Publisher: Minority Studios
Year Made: 2012
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Linux
Price: $14.99 or $9.99 for PS3
Content Areas: English Language Arts, Health
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 13 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Video games have primarily been a form of entertainment since they entered our culture. Following movies before them though, video games are becoming a medium for telling personal stories as well. In Minority Studios’ Papo & Yo, players follow Quico, a young boy whose best friend Monster plays with him and helps him solve puzzles. Unfortunately, Monster has a penchant for eating poison frogs, which send him into a rage and cause him to hurt anything and anyone in his path until he eats a rotten fruit. Quico sets out on a journey to cure Monster and save his best friend. On its own, the game would be an imaginative adventure game. What makes Papo & Yo stand out though is the story behind it: the story of the developer Vander Caballero’s childhood with his alcoholic father. Understanding the metaphor of Quico’s journey with Monster for Caballero’s experience with his father adds a new layer to Papo & Yo itself and to the potential video games have in our storytelling.
Teachers who use this game in the classroom need to be aware of how the game might affect students. Even if a player hasn’t experienced a situation similar to Caballero’s or Quico’s, watching Monster charge and toss Quico time and time again can be emotionally draining and stressful. Teachers need to be on hand to have one-on-one or small group discussions about what players are feeling as they experience Quico’s story. To be proactive, teachers could even pause the game at certain points and discuss the story with students and how the audience is meant to feel in those moments. If a student is struggling with the content though, teachers can allow them to take a break from playing and even take a moment to write about what is happening in the game and what they are feeling. Another challenge in the game is the difficulty of some of the puzzles. The puzzles throughout Quico’s world require creativity and a unique perspective, but at times can cause more frustration than encouragement.
On the surface, Papo & Yo is a powerful story full of symbols, internal and external conflicts, and complicated characters, making it a clear fit for any English class looking to explore a deep story and a hero’s journey alongside Quico and Monster. Quico’s quest for Monster’s cure displays a coming of age story and a hero’s journey that students could learn from. The more powerful possibilities in this game lie in the help it could provide for students in similar situations to Quico’s. While students may have difficulty working through similar situations in their lives or explaining how they feel about it, it may be easier to discuss how different scenes in Papo & Yo make them feel or discuss what it reminds them of. Even students who have not experienced such difficult situations could play through the game to gain a better understanding of the complexity of being in these circumstances and could gain a new level of empathy and open mindedness for others.
Papo & Yo began as a way for Caballero to tell his story, but the game could go on to help students understand and discuss their own stories. This could be the start of games being used in education not only for class content, but also to help counsel students and encourage them to better understand each other.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 6/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)
Buy Here! (Steam)
Buy Here! (PS3)