Presentation on Gamification & Video Game-Based Learning in the High School Classroom at the SLU 1818 Foreign Language Professional Training Day, & SLU Esports.

Assassin's Creed Discovery Tour, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Discovery Tour, Esports, Game-Based Learning, Gamification, Intro to the Classical Humanities, Learning, Education and Games, Microsoft, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayLink, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

Today I spoke on gamification and video game-based learning at the Saint Louis University 1818 Foreign Language Professional Training Day, organized by the Department of Languages, Literatures, & Cultures.

Glad to have met such a dynamic group of dedicated high-school foreign language teachers! Their students in Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Classics and Chinese receive SLU credits. My presentation, “Video game-based learning in the high-school classroom?” was very well received.

On a related note, today I was asked and accepted to serve on the SLU Esports Advisory Committee. Looking forward to spearheading the educational value of Esports at my institution.

Developing a VGBL-based “Intro to the Classical Humanities” course & Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s Discovery Tour Mode.

Assassin's Creed Discovery Tour, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Discovery Tour, Game-Based Learning, Intro to the Classical Humanities, Microsoft, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Uncategorized, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

The Discovery Tour Mode released today for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a fantastic addition to an already excellent game. I am very excited about its release, particularly because I am currently developing a video game-based learning / digital media learning “Intro to the Classical Humanities” course with my colleague in the Classics program, Dr. Joan Hart-Hasler.

I studied Classics for most of my life (12 years of Latin coursework, 10 years of Greek). I fell in love with the Greco-Roman civilization by the time I was 14. I was very impressed with the re-construction of Hellenistic Alexandria in Assassin’s Creed Origins, its history, monuments, everyday life and even the use of Koine Greek by non-playable characters (NPC). The lexicon and pronunciation of the ancient common language of the Greek empire has been carefully, effectively and convincingly re-constructed. Now, I cannot wait to explore their tour of Classical Greece and re-construction of the language, life and culture, and explore its pedagogical uses in our college course. “Intro to the Classical Humanities’ will be taught in English, as a large first-year experience course. Besides video game-based learning, I plan to include graphic novels and other digital media. I hope to present it to the undergraduate course committee sometime this fall, and teach it next spring.

What is most exciting about the inclusion of the Discovery Tour, in my opinion, is that it makes digital game-based learning/quest-based learning accessible to high-school and, in some cases, even middle school students. In fact, it is a “pacific” mode, devoid of violence.

Kudos Ubisoft & merci Maxime Durand & team!


https://www.polygon.com/reviews/2019/9/10/20859403/assassins-creed-odysseys-discovery-tour-review-ancient-greece-education-game?fbclid=IwAR0TzGG9swN57N23Dqac9XO8qcm7CKONiRZ8gkFhhOQXozq4x1D5bgi-ytg

Image: Koine Greek – Source: Hector Abuid on Flickr [https://www.flickr.com/photos/21536074@N00/2560077543]

S. Bregni, Video Game-Based Learning as a Preparatory Device & Simulation Strategies for Study Abroad Programs, Beyond – The ISI Florence & Umbra Institute Journal of International Education, 2, 2019.

Game-Based Learning, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, VGBL in F/L2 Publications, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

Thank you ISI Florence and The Umbra Institute. My new article on video game-based learning, (Digital) Narrow Streets of Cobblestone: Game-Based Learning as a Preparatory Device & Simulation Strategies for Study Abroad Programs, appeared today on the new issue of Beyond – The ISI Florence & Umbra Institute Journal of International Education:

https://www.beyondjournal.online/post/video-game-based-learning-as-a-preparatory-device-simulation-strategies-for-study-abroad-programs

Abstract
For decades now, video games have been a pervasive part of our culture (NBCNews.com, 2013). About half of all American adults play video games (Duggan,
2015), while 97% of teen boys and 83% of teen girls also play video games
(Anderson & Jiang, 2018).
The potential for utilizing gaming in learning has been explored in a variety of
fields, including language acquisition (e.g., Reinders, 2012). Some commercially available cinematic video games are fully-interactive multimedia experiences. Thus, including such games in the curriculum as realia (Spurr, 1942; Dlaska, 2003) can help students reinforce, and expand upon, materials they learn through traditional methods. Realia reinforce second/foreign language (F/L2) acquisition through development of specific personal interests. Cinematic games, similar in nature to movies, also add agency, which improves learning (Deters et al., 2014). They also involve problem-solving and critical thinking that can be applied to group interaction, all of which is particularly conducive to learning (Wenger, 1998) and F/L2 acquisition (Nunan, 1992). Video games can
contribute to the goal of transforming our students into life-long learners of (a)
F/L2 language(s), a process explored by CALL (e.g., Smith, 1997).
This article is a case study on teaching practices with video game-based learning, its benefits in the foreign language classroom and, in a more general sense,
in second/foreign language & culture acquisition (F/L2). I argue that utilizing
video games as part of F/L2 experiences, including in the different phases of
the study abroad experience (pre-departure, during the program, and post-departure), can enhance the learning of F/L2 language and culture. Video games
are simulations that challenge, based on repetition, which involve players at a
deep level, thus affording agency. In recent cinematic “AAA” commercial video
game titles, the simulation aspect engages players in a dialogue-based, narrative context that can prepare students for real-life conversations. The article
also serves as a practicum, by providing suggestions on how to use commercial video games to enhance language & culture acquisition as part of independent, autonomous students’ learning that educators and administrators
can foster, structured learning experiences such as study abroad (including
pre- and post-departure), and courses.

Keywords: Game-based learning, CALL, CAI, gamification, foreign languages,
second language acquisition, SLA, video game-based learning, VGBL, gaming,
non-serious gaming, Italian, Italian as a Second Language, Assassin’s Creed,
Tomb Raider, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Sony PlayLink.

* This research was supported in part by a fellowship and an award from the Saint Louis University Reinert Center

#VGBL , #gamebasedlearning#studyabroad#studyabroadprograms#italian#italy#esl#sla#fla#videogames, #CALL, #CAI, #Gamification, #Gaming

Interview on St. Louis Public Radio/NPR – Intensive Italian for Gamers

Game-Based Learning, Hidden Agenda, Non-serious gaming, NPR, PlayLink, PlayStation, St. Louis Public Radio, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning

Grazie/Thank you St. Louis Public Radio for your interview! The interview was broadcast today, April 17, 2019, and it is available at the following link:

https://www.kbia.org/post/slu-students-level-language-skills-video-game-based-italian-class?fbclid=IwAR3RvNwK9ZL14uKj_6ZK-3qqLupDuoCfXgSXZfRSnhhGEToF3gKrHHxRORo#stream/0

Thank you St. Louis Public Radio reporter Shahla Farzan for featuring my scholarship and teaching practices on video game-based foreign language learning at Saint Louis University!

Gamification and (Video) Game-Based Learning in the Second/Foreign Language Classroom – Roundtable Session at the AAIS 2019 Conference – Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

AAIS 2019, Game-Based Learning, Microsoft, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

On Friday, March 15, 2019, I presented in the roundtable session “Gamification and (Video) Game-Based Learning in the Second/Foreign Language Classroom” at the American Association of Italian Studies Conference at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC with fellow Italianists Prof. Camilla Zamboni, Wesleyan University and Dr. Brandon Essary, Elon University. Prof. Zamboni talked about analog “AAA” games, board games and RPG’s, while Dr. Essary and I shared our developments on using “AAA” video game titles.
The session was very well attended and we received very positive feedback.

[Photo: Dr. Bregni (center) with co-panelists Prof. Camilla Zamboni, Wesleyan University, and Dr. Brandon Essary, Elon University]

My Interview with the National Museum of Language

Game-Based Learning, Microsoft, National Museum of Language, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

Grazie/Thank you National Museum of Language for your interview! The interview was published on 3/19:

http://languagemuseum.org/interview-with-simone-bregni-professor-at-saint-louis-university/

I talk about my passion for language learning, video game-based learning with “AAA” titles and my methodology (Identify, Acquire, Create), my research and teaching practices at Saint Louis University, Intensive Italian for Gamers, Assassin’s Creed and Sega’s Shenmue as the best game to learn Japanese language and culture.

