Digital Games for the Writing Process

Welcome back to another edition of the TESOL Games and Learning blog. To kick off this month’s post, I wanted to encourage everyone to visit the new Ludic Language Pedagogy journal by James York and Jonathan DeHann. The journal strives to encompass all forms of play and how teachers support that play through their classroom practice. Check it out or, even better, submit an article!

Since we are on the topic of journals and article writing, this month’s post highlights several digital games that can be integrated into your writing classroom.  These are all single-player games which engage students in a storyline that makes for interesting writing prompts.


Quandary is a sci-fi themed game designed to “develop critical thinking and perspective-taking, practice empathy, and learn to make ethical decisions through fun and engaging gameplay” (Quandary, 2019). The story occurs at a remote human colony on the planet Braxos. As captain of the colony, the player is tasked with settling disputes and achieving compromise.

For language learners, the game is a well-crafted introduction into discourse as players must listen to colonists and determine what is an opinion, a fact, or a solution to the current problem. Rich illustrations and audio versions of the dialogue provide support for language learners as they learn to differentiate between the opinions of the colonists and the facts of the problem at hand. For students learning to write papers, Quandary can be an engrossing way to learn how identify argument structures.


Sid Meiers, creator of the famed Civilization series of games, once define games as a series of interesting choices. Spent is a prime example of that definition. Spent is part of a genre of games referred to as serious games. These games strive to do more than entertain, but teach or inform the player about real-world issues. In Spent, the issue is poverty.

The game takes place over 30 days, and players must last until the end of the month. Starting with US$1000 and a low-paying job, the players must decide on housing costs, transportation, and health care. After each decision point in the game, players are provided with a related fact. Each day of the game the players are presented with decisions that have a direct impact on their well-being and bank account. Miss work because your kid is sick? Pay an overdue bill or buy groceries? In Spent there are no easy answers.

In the classroom, students could keep journals documenting their days and the decisions they make. Afterwards, students could compare experiences or engage in classroom research as they investigate the facts the game provides. It’s important to note that Spent covers a topic that may be too familiar to some students. Still, it can provide a way to open up a classroom dialogue around poverty by creating a fictional context that may be easier for students to discuss when compared to real-world examples.

Elegy for a Dead World

Unlike the other two games featured this month, Elegy for a Dead World is not a free-to-play game, but it may be worth buying a classroom copy.

The game originated out of the developer’s love of British poets and features the works of Byron, Shelley, and Keats. Players explore the lonely worlds of Elegy and wander across writing prompts. These prompts are half completed verses from the poets, and the players are encouraged to fill in the blanks with ideas inspired by the game’s rich otherworldly artwork.

As the developers note, these writing prompts are there to encourage the writing process and to help writers learn to write themselves out of a corner. At the end of a writing level, players have the option to upload their writing and share it with the world.

Each of these games has great potential to encourage your students to write, and though there isn’t enough room in this blog to cover all the classroom potential of these games, there is room in the comments. If you have used these games, share what you’ve done. Want to learn more about them? Ask away in the comments! Or share other games you enjoy using in your writing classroom.

Until next month, play more games!

About Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn is the director of esports at Ohio University. He frequently delivers talks and keynote addresses on games and learning, game design, and the need for games literacy in educators. He is one of the founding moderators of the Electronic Village Online’s Minecraft MOOC, a community of practice for teachers learning to use Minecraft in the classroom. He has served on the TESOL CALL-IS steering committee, as the Gaming Special Interest Group chair for CALICO, and in the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Specialist program. His research interests include game-based learning, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.
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One Response to
Digital Games for the Writing Process

  1. sujatha says:

    That’s an outstanding idea. Learners can really get engaged with a lot of interest and enhance their skills. I can use it for my soft skills classes.

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