DEVICE 6

Inventive, interactive short story puzzles, scares, and delights

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

8–12

Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, English Language Arts

Price: Paid
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Pros: Interactive reading experience encourages close reading.

Cons: The narrative is a little too vague, and the ending may not satisfy everyone.

Bottom Line: Utterly unique, short experience packed with exploration, mysteries, and surprises, but will take inventive teacher to wrap around.

DEVICE 6 would certainly spice up any English literature, creative writing, or game development course, offering a rare narrative experience for students to ponder. As a discussion piece, students can learn about metafiction, theories of agency, and "concrete poetry." Students could also discuss how interactivity in digital games may be less volitional than we would like to think. What was the reason for the surveys after each chapter? If players' answers don't matter, what does that suggest? Why make a game about player agency? Outside the classroom, teachers could offer this reading experience to promote general reading comprehension and the applying of information. Teachers might also encourage students to dive into the world of interactive fiction (IF) and experiment with creating their own playable stories using a tool such as Twine.

DEVICE 6 is an interactive short story app that features puzzles and riddles. Players follow the heroine, Anna, who wakes up in what appears to be an unfamiliar and abandoned castle, with only faint memories of a creepy doll in her head. Players navigate Anna through the story by scrolling left, right, up, and down -- which often requires rotating the device. The text scrolls itself, making it easy to visualize Anna walking down a dark hallway. This creates an awareness of physicality and space, and it's all wonderfully presented in '60s visual style and flair. By solving puzzles, players get to continue reading, which is the same as getting to move Anna to new areas. The puzzles themselves can be difficult, but solutions are never not readily accessible, somewhere, in the text, pictures, recordings, or occasional video clips. This encourages close reading and examination of the text and specific words and phrases that might later prove to be clues. The story and atmosphere are decidedly horror-themed, but there is no gore, and the violence that is present is limited. There are some minor references to violence and a more than mild death scene at the end of the story. Expect some references to tobacco in an uncritical light.

The inventive textual exploration alone makes this game well worth playing. DEVICE 6 successfully marries the act of reading with navigation, and the text becomes a literal map of the castle. This all makes playing the game enjoyably immersive. The mystery is intriguing, and, while creepy, it's not so horrifying that most learners won't be able to handle it. The puzzles are the meat of the game, and they require intensive close reading of the text. Side stories include valuable information and clues, and often clues only become evident after thorough exploration of the words. The puzzles are challenging but fair; however, there's little in-app support. For that, students will need to check out the written and video walkthroughs available online. There are different textual pathways to explore and unlock, pictures and recordings and clues to decipher, and riddles to ponder. While DEVICE 6 isn't an instructional tool (it's literature, after all), it's nevertheless worth the short experience, featuring a rich and mysterious world and a truly unique way of interacting with text that'll definitely get students engaged.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

The slick and innovative interface make reading this short story puzzler incredibly satisfying. Some of the puzzles may prove difficult for younger players.

Pedagogy

The learning value here is much like any other short story -- textual analysis, reading comprehension, and the like. However, the embedded puzzles also weave in some light deduction and logic and encourage close reading.

Support

No in-game support, but plenty of online walkthroughs are available, along with various fan interpretations of the story.

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