 

Presentation in the Session “Can AAA Games Be Used to Improve Education?” at the SXSW EDU Conference in Austin, TX – March 6, 2019

Game-Based Learning, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, I presented in the session “Can AAA Games Be Used to Improve Education?” at the SXSW EDU Conference in Austin, TX. The session was organized by Maxime Durand, Ubisoft’s historian in charge of the Assassin’s Creed series.
The session was very well received, with a lively Q&A session at the end, and very positive feedback.

https://schedule.sxswedu.com/2019/events/PP85160

Session Description:

Playing videogames has become an integral part of mankind’s cultural habits. A huge gap still divides “AAA” entertainment games (such as Assassin’s Creed) from “serious’’ games (games created by educators for specific educational purposes) in terms of appeal and defined learning objectives. Using data and sharing their own in-class experience, the panelists discussed how AAA games can help advance learning (formal and informal) for students at all stages of their education, from grade school to college.

It was a pleasure to present with Maxime Durand and Brian Stottlemyer, and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future.

Thank you Maxime Durand @TriFreako and @Ubisoft for a great professional opportunity!

Sega’s Shenmue: the Best Video Game Series for Japanese Language & Culture Acquisition?

Game-Based Learning, Microsoft, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

My interview for the Italian video game online magazine/platform Multiplayer.it about one of my favorite video game series ever, Shenmue, and its value in terms of acquisition of Japanese language & culture, was published today:

https://multiplayer.it/articoli/shenmue-e-il-miglior-videogioco-per-comprendere-la-cultura-giapponese.html?fbclid=IwAR0ktOfQJpUn7OeQ57srn2SgH74oAIba8zbQNYXuP8RSFtf8NIQ6NDuVktM

An English translation of the article is available here:

View at Medium.com

Thank you Emiliano Ragoni of multiplayer.it for your excellent article! And Arigato! Mr. Yu Suzuki for your gaming masterpiece!

In my recently-published scholarly article  “Using Video Games to Teach Italian Language & Culture: Useful, Effective, Feasible?” NEMLA Italian Studies XXXIX special issue “The Italian Digital Classroom: Italian Culture and Literature through digital tools and social media.” [available as a PDF download  (https://www.buffalo.edu/content/dam/www/nemla/NIS/XXXIX/NeMLA%20Italian%20Studies%202017%20-%20Using%20Video%20Games.pdf and in print], I also mention the Sega Shenmue series as an excellent learning device, the best, in my view, in terms of Japanese language and culture acquisition. The game includes Japanese and English audio tracks and subtitles. Lip-syncing is in Japanese. The first episodes is set in the Japanese town of Yokosuka,

The first game in the series was released in 1999 in Japan and in 2000 in the US and Europe on the Sega Dreamcast. Episode II was released in 2001 on the Sega Dreamcast, then ported in 2002 on the original Microsoft Xbox. The first two episodes in the series have been recently re-released (August 2018), updated in high-definition, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC. A third, new original episode is scheduled for release in late August 2019.

In my interview, I also discuss my methodology (IAC: Identify, Acquire, Create); my current work with the Assassin’s Creed series and future developments with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey; and my participation at SXSW EDU in Austin in March 2019.

Image: Sega Shenmue – Sega AM2 – Creator Yu Suzuki. 

My Chapters for “Learning, Education and Games 3: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom & Beyond,” VR, and Game Localization.

Learning, Education and Games, Microsoft, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Game-Based Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

I just submitted revisions of my two chapters and one co-edited chapter for Learning, Education and Games 3: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom & Beyond.

The games I covered are:

  • Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed – The Series (co-edited chapter with Gabriele Aroni, Ph.D., Ryerson University, and Heidi McDonald, iThrive Games);
  • Square Enix’s Rise of the Tomb Raider; and
  • Tequila Works’ The Invisible Hours VR.

