Module 6 – Digital Storytelling and Games

Oregon Trail!  Podcasts! Twine! This week’s module included so many components and topics that are near-and-dear to my heart and through all of it weaves the topic of storytelling. In our class discussion we were asked, “how are history and storytelling different and complimentary?” I would argue that storytelling is a component of presenting history and is especially important for engaging the public.  Incorporating narrative and storytelling elements into research often makes a work more readable and accessible to those outside of academia. I attempted to do that when I wrote about “The Great Virginia Flood of 1870.”[1]  Although it could always be improved upon, my writing appears to have been successful for engaging a local audience. One of my friends who is a nurse recently had a patient that was reading my book. My friend told her patient that she went to high school with the author which prompted the patient to start reading “favorite passages” to her. It’s one of the most rewarding stories I’ve received as a local, public historian. It makes me incredibly happy to know that the narrative element was successful for holding the reader’s attention. That said, there are so many other mediums besides books, and we got to look at (and hear!) a few good examples of digital history that incorporate storytelling in their mediums.

For some audiences, interactive gameplay can also be a good medium to teach aspects of history. When I was a kid, I learned more about the Oregon Trail from the game than reading or in class. I appreciated having that game included in this week’s activities. It was a good piece of nostalgia. However, I had a moment of feeling old when I learned a few of my classmates had not played this one before.  A few years ago, the card game came out and that revived some interest, but it didn’t have the same feel. I guess there really is an Oregon Trail generation.

I love podcasts because they’re so easily accessible.  Often, I like to have a podcast on at work while multitasking.  The narrative element makes it easy to follow, while also learning a bit and if it’s a topic I’m really interested in, I can jump into readings later (not that I’m able to do that while taking classes). There are times that I wish more academic readings were available as audiobooks. For some reason, it’s often easier for me to listen to a work than focus on reading.  I ended up listening to all three recommended podcasts for this week. “Eden to Ashes”, this disaster history that discussed the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 was my favorite.[2] “Zooming Ahead,” while interesting, was also a bit on the frustrating side as the in-person teaching bias of Dr. Zimmerman came through.[3] I completely understand that when the pandemic first happened and some professors were struggling to learn how to post lectures, etc., certain online learning elements were unideal.  However, Zoom and online classes have been the best thing ever for me and I’m dreading the return to in-person. Interviewing another professor with a positive online teaching experience would have balanced this topic.

Finally, I was so excited to learn Twine and would love to know more about using it for non-linear digital history storytelling.  I plan on picking up “Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives” and learning more about this creating more in-depth narrative projects.[4] My little Twine adventure involved a Saturday afternoon trip to the thrift store and a few haunted items. I had a blast creating it and plan on adding it to my Reclaim account for easier sharing. I shared this project with a few friends, and they all cracked up at the record section.  What was your favorite part of this week?

I found this Chia Pet in a Thrift Store a few weeks ago and it inspired part of the Twine Adventure.


[1] Paula F. Green, The Great Virginia Flood of 1870, The History Press, 2020.  (I feel like such a dork citing myself…oof.)

[2] “Eden to Ashes,” Consolation Prize, https://consolationprize.rrchnm.org/episode-8-eden-to-ashes/, Accessed September 27, 2021.

[3] “Zooming Ahead: How Virtual Learning is Shaping the College Classroom,” Backstory, https://www.backstoryradio.org/shows/zimmerman-teaching/ Accessed September 27, 2021.

[4] Anastasia Salter and Stuart Moulthrop, Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives, Amherst College Press, 2021.


  • Julie Goforth


    Good for you for citing yourself! It is not self-serving when you are making a point and, you have a great accomplishment in having a book published. I happen to love natural disaster stories and have read books about the Toccoa (Georgia) and Johnstown floods. I think I like the hindsight of seeing how circumstances and decisions played out to make something happen that was totally unforeseen and how people dealt with it. I can’t go near a dam withough thinking about it breaking – probably not a good thing though. At any rate, I will probably read your book since it looks fascinating and I didn’t know about this flood.

