what they learn from them.

I hope you and your students enjoy these games. Please feel free to leave a comment and suggest other games you have used for language learning.

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