I am seriously disappointed that I will not be able to utilize the excellent The Invisible Hours VR in my Intensive Italian for Gamers course at SLU next spring because it is not localized in Italian.

As I wrote in my chapter:

The narrative and writing, the complexity of the characters, the emphasis on observation and logic rather than “active” gaming and the theatrical-quality acting, all contribute to making this game ideal for numerous courses (from senior year of high-school to college and adults) across multiple disciplines… the storyline is narrated with audio and subtitles available in multiple languages (Spanish, French, German and English). The game narrative can thus be to provide exposure to linguistic and cultural content in ESL and foreign language courses to reinforce vocabulary, grammatical forms, sentence structure and oral fluency. For ESL learners, an additional feature is the excellent lip-syncing, a rare feature that makes this game more attractive than other comparable cinematic, narrative-driven products. Since players can “project themselves” in front of each character as they speak, close inspection of the lip-syncing (especially in VR mode) facilitates listening comprehension. The task-based gameplay can challenge students to problem-solve in the target language, which is particularly beneficial for language acquisition purposes (Shehadeh and Coombe, 2012).

Dear People at Tequila Works:

The Italian video game market is thriving, and the Italian as a foreign language market is very promising. Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/how-good-italian-businessGame localization in additional languages, while a financial commitment, is a beneficial investment.

Sincerely,

Simone

A Productive Sabbatical – Spring Semester 2018

Microsoft, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

During my sabbatical in spring 2018, I traveled to Asti, Italy, where I continued conducting research on video game-based learning (VGBL); coordinating contacts with colleagues in the field, who are interested and willing to cooperate on research projects; writing invited articles and chapter contributions; and delivering a series of invited lectures and workshops based on my research, expertise and teaching practices at academic institutions in Spain, Italy and Austria. Both my workshop and presentation formats were created with the assistance of the Saint Louis University Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning. Some of my research was founded by the James H. Korn Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, which I received in fall 2017 for developing and teaching “Intensive Italian for Gamers.” The course, which applies game-based learning and digital media to second/foreign language acquisition, will be offered again at SLU in spring 2019.

While on sabbatical:

• I gave six invited presentations and workshops on VGBL at academic institutions in Spain, Italy and Austria.
I performed outcomes assessment and results have been very favorable. Over 95% of the participants gave favorable feedback on my presentations and workshops.

• I gave invited lectures on VGBL at three high-schools in the Piedmont region, Italy.

• I had an article published in Profession, the Journal of the Modern Language Association. The article, which was published on April 14, 2018, and the related SLU press release, resulted in a cascade of international recognition for me; for the Italian Studies Program; for the Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures; for Saint Louis University; and for the SLU Reinert Center. In fact, as of today (August 19, 2018) over 100 news sources from all over the world have cited and/or reprinted my scholarship and teaching practice. Also, I was interviewed by several national and international news sources (radio, newspapers, educational).

• I submitted final revisions for one article; also submitted one invited book chapter, and three short chapters.

• I made substantial progress on suggested editorial formatting revisions to my manuscript on Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Locus Amoenus: Imitatio intertestuale/Interdiscorsiva nella Commedia (Intertextual/Interdiscoursive Imitatio in Dante’s Comedy.)” Final edits will be submitted to Longo Editore, Italy, in late September, 2018.

Presentations and Workshops
• On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, I delivered the workshop “(E-)Life is (not) Strange: Using Video Games in Foreign/Second Language Acquisition” to an audience of professors, instructors and MA students in Spanish and ESL at the New York University Campus in Madrid.

• On Thursday, February 15, I delivered a presentation entitled “Assassin’s Creed Taught Me a Foreign Language: Video Games in Second/Foreign Language & Culture Acquisition” to students and faculty at the SLU Madrid campus.

• On Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9, 2018, I delivered two VGBL sessions to an audience of instructors and students in Italian at the Spring Hill College Campus in Bologna.

