What's going on everyone?
Finding the right game to teach with can be tricky. You do not want it to be too long because class time is a precious commodity, but you also don't want it to be too complicated because not every student in the room will be adept at playing video games. Some games can be played together as a class, but giving each student a copy of the game to play is also a valuable experience. Web browser games are always the most accessible, but it can be difficult to find one that is legitimately worth using up the class time. Half, developed by Emma Kidwell, is a web browser game worth using. You can find the lesson plan for Half here. You can play the game for free here on Emma Kidwell's itch channel.
Half is a series of vignettes detailing the experience of being split between two identities and the invisible toll it takes. This game tells the story of a half white, half Japanese girl going through the motions of life. Emma does this by pulling from both good and bad personal memories. It offers an insight into what it means to have a multicultural identity and the challenges that may come with it. How do Emma’s peers treat and speak to her because of her race? What box would someone like Emma check when asked for her race? We need to be aware of these cases because as shown in the game, humans are not something that can easily be sorted into different categories.
The game itself is all text based. You read through a story that details different moments in Emma's life. Within each page are links to other vignettes that help reinforce a point being made in the previous section. Sometimes these stories offer an explanation for something that may not be understood by a wide audience and other times they offer examples of identity conflicts that Emma experiences.
Conflict of identity is the crux of this game. As teachers, we always want to be culturally responsive when we teach. Especially in a Humanities class such as English and Social Studies, many conversations in the classroom revolve around race, ethnicity, religion, and so on. While many teachers are doing a wonderful job of being culturally responsive instructors, there is still a group that often floats under the radar; people who are multiracial, or multicultural. Teaching about multiracial people can be difficult because they are not just one group of people. Someone who is multiracial can be any combination of different races or ethnicities. The experiences and identity of one person can be completely different from that of another. Each of them potentially experience the push and pull of two or more identities. Multiracial people can experience a conflict not readily present to those of a single race, or ethnicity.
Video games like Half can help get students thinking more critically about race. Especially in the context of the United States, where race and race relations are consistently at the forefront of political discourse. It can also help teach students about a group of people who have a very unique perspective of the world since they are, as Emma Kidwell puts it, "on the fringe of two identities.” My students beg for my opinion and perspective on every single topic we discuss and while I am completely open and honest with them, there are gaps in my knowledge of the daily intricacies of people of color in the United States. I am a white man teaching a class that is one hundred percent students of color, non of which are East Asian.
I never want to be the teacher that speaks on behalf of another race, or culture. I am completely confident in my ability to teach these topics, but I recognize the importance of providing texts written, or created, by the group that is being discussed in the classroom. Half is not just a game. It is a text touching upon the crises of identity that many people go through. It is a statement on how race is often a focal point of these conflicts through no fault of their own. Society has a way of treating people differently because of preconceived notions based on appearance alone. My students deal with these challenges every day but they, myself included, sometimes fall back to our biases because it is easier to do so than to think critically about each person we come in contact with. Emma Kidwell's Half can help make us all a little more self-aware.
Thanks for reading,
- If you like Half, please check out Emma Kidwell's page on itch. All her games are free, but send any support her way if you can.
- In other news, I've also created a support page for Hey Listen Games. If you like the work being done on this website please consider supporting its continuation. Or just subscribe! That's completely free.