Look, North, Examine Locker, Take Key….

The half term started as they usually do, an inspirational training day then in the car with a pile of marking. Being on Twitter 24/7 it never truly feels like a break, but that’s just not me anyway. I’m not happy unless I’m working on something (just the way my mind works!) 

I Tweeted asking for ideas for my revamped KS3 Scheme of Work and was introduced to IF by @KristianStill. I thought long and hard before replying “IF?” I really didn’t want to miss the obvious and look like an idiot but I really didn’t know what IF was. 

I remember back in the day using a BBC Micro and then a Spectrum +3 (the machine I learned to code in BASIC on) playing text adventure games using an array of textual commands to try and navigate my way through dungeons and castles whilst avoiding goblins and other nasty creatures. ZORK was always a favourite and I’ve played it several times since, It was even a task at Uni to play ZORK to underpin some theory we were studying.

Back to the Tweet, I headed off to www.textadventures.co.uk and found out that IF stood for Interactive Fiction, I subsequently downloaded Quest. Put simply, Quest in an amazingly clever piece of software for creating text adventures. After a quick tutorial from Kristian on the phone, I was off having a dabble at my first game. I started by initially creating three rooms, adding exits and dotting a few objects here and there. Before long, I’d grasped the basics, had my sleeves rolled up and was elbow deep in code. My game grew and I added a few neat features. After some initial feedback and amendments, I re-uploaded the game to the website. I am being intentionally vague about the contents of the game as I am hoping you’ll head on down and play on it online. The puzzles are not difficult to solve but the trick is not everything as as clear cut as it seems. If you want to give it a go you can play it online here

What now? Well today I introduced the idea at school and it looks as though we’ll be setting up a Professional Learning Community with the English dept to run with this in KS3.  The literacy benefit is going to be the biggest winner as well as engaging a whole group of pupils who may otherwise be challenging to motivate in the field of creative writing.

This is creative writing with dynamite attached!

I only scratched the surface with my game, after all, it took about 20 hours in total. The software is capable of very complex connotations to produce extremely challenging and interesting games. All you have to do is come up with the idea and creativity before getting your hands a little dirty. Personally I couldn’t put the software down, it was problem solving of a sort that was right up my street. The overriding urge to get the game just right almost made me forget I was writing creatively, oh, and not sleeping at the same time. (Lots of late nights hooked on problem solving tasks)

What’s Next for me and IF?

I will shortly be creating another game, smaller in size, to use as a working example to other members of the PLC as well as pupils who will be using it. I may even get my Digital Leaders on the job (after they’ve finished with Python that is!)

I would never have thought at the age of 13 that those cool fiction books where you turned to a specific page after selecting a choice would get so involved.

In schools, the subject of literacy is firmly at the forefront of everything we do (rightly in my opinion) and activities such as this will only aid in our efforts to improve the literacy of the young people in our care.

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