• On Friday, March 16, 2018, I delivered delivered a 3-hour seminar on VGBL in Foreign/Second Language Acquisition to an audience of approximately seventy first-year students in Modern Languages in Prof. Elisa Corino’s Didattica delle Lingue Moderne course at Università degli Studi di Torino, my Alma Mater.

• On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, I delivered one presentation (Video Games & Learning in Higher Education) and two workshops (Video Game-Based Learning in Higher Education; Video Games in Second/Foreign Language & Culture Acquisition) at the “Lehre und Lernen” E-Learning Conference (Teaching and Learning Days) at the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt, Austria.

• On Thursday, June 14, 2018, I presented the paper “Teaching Italian for Gamers – A Textbook Project” in the session “Teaching Italian with (Video) Games” at the American Association of Italian Studies conference in Sorrento, Italy. I was also the co-organizer of the session with Dr. Brandon Essary, Elon University.

Publications
• I published the invited article “Assassin’s Creed Taught Me Italian: Video Games and the Quest for Foreign Language Acquisition” in Profession, the Journal of the Modern Language Association: https://profession.mla.hcommons.org/2018/03/22/assassins-creed-taught-me-italian/

• I submitted final revisions for “Using Video Games to Teach Italian Language & Culture: Useful, Effective, Feasible?” that will appear in NEMLA Italian Studies XXXIX special issue “The Italian Digital Classroom: Italian Culture and Literature through digital tools and social media.” Expected publication date: fall 2018.

• I submitted three short chapters (1,000-2,000 words each): Assassin’s Creed; The Invisible Hours; Rise of the Tomb Raider, accepted for inclusion in “Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom,” ETC Press/Carnegie Mellon. Expected publication date: spring 2019.

Media Reception and Interviews

My research and teaching practices were quoted in stories about teaching Italian through gaming that ran in Variety, Science Daily, Newswise, Eurekalert, La Stampa (Italian national newspaper), TGCom24 (Italian national TV news/website), IGN Italia, Forbes Italia, Brightsurf, Der Standard (Austrian national newspaper), Movies with Butter, Bioportfolio, PhysOrg, Science Magazine, India Today, Business Standard, The Asian Age, Tribune India, Deccan Chronicle, Hindustan Times, The University Network, St. Louis Magazine, El Mercurio, Fibonacci, Mastergame, Mid-day News, Multiplayer, Everyeye, the Google News feed, and more.
– On 4/29/18 I was interviewed in French by Radio Canada – Channel One. The interview can be found here: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/dessine-moi-un-dimanche/segments/entrevue/69870/simone-bregni-enseignement-italien-apprentissage-langues
– On 5/1/18, my course and research at SLU were mentioned on Radio Monte Carlo (Italian language radio station in the Principauté de Monaco) in the show: “Kay is in the air,” as well as on Radio Erft—Germany.
– On 5/5/18, I was interviewed on Radio Cusano Campus, the radio of Niccolò Cusano University ( https://www.unicusano.it/ ), a private institution in Rome and Milan, as part of their show “Giochi a fumetti”: https://t.co/OWVAbuhJ2K
– On 6/9/18, I was interviewed by the Italian national private radio station Radio Deejay as part of the program MegaJay about my research and teaching on video game-based learning at Saint Louis University. The interview, in Italian, is available here: https://www.deejay.it/audio/20180609-7/565158/ [40:37-43:40; comments: 46:50-54:20]
– On 6/28/18 an interview article was published by Altagram, a video game localization company based in Germany, on their company blog: https://altagram.com/learning-languages-through-gaming-interview-with-simone-bregni/
I would like to thank the SLU College of Arts & Sciences, the Reinert Center, and the Madrid Campus. I would also like to thank the NYU Madrid Campus; the Spring Hill College Bologna Campus; my alma mater, Università degli Studi di Torino; Villa Nazareth in Rome; and the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt, Austria.

Photo: Dr. Bregni with 5th year students from Istituto Enogastronomico “Penna” in San Damiano d’Asti, Italy – April 2018

My Altagram Interview & More Great Video Games that Should Be Localized in Additional Languages (Italian included, Of Course) [But are Great for ESL]

Microsoft, Nintendo, Non-serious gaming, PlayStation, Sony, Switch, Video Game Localization, Video Game-Based Language Learning, Video Games in Foreign Language Teaching & Learning, Xbox

I was delighted when Altagram (altragram.com) approached me a few weeks ago about an interview for their website/company blog. My research and teaching practices are based on commercially-available video games with high-quality localization in multiple languages. The fact that a company such as Altagram showed interest in my work gave me an awareness of related areas that my research on video game-based learning and foreign language (& culture) acquisition might impact.

In my interview (available here:
https://altagram.com/learning-languages-through-gaming-interview-with-simone-bregni/)
I make two main points:

I) Some excellent current games are, alas, not localized in Italian (nor in other major languages). Such is the case of  [quotes from the Altagram interview]:

a) “Square Enix’s Life is Strange [….] is an excellent portrayal of the life of American teens in a small, Northwestern US coastal town. Life is Strange has not been fully localized in Italian, which is really unfortunate, because I would have loved to use it in my courses, since it has many topics that would “speak” to my student population, and, more importantly, it provides opportunities to discuss and develop empathy.” [Same goes for the two other games currently out and taking place in the Life is Strange universe: Life is Strange – Before the Storm, and Captain Spirit]. 

b) Tequila Works’ The Invisible Hours: “I am also disappointed that the amazingly innovative and well-written The Invisible Hours by Tequila Works has not been fully localized in Italian. But for ESL students it is an excellent learning tool: being able to observe lip movements up close and personal, especially in VR mode on PlayStation VR, greatly enhances listening comprehension, especially given the in-game ability to review and fast-forward time at will.”

“[…]not all games are fully localized as I feel they should be. Full localization is an investment that I believe all companies should make. The interest that my research and teaching practices have generated (as of today, they have been mentioned in ninety news sources of various kinds, for general audiences, educators and gamers, all over the world) show that there currently is a high interest in video games as learning devices for foreign languages and cultures.

II) The localization of lip-syncing

“I believe that the next frontier of localization will be the localization of lip-syncing also. The market of commercially-available games as foreign language learning devices may be exploding soon, as I am inclined to believe given the positive response I received regarding my research and teaching. This spring semester I was on sabbatical in my native country Italy, and while delivering presentations and workshops at a number of European institutions, I met a number of young men and women who instantly connected with what I was talking to them about, games as foreign language tools, because those kids had experienced exactly the same: they noticed that their foreign language skills improved rapidly while playing video games.

Currently, I believe that the Assassin’s Creed series [by Ubisoft] and games by Quantic Dream are excellent examples of strong localization, which, to me, is much more than “simple” translation. High-quality localization makes every single in-game data and reference fully understandable and accessible to people from other cultures.”

Other excellent examples of video game localization are the 2013-present day Tomb Raider series by Square Enix and the Syberia series by Microïds. The latter has the merit of being suitable for most ages; it is also available also on Nintendo Switch; and it is fully localized in a wide selection of languages (out-of-the-box; the US version of Syberia I, which I own, includes Italian, German and Russian besides the “usual” English, Spanish and French).

PS: Italian Gamers who are familiar with the Final Fantasy series will catch a little typo (which I became aware of, and pointed out tonight): it was FF VIII, not VII [which was alas not localized in Italian until much later. My memory of events that happened 18-20 years ago is not as good as it used to be ;-)]
EDIT on 5/7/18: Thank you Julia Pazos at Altagram for approaching me about the interview. It was a pleasure. And thank you for your prompt edits. 

