When we are young, our life is about repetition and experimentation. Much of our time is spent finding our limits and identifying what seems to make us happy. Because of this, it’s very important to have someone to look up to. Our role models can even be fictional, and as gaming becomes the media of choice for more and more, those role models can shape and inspire kids of the Millenial
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending my first afternoon as a volunteer tutor at the Wordplay Creative Writing Center in downtown Cincinnati. I arrived just upon opening, and Arisean, my student for the afternoon, was there too. It was also his first day at the center, so we were both able to learn the flow of the day, ground rules, and about each other together. He shared with me his two biggest passions: math and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Since he was a new student, he was able to decorate his personal binder with a front panel insert. Of course, he started by drawing Sonic and the seven Chaos Emeralds. While he worked, he began describing to me all about the recent history of the Sonic games, along with his ideas for Sonic’s long lost brother, Shadow. He told me all about his powers, his super form, and that he was black with green stripes. It was so heart-warming to see Arisean constructing his own member of an existing fictional family. It seemed that Wordplay was going to be just the right place for him.
After some homework and a reading activity, Arisean took some blank paper and began to write on one of the many typewriters at Wordplay. I joined him on another typewriter close by, as I hadn’t used a manual one in probably 15 years. He started to write about how he liked Wordplay and me, and all about other details of his first day’s experience. When I was getting ready to leave for the day, I let the organizer know about his experience and his ideas about Zero the Hedgehog. She was absolutely thrilled, and Arisean joined some of the other children in the Creative Writing Group. In that group, instead of giving kids a specific writing activity to focus on, they allow creative kids with ideas to write drafts of their own stories.
Would an analytical kid like Arisean ever have been interested in creative writing if it were for his experience with the Sonic franchise? With so many schools cutting everything but the most basic activities required due to budget constraints, it isn’t surprising to me that children would imagine their own additions to their favorite games. With all of the bad press that gaming seems to bear in mainstream media it’s nice to interact with real gamers; kids and adults who use these gaming IPs as springboards for creative thinking and art production. I believe in the huge impact of Wordplay’s program on children in inner city Cincinnati, and I look forward to working more with Arisean, other students, and in the soon to start WordUp program for high school freshmen and sophomores who need a tutor, mentor, and friend.
Wordplay Creative Writing Center: http://wordplaycincy.org/