Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Game of Heroes: Exploring Myth through Interactive (Non) Fiction
by William C. Wagoner
In this middle school unit on mythology, Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth cycle will be the tool to analyze the hero’s journey of both fictional and non fictional figures. Students will compare and contrast the biographical account of a real life hero with the mythical quest of a demigod; Theseus and Hercules can be studied side by side with Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Students will ultimately fuse their understandings of the metaphorical journey to view their own selves as heroes through their experiences of challenge and reward in the past and the potential opportunities and treasures of the future. Students will understand that the vast plethora of modern day superheroes, video game avatars, and movie stars, all form and inform our personal mythologies, or way of viewing and imagining the world, and that all of them follow the same general pattern. Almost any hero (from any medium and from any culture) can be studied with this unit, depending on student interests and teacher preference.
The final project of the unit will be the creation of a text based computer adventure game, or “interactive (non)fiction.” 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 playable hero’s journey using a simple yet powerful tool called the Inform engine.
As an interactive story-game, students will design a space where players can make experience the lives of their favorite heroes, whether fictional or historical, as they create and explore their world, make important choices along the way, and strive to complete their quest. A deeper level of immersion and identifying with the hero’s journey can occur through reflecting on the choices one can make in the game. And hopefully this unit will convey an identification of the student as a hero figure in his or her own life, with the power to conquer fear and the unknown through personal choices and the aid of others.