Henderson, Tennessee — (Dec. 15, 2023) — Freed-Hardeman University students in Dr. John McLaughlin’s Games in Literature course have spent the fall semester reading classics like
Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club,” leading discussions and having fun playing challenging games, some familiar and others new to them.
The idea for the class was something McLaughlin longed to do, so when Dr. Margaret Payne asked him if wanted to teach a special course, he knew the topic right away. “There are so many great things to read, so I selected a few repeats and some I would not normally do,” he said. “I know the students have enjoyed the readings, and, as someone who loves games and has played them all of my life, I want to show them how much fun that is.”
The weekly class, spanning nearly three hours, features occasional guest speakers, quizzes, student presentations and, most importantly, game sessions. These games are thematically linked to the weekly readings. For example, after discussing “The Joy Luck Club,” a novel in which the characters play Mahjong, a four-player game originating from China, students tried their hand at the game in November. In Mahjong, players shuffle tiles and take turns searching for matching pairs to complete a hand of 14 tiles, with the winner being the first to achieve this.
The class also delved into “The Girl Who Played Go,” a 2001 French novel by Shan Sa. Go is a game of strategy that requires players to acquire as much territory as possible.
Eric Cox, a senior English major, shared his thoughts on the course: “I enjoyed both the readings and the opportunity to engage with the games. It was a unique experience.” Ali Christian, also a senior English major, said “The Girl Who Played Go” was her favorite reading from the course, highlighting her enjoyment of dissecting the story. She also mentioned her appreciation for “Alice in Wonderland.”
In early November, the class read and discussed Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a favorite of junior Adeline Travis, a math major in the course who enjoyed the math humor in the story. Senior Danny Rich, a cybersecurity major, took the course for fun.
“It was interesting to talk about game theory, and I think the study is not too far off from how we work in cybersecurity,” he said. His favorite reading in the course was “A Study in Scarlet”
by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Senior English major Emma Robison and Whitney Goode, a senior elementary education major, gave a presentation and led the class discussion about “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
“Studying literature in the course really opened my perspective,” Goode said. The class played Codenames, a game that requires a “spymaster” to give one word clues to help a team guess a word on the board, which correlates to extreme wordplay involved in the story.
For the final project each student completed a major research project and presented their findings to their classmates. Some of the presentations included a study of gothic elements in the video game series “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” a discussion of Piaget’s ideas about games as epistemological structures as related to detective stories, focusing on the 2017 film “Murder on the Orient Express,” a study of the principles of social deduction games as those related to Alan Turing’s efforts to break the German Enigma code in World War II, papers about the role of games in “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner” and Jane Austen’s novels, a paper about the use of interactive educational games like Kahoot for English language learners, several original short stories, including a western that features a cheating poker player and an original game called “Plot Twist” designed to make learning facts about famous writers fun.
McLaughlin wanted to make sure his students not only had fun but were also prepared for the professional road ahead. “My goal for them was to strengthen their presentation skills and to let them practice speaking in front of groups by making weekly presentations,” he said. “They’re keeping up with the reading and they come in ready to go.”
The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees.