Product Review of Orwell’s Animal Farm
As the title suggests, Orwell’s Animal Farm is an animated interactive game based on George Orwell’s classic novel. At the outset, learners can choose from several languages for narration and text. The game sets the scene with the opening events and then lets players make decisions about what the animals should do in certain situations. For example, do they work, doubt, celebrate, question, run away, or do something else? Those decisions come in the form of a magnifying glass icon that the player drags to a character. With each decision, gameplay takes a turn that may or may not match what happens in the book. However, the main events remain the same in that the animals overthrow their oppressor, adopt Animalism as their philosophy of governance, and cede power to the pigs.
The story progresses through yearly cycles as the animals go from season to season completing the same tasks. Players can check stats along the way in the Handbook to see which characters they have encountered and which of several outcomes they’ve achieved. The game can end in a variety of ways, depending on the user’s choices. Then it’s possible to reset the game and play again, making different selections along the way.
As a pre-reading activity, learners can play Orwell’s Animal Farm to familiarize themselves with the characters and plot. Having some idea of what happens before reading the novel can help learners with vocabulary, characterization, and context. As a companion game, learners can play the game as they read the book in order to reinforce their comprehension of events. The opportunity to compare the novel with the choices they are making and see how the outcomes differ is sure to spark discussion among classmates.
For struggling readers, the game may be exceptionally helpful in obtaining background knowledge and being able to listen to and visualize the events described in the book. Although the game covers only the basics, it can be an excellent way to help readers take a more active role in class discussions and recognize events as they occur. Depending on how the learners play, they may not hit on all of the characters or outcomes, so educators should warn learners that it’s no substitute for reading the book. Obviously, the full text is much more nuanced and contains vocabulary and symbolism that the game doesn’t have. However, the app is a solid companion that may encourage learners to get immersed in Orwell’s classic novel. And, with current use of propaganda and “fake news,” Orwell’s work can help learners recognize that propaganda is a useful tool to control the masses and that an informed and literate society is of vital importance.
Orwell’s Animal Farm has strengths that lie in its ability to help learners visualize the story, hear the narrator, and see the outcomes of their decisions. Having to make frequent decisions encourages players to think critically and analyze outcomes, while narration, pictures, and interactive elements help engage learners in the plot. Teachers can pose questions about the consequences of the animals’ decisions to accept their leaders’ edicts without questioning their motives. This may help them contribute to a rich discussion as they fill in the gaps with details from the book, bringing digital age excitement to a classic that is both timeless and timely.
That said, the game experience itself can be confusing. There are no instructions that begin the game, so the mechanics and consequences of each choice are totally opaque. Even if a student has read the novel, the act of dragging the magnifying glass icon to a character — who expresses a certain reaction to events — isn’t at all clear at first. Game achievements and progress come in the form of stamps in the Handbook, though it’s not clear if the goal is to get all of those stamps and meet all of the characters, or not. Finally, the yearly cycle can get monotonous as it has the same narrations and animations. Learners will likely groan when a new year begins and they encounter the same choices. With more initial guidance, some supporting materials for educators, and less repetition, this game could reap more of what it sows.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Turning a 75-year-old classic into a game is a novel idea, and learners who enjoy gaming and reading graphic novels will appreciate the simulation and artistic angle.
Curriculum and Instruction
Although the game could use a bit more in terms of collaborative opportunities and clarity of purpose, it provides helpful context for the book’s plot and works great as a pre-reading or comparison tool.
Text is broken into smaller chunks with optional narration to support struggling readers, and it’s available in multiple languages, but more explanation and guidance would be helpful.