As we adapt to the new lockdown rules in the winter months, there has never been a greater need for digital platforms to educate, engage and entertain children in an interactive way.
Video game brands are now turning to multi platform storytelling as a new form of children’s education, from interactive stories to video game magazines and animated TV series and games.
It could be via tablet, video game console or even the Amazon Alexa, the internet is making story telling much more flexible in terms of medium. Basically, there is now a plethora of ways in which brands are pioneering storytelling and digital learning.
But it isn’t just ordinary stories delivered digitally. There are interactive stories, requiring children to think and respond to in order to proceed, and they develop their listening and deep learning skills en route.
New storytelling platforms will become more common in the future, especially as four in ten British children now have their own tablet by age six and 22% of households own a smart speaker.
Enter The PAC-MAN
Leading innovator in global entertainment, Bandai Namco Entertainment, the video game developer behind the iconic 1980s game PAC-MAN, will be releasing the second story in its PAC-MAN Stories in the next few weeks. Available on Amazon Alexa, these multi platform media stories are aimed at children aged between 6 and 10 years old. begin the story by asking an Amazon Alexa to play ‘PAC-MAN Stories’ and then are transported into PAC-MAN planet as part player, listener and story creator.
They must interact directly with the narrator and choose what PAC-MAN must do next to hear the next part of the story. Structured around healthy eating, helping others and caring for the environment, PAC-MAN Stories enable children to participate through play.
The first story in the collection situates the listener in a messy, trash-filled PAC-MAN planet. The listener will meet a variety of characters that need their help to rescue the planet from all the garbage. Accompanied by PAC-MAN, the listener must also figure out who has created this terrible mess. These stories use voice recognition storytelling, and give teachers opportunities for individual formative feedback and assessment.
They are ‘create-your-own-adventure’ style stories that give the listener the choice over what to do next. This gives opportunities in the classroom for teachers to support peer-to-peer feedback and to also assess learning through group discussion.
Teachers can also feed into the learning by facilitating their learning journey as the children get to experience trial, error and repetition, to make-sense of the content and to discuss the key elements in the story plot.
This learning process helps them to consider the right decision to make for the story to progress whilst also enhancing digital literacy. All of the stories are based on moral decisions that respond to our crisis-ridden moment. They enable children to question and reflect upon how we must respect each other and our planet which is made up of finite resources.
The second PAC-MAN Story is due to be released in December. It is a puzzle-solving mystery whereby the listener must work with PAC-MAN to reveal who has stolen all the fruit and vegetables from the planet. Could it be Mister Sugar Scoop? Or perhaps one of those mischievous Ghosts, Inky, Blinky, Pinky or Clyde? Through group discussion, children will get the chance to figure out the conundrum.
Similarly, award-winning journalist, Tamer Asfahani, has taken to interactive platforms as a way to help struggling parents and teachers during lockdown by blending the world of video games and multiplatform storytelling with an interactive video games magazine, Checkpoint Kids and Bedtime Stories podcast.
Promoted by the National Literacy Trust, the new magazine not only immerses the reader in the gaming world but also educates them. The accompanying Bedtime Stories app expands this world further by creating children’s stories inspired by the video games world, that are combined with ethereal soundscapes to aid sleep.
These popular podcasts have proven to be a big hit with primary school age children. Not only do they give children a chance to switch off before bed, but they also tie into a gaming world in which they love to traverse. However, rather than just creating two groundbreaking interactive storytelling platforms for children, the founder of Checkpoint Kids and the Bedtime Stories podcast, Tamer Asfahani, has also worked with teachers nationwide to create lesson plans for teachers to use in the classroom and home-learning kits for parents to use at home.
Focused on the need to develop opportunities for feedback and assessment as well as creative expression and opportunities to develop literacy and digital learning, the lesson packs and home-learning kits tie into the national curriculum and promote high standards of language and literacy.
They encourage children to read for both pleasure and information, with different activities catered towards these different strands. They contain activities that help teachers and parents develop understanding and vocabulary for children, and give opportunities for children to practice writing and spoken language through interactive elements in the magazine… either writing and uploading your own video game inspired story, poem or project, or through giving children opportunities to work as journalists, interviewing people from the gaming world.
For instance, in the last issue of the magazine a group of children interviewed the game developer Frontier about their new Rollercoaster Tycoon video game, and for the current issue, released in December, they interview the developer E-Line for their video game inspired by Blue Planet, to create deep learning about our oceans and the natural world.
The lesson packs cross disciplines, offering activities for writing and literacy, maths’, science, art, technology and even sport, with a recent issue dedicated to various sporting video games. All of the learning materials have been developed by teachers and are endorsed by the National Literacy Trust.
As with any lesson plans, the learning is stepped throughout each lesson and over the course of the learning journey via the monthly issues. So, whether it be lesson plans inspired by Fall Guys, Sonic, Fifa, LEGO Super Villains or Checkpoints Kids the mission is to inspire creativity in children by using their love of video games as a route for deep learning.
Tamer Asfahani, editor-in-chief and founder of Checkpoint Kids, set up the magazine during lockdown after seeing frustrated parents and teachers worrying about their children sat playing video games, he wanted to show that video games are not only engaging forms of escapism and entertainment for children, but they are also highly educational.
“Games, like good literature,” he adds, “allow the player to engage with other worlds, other ways of being, other philosophies: they engender understanding and empathy and are crucial to the contemporary learning package.”
Dan Wiltshire, Deputy Head and Head of Literacy at Brickhill Primary School, agrees with Asfahani. He said: “Checkpoint Kids offers such an exciting opportunity not only for children to engage with technology and gaming but also providing them with a platform to write and share their own content.”
These new formats for learning not only open up new ways to enhance digital learning and literacy but also to develop children as the storytellers of the future. In addition to these interactive formats, traditional broadcasters, such as ITV and the BBC, are now exploring ways in which to develop multi platform educational content to be used in and outside the classroom.
ITV and the British Film Institute have recently partnered with Spy Pictures and Cav Films to develop a new multi platform storytelling world, Badger and Boson’s Adventures in Reality. The show is still in development, but the plan is that it will enable the player and viewer to take control of their story across a range of devices, from the TV to tablet, console and cloud, giving multiple learning touch-points, and teachers will be able to use all of the elements in the classroom to support learning about science, history, maths’ and English.
Story-telling worlds are converging
Stephen Cavalier, founder of Spy Pictures and Cav Films Ltd, and creator of Badger and Boson’s Adventures in Reality, said: “In future storytelling, we’re moving away from the separate industries of film, TV and games. Storytelling worlds are converging and blending, creating new interactive formats that create something new, with different touch-points for engagement across multiple devices.”
“The hope is that with the technology available today, we should see greater convergence between new and traditional platforms which enables us to tell the best stories of our times whilst also reaching a variety of audiences in different ways – either through TV, online and social, tablet, mobile, voice recognition or console. All in all, it’s a very exciting time to be a creator.”
In contemporary pedagogy we now know that teachers must focus on designing learning that causes learning to happen and facilitate the process through formative feedback and assessment. By using these immersive platforms as a route to aid deep learning, teachers have the ability to engage children whilst also creating fun, interactive, digital lessons tied into their favourite gaming brands.
For more information or to download the lessons plans, please visit https://checkpointmagazine.com/teachers/or visit the Bedtime Stories app via the App Store. To trial PAC-MAN Stories, teachers can simply ask for PAC-MAN Stories on an Alexa or contact PACMAN@waytoblue.com for a teacher learning kit.