Popular among gamers and book-lovers of all ages, Inanimate Alice is a powerful and compelling work of interactive fiction. Set in the near-future, and taking place over ten episodes, it tells the story of a young girl who aspires to become a games designer, following her and her digital friend Brad as they travel from northern China to Europe and beyond.
Perhaps best seen as a subset of digital game-based learning, and sometimes referred to as narrative multimedia, interactive fiction helps learners develop twenty-first-century skills or digital literacies – not only language skills. Like The Curfew, Inanimate Alice achieves this through:
- incorporating multimodality – i.e. not only images, text and sounds, but also hypertext and interaction
- providing a narrative that is every bit as engaging as the best pre-teen and teen print fiction, combining literary, cinematic, artistic, puzzle and gaming elements
- requiring the use of collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving for learners to make progress within the online environment
- allowing students to move the plot forward at their own pace, depending on their language level
- encouraging readers to co-create their own versions of the story, either filling in the gaps or developing new subplots.
In Inanimate Alice, the level of interactivity and complexity increases with each episode in order to reflect Alice’s own growing abilities, which makes it easier for teachers who may be unfamiliar with interactive fiction to integrate it into the classroom.
Like the best games used in digital game-based learning, Inanimate Alice was written as entertainment rather than as an educational tool. Yet if the Edmodo group is anything to go by, it has been used successfully by ELT teachers around the world to develop digital literacy skills and encourage students to use English in a meaningful context. The key, as always, is repurposing games by creating purposeful and language-focused tasks to use with them.
These are very much suggested materials, which can be adapted and selected from to suit the needs of different age groups and skill levels. Based on the needs and preferences of your students, the same task design principles can be used with later episodes.
If you’ve already used Inanimate Alice, please share your experiences and any activities that have worked well in your classroom.
Thanks to Jonathan Rickard for finding this great resource.