Updated: Jan 30, 2021
What's going on everyone?
Before winter break I had decided to teach a lesson on dialogue choices using the video game Emily is Away. You can read about that lesson here. That game focuses on a relationship between two high school friends as they depart for college. My students really enjoyed it, so I decided to teach another lesson about relationships using the wonderfully bittersweet video game Florence, from the developer Mountains. You can find the lesson plan and materials here.
Florence is a mobile game so you will need to find a way to project it in the front of your room while one student plays on a phone. I had my phone connected to a Promethean screen in the front of the room via an HDMI adapter. Something like this. It would be difficult to play together otherwise.
This game was not taught in one of my normal classes. Instead I chose to play it in my Advisory class, which is more about having social emotional check-ins with my students. The Aim of the lesson is for them to answer the question, "What can we learn from failed relationships?" To many people this may seem silly, but many students and even adults do not handle break ups well.
"Florence is the story of a young woman and the heartracing highs and heartbreaking lows of her very first love." It tells this story through a number of small easy to solve puzzles. There are zero spoken words in the game which made it very accessible to my students, whom are English Language Learners. The game also relies heavily on music and colors to convey the mood and feelings of the two characters in the game. It's also a very realistic portrayal of the ups and downs of a relationship. Spoilers; the relationship doesn't last. That's okay since most relationships don't last forever. What is important is how one moves on after experiencing a breakup with someone whom they thought they could spend the rest of their life with.
The game is told in six acts, each of which contains several chapters. I figured the best way to teach this lesson was to have the students answer one question per act. The first three acts are really about introducing the two main characters: Florence and Krish, and building up the relationship between them. One of my favorite aspects of the game is introduced in Act two when Florence and Krish go on their first date. The conversation is told through a series of jigsaw puzzles. Each time you want Florence to say something you must complete a little puzzle first. One of my students noted in question two that "the puzzles represent the distance for Florence to get to know the person. Overtime, the puzzles were getting easier so that is can show easier the conversations between them were getting as well as the trust to each other." For many people, holding a conversation with someone new can be really challenging. Through its visual storytelling, this game was able to convey that these conversations become easier overtime as you become more comfortable with someone.
From here, Florence and Krish begin a long healthy relationship where they improve each others' lives. Another student mentioned in question 3 that "they encourage each other to do what they love the most and experience life together." They travel together, Florence makes Krish pursue an education in music, and Krish buys Florence a paint set since she is an aspiring artist who is currently working at a boring office job.
We see the two characters move in together and live happily for several months. The students noticed that they had to "remove things to make and create space for each other." Many of the students in my room, some of whom have already considered moving in with significant others, admitted that this was something they had not thought of yet (My students are a bit older than the norm so this is a thing at my school). Moving in with someone is not easy and both partners will need to make sacrifices. Another important aspect of this act was how Florence became more productive in her normal life outside of the relationship. "She is happy to go to her job. . . She is working more faster." This part allowed students to make connections to their own lives and reflect how they often do better in school when their home life is better.
The relationship deteriorates in act five. In a similar fashion as the puzzles in the beginning of the game that showed Florence and Krish getting closer, puzzles in this section show how they drift apart. "The pieces were drifting away from each other as the relationship breaks apart." "The puzzles represent how their relationship is slightly changing. The creators had them break up to show the reality of relationships after they get tired of each other." These things happen and it was really special to hear my students speak openly about how they have reacted in similar circumstances.
Like in real life, Florence is able to move on after breaking up with Krish. It is not easy, but she manages to put the fragments of her life back together. She doesn't just get back on her feet. She actually ends up better off than before, or even during, her relationship. Krish pushed her to pursue her dream of being an artist and she finally decides to take the plunge after some self reflection. From here the students answered the Aim which was "How can we learn from failed relationships?" In the 4 examples I provided above their answers were (I am going to help a little with the English since there are some errors that can impede comprehension). . .
That over time you can grow and be a better person and your dreams can be possible.
We can learn that sometimes not all relationships can end up in marriage. You still have good fragments that can give you happiness from the other person.
We can learn to be stronger and don't give up your dreams because it can still be good.
That the Florence start to paint again became an artist and continued living and created new pictures.
I cannot recommend this game enough. Not just as a means of teaching, but something you should play for yourself. It only takes about 35-40 minutes to play through the whole story. It conveys so much by doing so little and acts as a perfect entry point for someone who is not really familiar with video games in general. It is absolutely unique and this is a game I want people to know more about.
Thanks for reading,