By Kallie Willits
With video games becoming more popular, mainly for entertainment purposes, “The Adventures of Frank Little” project highlights how video games can be fun and educational without becoming repetitive and daunting. This game offers a first person experience at being Frank Little, a labor organizer in the early 1900s. While playing, I wondered if this game style could be incorporated into the traditional educational system and how much more of an impact it might make on students. Some historical events, if broken down into interactive games like this one (even if not completely historically accurate) could allow students to engage with history in ways beyond traditional textual reading. I, for one, would be very interested in seeing how something like the composition and signing of the Deceleration of Independence might
work as a video game.
That said, “The Adventures of Frank Little,” utilized traditional video game mechanics with up, right, left, and jump movements. These simple options allow for a much wider audience to play the game as extensive skill and experience is not required. Unlike, say, the complicated and often problematic XBOX One or PlayStation 4 controls, this game uses simple control mechanics to allow players to focus on the narrative and the smooth game play.
The use of real pictures through out the game adds a unique historical element. The players get to see real images of the past that relate to the content of the game narrative. The black and white background pictures add an historical (and nostalgic) element to the game that subtly assists the game’s progress. Together, the visual elements and the gaming interaction makes learning the history of Frank Little more unique, getting players to engage the narrative as well as absorb the content.
One other element worth commenting on in this game is the use of music. Growing up playing the original Mario Brothers games, I have been conditioned to understand changes in background music as central to changes in game play—particularly an increase in urgency or danger. This game is no different as it employed classic “high anxiety” music at moments when the main character was in danger. By doing the music this way, as opposed to keeping the same calming back, the gamemakers allow players to become that much more emerged into the game experience.
The experience of “The Adventures of Frank Little” not only resonated with me as a player, but functioned as a generative experience. I can’t help but wonder after the possibilities of something like this project and/or this assignment being implemented into specific courses in the K-12 school system. It simply brings history (and historiography) alive in meaningful ways.