Narrative World Building: Creative Applications for Gamification in Study Abroad


  • Ashley Lear Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University



Gamification, humanities, narrative world, pedagogy, study abroad


This study examined a cohort of 12 study abroad participants taking a course on video game topography and narrative in Salamanca, Spain, to determine how inhabiting and co-creating narrative worlds as part of the coursework might impact the experiences of the students inside and outside of the classroom as they engaged in mandated and optional cultural engagement activities, such as museum tours and excursions to historical sites. Students completed two gameful learning activities: 1) they co-created their own narrative game world in a group game proposal assignment drawing upon research from storytelling through game environments, and 2) they created independent digital journals of their experiences through the perspective of a gaming avatar chosen at the beginning of the course. Results from pre- and post-self-report surveys indicate that the game proposal assignment allowed students to develop stronger connections with one another while conducting research that gave them additional context for their cultural surroundings. However, those same students criticized participation in pre-defined environments or activities within the photo journal assignment that they perceived to lack authenticity. Future iterations of similar course designs should establish the course content and context as a foundation before enabling students to co-author the course’s game narrative. Assessment of learning outcomes beyond self-reports is also recommended.

Abstract in Spanish

Este estudio examinó a una cohorte de 12 estudiantes de intercambio estudiando una clase de topografía y narrativa de videojuegos en Salamanca, España, para determinar como habitar en y cocrear estos mundos basados en la narrativa, parte del trabajo de la clase, podría impactar la experiencia de los estudiantes dentro y fuera de la clase mientras participan en actividades culturales mandatorias y opcionales como visitas a museos y excursiones a lugares históricos. Los estudiantes completaron dos actividades de aprendizaje lúdicas: 1) cocrearon y presentaron una propuesta sobre su propio juego basado en la narrativa, gracias a investigación sobre la narración de historias condicionada por el entorno y 2) crearon diarios digitales independientes documentando sus experiencias desde la perspectiva del avatar creado para el juego y elegido al principio de la clase. Resultados de encuestas tomadas antes y después indican que trabajar en una propuesta sobre sus propios videojuegos permitió a los estudiantes desarrollar conexiones más fuertes entre ellos mientras hacían investigación que les ofreció contexto adicional de su entorno cultural. Aunque esos mismos estudiantes criticaron la participación en entornos predefinidos o actividades de la tarea del diario sobre los que sintieron falta de autenticidad. Futuras iteraciones de cursos diseñados similarmente deberían establecer el contenido y contexto del curso como base antes de permitir a los estudiantes coescribir la narrativa de juego de la clase. Asesoramiento de los resultados de aprendizaje más allá de encuestas es recomendado.


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Author Biography

Ashley Lear, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Ashley Lear is a Professor Humanities at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She teaches courses in American and Russian Literature, as well as seminars for the campus Honors Program in science fiction and video game storytelling. Her book, The Remarkable Kinship of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Ellen Glasgow is available from UP of Florida. 


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How to Cite

Lear, A. (2024). Narrative World Building: Creative Applications for Gamification in Study Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 36(1), 499–530.



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