Intersections: The Nintendo Classroom

by: Prof. Sara Cordeiro Alexandre

Do you love video games? What about board games? Have you ever thought about using video games to teach English? Did you know that you can combine video games and English Language teaching, using PowerPoint? PowerPoint is much more than your elementary school presentation nightmare- it’s all the fun of a game without all the frustration! This year marks the 35th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Mario, why not celebrate this milestone in your very own classroom? You may be wondering how, so buckle into your Mario Kart and get ready for the ride.

As a faculty member at Sheridan, I love knowledge and would appropriately classify myself as a lifelong learner. As such, I have learned what works for me as a learner and what doesn’t. My discovery has led me to the epiphany that I have to have fun if I want to learn, and what better way to do that then with—well games. We know children and infants learn through play, but why do we assume we need to leave fun behind when we cross the doors of adulthood? For so long we have placed ourselves in a lackluster box we dare not escape which we call school. Yet, if this pandemic has taught us anything it is that the box is broken, and we are slowly starting to trickle out of our comfort zones. Creativity has never been more relevant in the classroom. So, leave behind everything you know about the traditional classroom and open your mind to the creative approach.

Through PowerPoint, you can create unique and engaging games for your students to help teach or enforce any skills and systems. While the pandemic has changed the way we teach, it does not have to ruin your student’s engagement and ability to learn. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you too can create your very own PowerPoint games. This article will explore ways of creating virtual games through creative problem solving, exploiting PowerPoint tools and turning skills and systems into an interactive and fun game for students

I have always been a big kid, I come from the Gameboy generation, so video games have always been an interest of mine. As an ESL instructor, my goal is to teach to allow the students to have fun learning in the classroom. With the emergence of the novel Coronavirus, we have had to reinvent the classroom and the way we teach. Moving to an online space has become an opportunity to introduce video games in the classroom. One way I have learned to introduce video games in the classroom is through PowerPoint- you read that right, PowerPoint. Many people are either married to traditional PowerPoint use or find it old and outdated. I am here to show you what PowerPoint can do for you in the classroom. Be warned depending on the level of details you add this can be a time-consuming process, but once you have created a game, you will always have it for future classes, thereby reducing prep time for future classes.

Image created by Sara Cordeiro Alexandre

First, choose your player- what kind of game do you want to create and how can it be played? Those are some big questions, and I rely on creative problem solving- clarify, ideate, develop, and implement- to help me. The first step of creative problem solving is to clarify, at this stage, I am trying to come up with a concept and ‘how might I make create a game’ to teach a particular concept. When deciding what to create, I must think about my lesson aims and sub-aims, the skills, and systems I am teaching, and the theme or context. Now that I have clarified my problem, it is time to ideate, which relies on divergence and convergence. This technique can be a challenge, and I rely on divergence for this stage- I open a Google Jamboard and start typing as many ideas as possible. I strive for quantity, not quality and aim for crazy and novel ideas. This method may sound like a strange concept, but if you clear your mind and write down whatever comes to mind, you will be surprised to see what happens even if it has nothing to do with anything. I start with a theme and aims, for example, a murder mystery pronunciation lesson. Once I have that in mind, I wait for something to pop into my head, like clue which makes me then think of red, miss scarlet, room, clue, fingerprints, computer, voice-activated, code name, secret, spy. This string of nonsensical words seems a bit crazy, but I quite literally just wrote down whatever popped into my head, and I build on that. The goal is to develop as many ideas as possible before moving on to the convergence stage.

The convergence stage means taking all your crazy ideas and reeling them in, with judgement. So, looking back on my previous words, I can take clue, fingerprints, voice-activated code name and spy. These are the words that have to do with the context of murder mystery and make me think of a clue style murder mystery with some sort of coding system. Since my lesson is on pronunciation, I can use the phonemes as a code that they must select in the right order to find clues and solve the mystery. So, in the end, I came to an idea that I can turn into a game. Now that I have my concept, I need to take this theory and develop it into a functioning game- so let’s create our level.

To bring my creations to life, I rely on a few PowerPoint tools to manipulate in different ways. To have the PowerPoint function the way I want it to I depend mainly on hyperlinks and buttons. For example, if I have an image of a fingerprint that I want my students to click which will lead them to another slide I find an image on google that I would like to use, next, I right-click the image and select ‘action settings’. When that window pops up click on ‘hyperlink to’ and then select ‘slide’, you can choose the slide you want the button to lead. If you click on ‘illustrations’ and then ‘icons’, you can select button options already available in PowerPoint.  Since the lesson, I would like to teach pronunciation. I want to include a recording of the instructions to the game for my students to listen. To do this go to ‘insert’ click ‘media’ and select ‘audio’, you can then record yourself giving instructions and click insert. The default sound icon can be boring and tough to see, so I like to change it. I make sure I have an image or icon saved in my files to swap with the default icon to change the icon. You can then click on the sound icon click ‘change image’ and then select the picture you would like to use. To add more challenge and make sure your students are not skipping ahead in the game, you can hide your slides, insuring that to play you must click the right buttons and move a certain way. To do this, you simply need to go to the sidebar on the left and click the slide you want to hide and click ‘hide slide’. To undo this function, repeat the process and click ‘hide slide’ again.

After hours of crafting these games, I have come up with some tips and tricks to help you have a smoother time creating your own. First, I recommend that any images you do not want to have a function should be linked to the side in which it belongs. As previously mentioned, PowerPoint slides are designed to move to the next slide when you click anywhere on the current slide during your presentation. To avoid this and make sure the students press the right button to move to the next part of the game, right-click the image or object that you don’t want to move, click ‘action settings’ then go to ‘hyperlink’ and select ‘slide’. You will want to choose the slide you are currently working on, and when you do, clicking on that image will not move your slide. Another trick up my sleeve is copying and pasting already linked buttons or images. If you have a button that you have linked to a home page, for example, and want to include it in more than one slide, by copying the already linked button, when you paste it onto another slide, it will bring that slide the home page as well. My next piece of advice is to take your time, it may take a while to complete, but it will be a unique game that you will reuse for future lessons.  You will also want to save often, the last thing you want is to have all your hard work go down the drain if your computer crashes! Finally, be creative and play it yourself; taking the time to play it will allow you to make sure your game functions correctly. Once your game has been developed, it is ready to ‘implement’ in your classes virtually or in person. Remember anyone can be creative, and with practice, you can learn and create your games- the sky is the limit. So have fun, be creative and keep playing!


Miller, B., Vehar, J. R., & Firestien, R. L. (2001). Creativity unbound: An introduction to creative process. Williamsville, NY: Innovation Resources, Inc.