IMAGE: Life is Strange – Square Enix
Original Image by Spinoziano – PlayStation 4 PlayStation Store screen capture; Copyrighted, https://it.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6161721

The Best Multi-Language Video Games for Foreign/Second Language Learning (Autonomous & Course-Based – Ratings Teen/M-18) – Part 1

Microsoft, PlayStation, Video Game-Based Language Learning

In my research and teaching practices with video-game based learning I have identified a number of cinematic games that are currently on the market that I believe are ideal for foreign language learning. They all feature appealing, complex narratives, possess a task-based, problem-solving orientation, and present full voice-acted conversations between characters. These are all features that aid in stimulating learning and organizing group interactions in the language classroom setting. In my experience, they can also be successfully used for autonomous learning by second/foreign language students, starting from the ACTFL Novice-Mid level (which roughly corresponds to two semesters of foreign language in college, or two years in high-school).

This blog post focuses on games which I have personally used in the foreign language classroom. The games are multi-lingual, meaning that they have been localized in a fairly large number of languages (including Italian, which is my professional focus). These games go above and beyond the “usual” English, Spanish and French, which is the norm for games sold in North-America and, often, Europe. These are all games for mature teens and above,

Since the early 2000s, engaging, fully voice-acted narratives have become the hallmark of interactive digital stories in commercial video games. All the main games in the Assassin’s Creed (AC) series by Ubisoft lend themselves very well to game-based activities in second/foreign language & culture courses. The first game in the series, AC: Altair’s Chronicles (2008), took full advantage of technical advancements afforded by the new, at the time, generation of consoles (PlayStation (PS) 3, Xbox 360 and more powerful Windows PCs), presented players with a historical fiction that unfolded in an action-adventure, open world video game. The success was such that the game turned into a series, which at presents counts nine episodes plus a number of supporting “side stories,” each set in different eras and regions of the world. Other recent incarnations of game series that began in the late 1990s such as Tomb Raider have also recently evolved into full voice-acted, complex narratives.

Among the current or recent games, those that represent the best fully interactive, multi-media digital narrative “anime cinematic games” for foreign language & culture courses (senior year of high-school and college) are:

Heavy Rain; Beyond: Two Souls (known in Italy as Beyond: Due anime) (respectively, 2010 and 2013 for the PS3, and 2016 for the PS4 version); and the recent Detroit: Become Human (PS4), developed by Quantic Dream and Sony exclusives.

Assassin’s Creed – The Series, by Ubisoft. I personally worked specifically with the three chapters that take place in Renaissance Italy, which have allowed me to also deliver accurate cultural elements to my Italian language & culture college courses.  [Assassin’s Creed II, for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS (2009-2016); and its direct sequels, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, for PS 3, PS 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS (2010-2016); and Assassin’s Creed Revelations (for PS 3, PS 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS (2011-2016)]

Tomb Raider, by Square Enix for PS 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows (2013) and its direct sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, initially an Xbox One exclusive (2015), and now available also for PS4 and PC. A new chapter, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, has been announced for fall 2018.

These are all games that I have used in my class instruction. They, in my view, present the best scenario for F/L2 acquisition. The games I select, besides having engaging narratives (with AC II, AC Revelations and AC Brotherhood even offering outstanding overviews of Italian Renaissance culture), also conform to my own personal rules on teaching through video games, that is, no war games nor any horror games. While there is some graphic violence in all games, they are still suitable for the average college student population, with ratings ranging from Teen through Mature (18+).

Some of the games I have mentioned date back as far as 2008. Keeping up to date with the latest video game offerings is not a requirement. In the gaming world, “retro” is cool. Also, we should bear in mind that given the Teen/Mature ratings of those games (or other similar games); many of our present-day students would not have been of suitable age to have experienced those games when they were first available. An additional advantage in using older games is that many of them are available at a much cheaper price than current releases, and often via convenient digital delivery.

The primary reason I chose and recommend the above mentioned games, however, is because they all have a higher emphasis on storytelling/narrative, animated scenes and voice acting, and more “casual gamer” oriented gameplay that does not require much in terms of previous experience with gaming. Any student can potentially take the controller and proceed through a section of the game. This is even more likely for students with some gaming experience, which at this point in time is the most likely scenario with our students.

NOTE: This blog post is a revised/edited/paraphrased extract from an upcoming publication.

Image: Assassin’s Creed II by Ubisoft.