    Good point about podcasts. I tend to forget about them when thinking about digital storytelling since I ususally think of the visual aspects of a computer but I love podcasts and they have a great void to fill when you want to listen to something but have to look at something else, like work or where you are walking 🙂

    • admin

      Hi Julie! Thank you! If you end up reading it, please let me know what you think. It was the gateway research that made me want to study historic disasters, relief efforts, and public health. The 1870 flood is still a part of public memory in Page County, VA, where I initially heard about it through stories my grandfather told me. I also love podcasts! It makes my day go by faster when I have one on in the background or while driving.

  • James Beveridge

    The Zoom podcast really stood out. I get that there are those who have issues with Zoom as a teaching mechanism. But at the same time, it’s pointless to be a luddite with it given the times we’re in right now. Zoom has been tremendously helpful for me given that I live out west. Aside from having to factor in time zone differences, I’m really thankful that Zoom has allowed me to participate fully in these classes. Ideally, my hope is that GMU will continue online courses next semester and I can finish my final course. Also, any adventure that involves anything Golden Girls related is an instant win in my book.

    • admin

      James, I’m 100% with you in hoping that classes will continue online. It’s been so convenient! I have my fingers crossed that you can take the last classes you need without having to come back to campus. Also, the Golden Girls are the best. 🙂

  • Ellie

    I likewise agree that the listen-ability of podcasts makes them ideal for multitasking. Podcasts also can fulfill the narrative/non-narrative aspect we discussed in class last week. Since many podcasts present a narrative, editors can change the story order to make the chronological narrative more compelling. Likewise, the narrative element of podcasts is a potential new frontier for teaching: like you suggest, academic papers recorded audially allow people who focus more while listening than reading to absorb that material. Maybe this is another way to make academic publishing more egalitarian, to have them available publicly. I hope that the current discussion of games will continue to permeate the traditional academic landscape and there will be more formats for education available.

  • Timmia King

    This was very fun blog post to read and great snap form the the twine story. There were really a lot of fun elements included in this week module. My favorite part was playing the games make me think I should play more historical games instead of just casual. I have never been much of a podcast listener myself, always more for reading though I really like when audio, video or picture enhance the text to an extent. I even found myself wanting to read the transcript of the one I listened to. But it was new experience, and I do think I will listen to more podcast when I cannot read. I think that is a good point you bought up about having more academic text on audiobooks though I do wonder what would be a good balance between listening and getting other things done. Good point about storytelling being a part of presenting history, I also think it makes engaging an audience easier.

  • Gail V Coleman

    I was interested in your comments on history and storytelling. I agree that storytelling is the best way to engage non-historians. If you can do it well, I’m so impressed! But I disagree with the idea that history is really storytelling. It is so much more! Lately I’ve been reading books that have a lot of little microhistories wrapped in a bigger more analytical history project.

    I haven’t gotten into podcasts. I know I should. I have so little time for pleasure reading that I listen to books in the car, when playing solitaire, when cooking, etc., but usually mysteries or for my bookgroup. I also quit much earlier if I’m not engaged.

    • admin

      Hi Gail! I agree that history is not JUST storytelling (it doesn’t even have to include storytelling for some projects), but it’s a useful component to engage the public. I’m not sure if I actually do the storytelling part well, but it made my heart full to hear about someone who thought so. I also love microhistories and wish I had time to read for fun. That’s one of the things I miss about having free time. 🙂 I am such a slow reader and get easily distracted, which is a horrible problem to have in grad school when it’s time sensitive.

  • Hayley Madl

    I am also planning to pick up Twining: Critical and Creative Approaches to Hypertext Narratives! I really enjoyed this module and how it forced us to think of the role of narrative and storytelling within history as a discipline. As someone who really enjoys choice-based story games, I think Twine was my favorite part of this week. The simplicity of the interface combined with its customization options could allow for such dynamic stories to be told, especially in a non-linear format! I really want to experiment with a platform like this in telling historical stories. It’ll be an opportunity to combine my creative writing skills with my historical skills!

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