Gaming aims to improve students’ writing skills

As mentioned previously, Elegy for a Dead World transports players into gorgeously designed distant planets based on the works of British Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Keats.

Once the player arrives at these strange new worlds, the mission is to survey them and write the only firsthand accounts of them that outsiders will ever read. As certain landmarks and curiosities are encountered, the game will cue players to complete sentences on what they see thanks to a series of writing prompts, inspiring them to write short stories about a wide range of thought provoking topics including “an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war.”

Watch the game’s trailer:

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In more advanced challenges, the game throws players a curveball by revealing new information to them halfway through a story, which forces them to take their stories in a different direction and work hard to make sure the story still reaches a logical conclusion, say developers.

Given the nature of the game, the developers hope the creativity and critical thinking skills that are so crucial to being a good writer will be encouraged. By exposing players to numerous different forms of writing including stories, poems and songs, they may develop a greater appreciation for the difficulties and nuances that make each style their own. Additionally, the fill in the blank sections aim to encourage proper grammar, a function that has proved popular within English as a second language (ESL) classes.

Furthermore, the game offers three different perspectives that the player can incorporate: “A scientific journal,” “their story,” or “my story.” This feature encourages multiple playthroughs based on the resulting unique sets of challenges that each different mindset brings.

“As important as what they see when they take a role is the mindset we’re trying to put them in,” co-creator Ziba Scott told “What we’re trying to do is motivate people so they get into a mindset where they have something they want to put out and write. We found just dropping them into a blank slate is too much. It’s intimidating. The roles are about giving them something to play as; to set the stage for their writing.”

Indeed, much of the game’s potential appeal to students is that it is, above all, a game that is meant to be fun and thought-provoking. Without the pressures associated with assignments or examinations, players are free to immerse themselves within the unique worlds and truly enjoy writing, say developers.

“One of my students has dyslexia and struggles with reading and writing,” recounted Russell Reznick, a grade school teacher who has used the game. “She took to Elegy right away and wrote for almost an hour.”

Lastly, the game strongly encourages what is perhaps one of the most important elements of creative writing: putting work on display. Elegy for a Dead World allows players to share their work on the Steam Community Workshop, which developers say is an essential tool for building confidence in writing. This also allows players the chance to read other players’ work, with options to browse the most-recent, highest rated, and newly trending stories.

“Based on what we’ve seen so far I will not be surprised if we get an entire novel as one of these stories,” Dejobaan CEO Ichiro Lambe speculated to “People love being creative and I don’t think there are many games that are conducive to this kind of creativity…. I bet we’ll get a novella-length thing within a couple months of launch.”

Elegy for a Dead World is scheduled for release on computer gaming platform Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2015.