Student Reflection – English is for Squares

By Anne Meuser

My project “English is for Squares: Thomas Was Alone as a Classroom Text” makes an appeal to teachers, primarily high school English teachers who may have little familiarity with video games, that the game Thomas Was Alone—and by extension, video games as a media—is a worthwhile text for study. I argue through visual, audio, and textual means that Thomas Was Alone is a valid educational tool and should be used in the classroom. To me, video games are incredibly moving. I feel excited to enter a virtual world of storytelling and interactivity. This video game ethos draws me, but may repel my audience of teachers. In order to attach pedagogical value to video games in their eyes, my appeal to this audience relies on the interplay between video game elements and multiple modes of text.

Audio elements in my piece afford my argument an opportunity largely unavailable through other mediums: familiarity with my audience. My use of sound establishes rapport between my audience and Thomas Was Alone. The most pervasive sound in my project is my voice. I maintain a calm, consistent tone throughout the piece to establish a reasonable, logical, and relaxing presence. I aim to put my audience at ease with regard to the video-game-in-education topic. The presence of my voice then melts into the images from Thomas Was Alone that serve as a backdrop to illustrate points and provide visual interest for the majority of my project. I also chose to lay music directly from Thomas Was Alone underneath my argument. The soft music paired with my calm voice brings a relaxed familiarity toward the topic of video games to my audience. The music, being an element originally used to tie together concepts and themes from Thomas Was Alone, lends itself well to unifying my remixed visual aspects from the game. And though subtle, this cohesion between the game visuals and sound, paired with the soft tones of voice and music, creates positive pathos around Thomas Was Alone and my argument for games in the classroom.

As my audience is one of teachers, particularly English teachers, its members likely possess a high value in written media, so I begin the bulk of my argument for Thomas Was Alone’s classroom validity by framing its value beside works of generally accepted classroom texts: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I take time to establish the potential for deep reading and study with Thomas Was Alone as I discuss questions and concepts some teachers may already be quite comfortable applying to the novels. I emphasize this in my use of text to display a quote from The Great Gatsby as well as to display the statistics and research with which I begin my argument. From this point, I move into discussions of the video game on its own, unaided by its printed-word-based colleagues, opening opportunities for deep reading and meaningful textual engagement. I transition my audience from a trust in the written texts likely to appear in classrooms to a trust in classroom texts from differing media. With my own multimodal argument, integrating visual, auditory, and written aspects, I present the benefits and potential for engaging, purposeful learning that a video games can provide, perhaps not only students, but teachers as well.

Throughout my revision process of this project, I went into a deeper analysis of Thomas Was Alone in order to exemplify the particular game as a great classroom text in the hope that seeing depth and classroom applicability in Thomas would encourage educators to look toward the complexity of other games as well. Throughout my closer reading, I had to integrate this analysis with pieces of Thomas Was Alone to mirror as well as demonstrate the literary concepts I explained. I moved to switch between a large number of clips both to show a wide range of the game’s aspects and to maintain visual interest. In some of these clips, text appears on-screen. This text matches up with the original narration of the game, but is not intended as an integral part of understanding the projects argument. I intentionally tried to limit the time of clips where the text was present so as to draw attention to the movement of characters, an element of gameplay I did intend to use as a companion to my analysis.