By Drake Adamson
Most people who do not play video games probably think that they feature little to no plot or that they strictly promote violence.
These beliefs could not be farther from the truth. In fact, video games have always had well written stories in their gameplay, and schools would take a big step forward by incorporating them into their curriculums.
Whether we want to admit it or not, many young people are not engaged with the literature taught in schools. To actually learn, students need to be exposed to texts of which they can connect. Many of us are not interested in William Shakespeare or Harper Lee, but we would be interested in reading if schools used video game stories in their place.
Video game plotlines can get students interested in reading while also making them think critically about literary themes.
One of the most powerful gaming stories is told in The Last of Us, which has recently become a hit show on HBO. In the video game, players follow a smuggler named Joel and a teenager named Ellie as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic United States.
The world was put into this state due to an infection that takes over people’s minds, which makes them more hostile than the average person. The infected have basically become zombies. The plot of the game focuses on survival and the saving of humanity, but there are obstacles that make these outcomes difficult. The game’s plot explores the themes of growing up, the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, diversity among humans, and how people act when society breaks down. All of these can leave a long lasting impact on players, or in the case of schools, students.
Another great example of an excellent video game story can be found in Red Dead Redemption 2. The game follows outlaw Arthur Morgan and his group in the year of 1899. Throughout the game, players learn that Arthur is not as bad of a guy as he is portrayed by the law. He tries to make his redemption throughout the plot but trouble follows him everywhere. One of his group members, Micah, is a truly evil person but Arthur is forced to work with him. Themes from RDR2 include life vs. death, redemption and retribution, and good vs. evil, all of which make excellent literary themes.
Players who quickly get attached to Arthur will be impacted later in the game by the game’s conclusion, which impacted me more than any story I have read in school. The conclusion of RDR2 brought me to tears and left a lasting impression on millions of other young people.
Students would also benefit from reading the Dark Souls trilogy. The plot of Souls would be great for teaching because it is a complex story that forces players to think critically.
The first installment features an escaped prisoner known as the Chosen Undead, who was held captive in an asylum. His role is to ring two bells of awakening and eventually restore fire to the first flame to prevent an age of darkness.
On the surface, Souls may seem like a wild story, but when players dig deeper, they get to the game’s true meaning. Player takeaways include “never give up on your goals” and “always keep pushing forward,” or as the people of that world would say, “Don’t Go Hollow.” These themes are excellent ones for middle schoolers who enjoy medieval plots.
Finally, Bloodborne is another classic video game that would interest students more than any John Steinbeck novel. Like Dark Souls, this game makes players dig deeper and think about what they are doing. The game follows “The Hunter” in a 1700s Victorian-style world. The Hunter goes to a city called “Yharnam” for a special item known as pale blood. What the hunter does not know is that this stuff makes people go mad and possibly turns them into beasts.
As the game progresses, players must try to survive the night, otherwise known as “the hunt.” What players may not know is that by strolling through the game and killing beasts, they may destroy innocent people. Players learn how to grapple with feelings of regret and guilt, themes that would interest students as much as those found in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. As one of the hunters once said, “Incase you fail to realize, these things you hunt, they’re not beasts, they’re people.”