Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Narrative, Games and the Oral Literacy Revolution

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Narrative, Games and the Oral Literacy Revolution

Article excerpt

Introduction

'I did without your special gifts your oh so special powers. And when I've finished saving the world I'll sell my inventions and everyone will be able to be super. And when everyone's super no one will be.' Syndrome, The Incredibles (Warner Bros., 2005)

The movie The Incredibles (Warner Bros 2005) looks at the role of the superhero in modern society. The life of the Incredibles is analogical to the sub-culture of young boys playing Yu- Gi-Oh, a many-media game produced by the Japanese company Konami. Syndrome wants to destroy superheroes by making everyone a superhero. Yu-Gi-Oh wants everybody to be a superhero but also retain the status that goes with it. Kim Balnaves, the author, is currently completing a doctoral thesis on how boys use Yu-Gi-Oh to 'world build' and become superheroes. Yu-Gi-Oh is a popular global television show, particularly with boys 7-15 years of age. The television show and associated games of Yu-Gi-Oh have cross-cultural appeal. Companies like Konami, however, have recognised that the game is more than a game, it is a transformational activity that allows boys to break out from societal norms in a way that other games do not.

The narrative of Yu-Gi-Oh is reminiscent of the superhero and god tales in Roman and Greek mythology. The stories from these historical periods as well as Egyptian heroes are referred to throughout the adventures of Yu-Gi-Oh. In the game of Yu-Gi-Oh children can participate in the narrative through playing the game and taking on the roles of the characters, both villains and heroes, through using their cards. They are given the ability to create their own world and the characters within it. The movie The Incredibles (Warner Bros 2005) looks at the role of the superhero in modern life and in many ways metaphorically depicts the role of games like Yu-Gi-Oh in modern society. This paper, using anecdotal evidence from fieldwork, discusses the role of the new superheroes for children in our society and how these superhero tales develop the motivation for children to develop higher order learning concepts through narrative and oral literacy.

The role of narrative in myth and ritual

The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairytale, and its highest function. The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn'.... is not essentially 'escapist,' nor 'fugitive.' J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories

In his 1939 Oxford lecture, On Fairy Stories, Tolkien created the word eucatastrophic as the opposite of tragedy in drama, as Tolkien held there was no word for the opposite of tragedy. A comedy, for example, can be a comedic tragedy. A true fairy story narrative always has the 'Consolation of the Happy Ending' (Tolkien 1977). Fairy stories, however, are not defined by any elf or fairy, 'but upon the nature of Faerie: the Perilous Realm' (1977).

Syndrome, the villain in The Incredibles movie, is a normal person who wants to be a superhero and invents contraptions that enhance his normal physical abilities. His aim is to threaten the world and at the same time save it, showing that he is a superhero. But he also wants to make everyone a superhero so that there are no superheroes. The Incredibles is interesting from this paper's perspective as it mirrors much of what is going on with digital narratives and children in the modern industrial state. Yu-Gi-Oh is one of the digital narratives available to children to use to break out of the mould of 'normal'. In The Incredibles the superheroes are perceived by society to be too expensive to support (because of legal actions from collateral damage to citizens and covering up identities). The superheroes are consequently returned to 'normal life'--everyone is normal, even though Bob, the main character and a superhero, covertly goes out and helps people. When Syndrome, the want-to-be superhero, threatens society, the superheroes return to save society and are thanked as a result. …

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