[Hotel Dusk] Game evaluation & possible use in a drama context

Late one afternoon in February an excited, inspired Drama probationer arrived in my classroom. She, as well as other Aberdeenshire probationer teachers, had just received a presentation on Games-Based Learning by the Aberdeenshire GLOW team. She’d been tipped off that I was into GBL and wanted to know more about how games consoles could be used in class to inspire and motivate her pupils, as well as make the learning experience active instead of passive.

We discussed how a game could immerse pupils into scenarios based on the noir style of film making. I’ve already mentioned the sequence of events that led us to investigate Hotel Dusk, but wanted to record our thoughts on the positives and negatives of the game engine and how Hotel Dusk could be used in a drama classroom.

Hotel Dusk is an adventure game filled with puzzles in which you need to use the objects scattered around the eponymous hotel along with more than a bit of stubborn determination. Although solutions to the puzzles are usually logical, it is not always clear why some objects need to be used instead of other similar objects. The feedback is limited to phrases such as “Not going to get anywhere using this right now.” and I found myself reaching for the cheat sheet after two hours trying to solve the “electrical room problem”. Turns out I wasn’t using my DS properly, as I can use my finger and the stylus at the same time!

<< video 1 here soon >>

Unfortunately illogical or infuriating puzzles are not the only negative to the game. You cannot get out of conversations once you have started them and this can cause problems if you are running low on battery power. This happened to me a few times on the train and even if you save regularly you always start to run out of juice at the wrong moment. That said, the conversations are one of the best bits about the game – Kyle Hyde’s hard-boiled detective role has been extremely well written – or maybe that’s a disservice to the pulp genre – it’s written in an authentic way and provides excellent material for role-play in the drama classroom.

We discussed how to make best use of the game and came up with the following ideas:

  • filming sections of dialogue or action for pupils to start a scene from
  • using character profiles to create more authentic portayals
  • use save games (max 3 per cartridge) to allow pupils to choose own path through discussions / selected scene – similar idea to ergodic texts mentioned by Derek Robertson
  • filming pupils and somehow embedding them in sections of the game

We are now at the stage where a bid has been submitted to Aberdeenshire GLOW team for equipment to try this out in school, hopefully in the August-October term. Time will be given to allow groups of pupils to experience the game in greater depth but as I am 8 hours+ into my game and (I think) about half-way through there may not be enough time to allow pupils to play from start to finish. I’m now looking at ways to take flip camera footage and apply a filter to make students look like the hand-drawn characters in Hotel Dusk, any tips or suggestions would be gratefully appreciated!

Bradley and Kyle engage in open questioning

While I was looking for images to use in this blog post I found an article on using Hotel Dusk in an English context at Perth High School. It is well worth a read and contains a full walkthrough of the game in case you’re stuck! I spoke to Lisa Sorbie in April when beginning to investigate the game and her comments proved extremely useful when planning the direction of the project.


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