The third and final phase of the unit will be the creation of an "interactive monomyth." Students will use what they have learned about the Hero's Journey and the obstacles, settings, adventures, monsters, and rewards along the way to create their own adventure game.
The medium for this will be the Inform Engine, a simple programming language students will use to make a text based adventure game. These games are called "interactive fiction" (or IF for short), and the earliest types of computer games were of this type, games such as
, which paved the way for the home computer game market. The games run very much like the printed "choose your own adventure" books, with added functionality, such as the ability for the player to keep and use an inventory of items, and explore with more freedom and choice than the printed adventure books.
There are a number of advantages to using the Inform engine. It is free to download and easy to use, having a plain english programming language for actions and events called natural language (NL). This programming language lets authors use English sentences to create their story worlds. It serves a double function to improve writing skills and as an introduction to programming.
Students will improve their typing, grammar, writing, and reading ability by designing and scripting all of the text locations, events, items, quests, monsters, etc for their own hero's adventure. In addition, by creating their own interactive story program, students are given autonomy and empowered as designers of content, rather than as passive receptacles of it.
The game they choose to make will have no limitation other than their own creativity allows, and that it indeed utilize at least some stages of the monomyth.When designing their text adventures, the amount of realism and metaphor, fiction and non fiction, is up to the student to decide on a spectrum between mythical fiction on the one hand, historical nonfiction on the other, and magical realism in between.
Mythical fiction can be of an ancient and classical model, with monsters, powers, and locales derived directly or indirectly from classical sources, such as Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion. Or they can be of a modern or futuristic bent, with mutant superheroes or aliens forming a pantheon in sci-fi setting, or any combination of mythic elements.
In the middle of the scale is magical realism, a blending of myth and metaphor with historic events and personages. One text to use as a model would be
by Art Spiegelman. One such designed adventure might feature Martin Luther King Jr. as the protagonist as he participates in various marches for freedom, and might feature a great Minotaur as Police Chief "Bull" Conner, and various other racists as deformed beasts.
Historical non-fiction would be an as accurate as possible rendition of true to life historical events and personages, with of course the interactive ability of the player to make his or her own choices and thus change or alter history as the designer has envisioned it.
The teacher interested in using IF is highly encouraged to download the program and any of the many free IF games. The official website, inform7.com, has a great number of tutorials, information, free games, and an educator resource page with other examples of how IF has been used successfully for a variety of purposes in the classroom.
What follows is a basic overview of how IF works, as written by Aaron Reed, a prominent designer; "The atomic unit of IF is the turn. During each turn, the game prints text describing describing what your character sees and experiences in the story world, and you respond with an imperative command describing what you want the character to do next. No time passes in the story world until you submit your next command. This call and response forms the basis of all interactive fiction." (Reed 9). Most commands consist of a verb and a noun which empower the player to make an observation or take an action, such as EXAMINE DOOR or OPEN DOOR. IF worlds are made of various "rooms" connected together. Each room can be whatever the designer describes it to be, such as a closet interior, a section of beach, or a distant planet. Players move throughout the rooms of the game world by typing directional actions, such as GO NORTH.
Here is an example of what the beginning of one simple adventure game might look like:
Drafting the room design in this way, along with the events and actions that can happen in each room, is essential before the actual programming begins, especially when the game reaches a large number of rooms.
The following are products that students should complete as they design their Inform adventure game and before they program it:
1. A one page overview of the adventure game they wish to create, outlining in expository form the characters, setting, basic plot, and the win state of the game.
2. A completed Hero's Journey graphic organizer from which to base the adventure on. Students may fill in a new organizer or use one that had been created and studied previously in class.
3. A two part adventure map laying out the directional relations of each room for the story, and on separate pages the room descriptions (what the player will actually see/ read when exploring each room), and a list of actions and things for each room ("things" are actually the technical term in the IF program for just that- things the player can interact with). This step will consist of the bulk of the IF product.
Once the room descriptions have been written, they simply need to be "tied together" and made into an interactive story using the IF programming language. The two main lessons are how to create rooms and things. With only these two programming tools, an entire game game be created, and they are both tremendously easy to learn. As students gain familiarity with the programming aspect of the game, they can learn more advanced features.