As the success and popularity of video games continues to grow throughout the world, there is are some questions regarding to just what extent the medium can grow and expand. Unsurprisingly, video games are very much entrenched in their state of being as a form of entertainment for the time being—something to spend one’s leisure time on. That being said, it would be inaccurate to make the claim that the experience that one can gain from a video game is entirely useless.
One of the avenues that some developers have tried to go down in the past is to attempt to create educational video games that are meant to stimulate learning among young children; these sorts of games taught things such as basic mathematics and basic logic puzzles. But a key thing to note is that these games are targeted at children who are still quite young, and as a result, this sort of approach is one that only reaches a very limited amount of people in relation to how many that it could potentially reach if they were adapted for other audiences.
The issue then arises that it is extremely difficult to create a well-rounded game for even marginally older audiences that can resemble a truly educational experience. When targeted at younger ages, education seems extraordinarily simple, with things such basic concepts as spelling, addition, and subtraction being at the forefront of peoples’ priorities.
But once we get past the elements of education that we literally need to function in day-to-day life, then what can we qualify as an educational video game? Do games that essentially amount to trivia questions count as educational? What about games that deal in historical fiction? Is the information that they provide counteracted by the fact that they have the tendency to deviate from the actual timeline?
The reason that it’s rare to stumble across a game that seems genuinely educational (that isn’t marketed towards children) is because when it gets right down to it, when people are thinking about which game they want to spend their free time playing, an educational game is typically not one that inspires a lot of excitement, especially not when compared to their counterparts. There is a time and a place for learning, and it’s called school; the average person doesn’t like doing in their free time what they do during the day, and so learning isn’t always the highest on peoples’ list of priorities when they settle down for the day.
Because of this natural disadvantage, a true, sophisticated educational game is something that one would be hard-pressed to find. But even barring those rare instances, there are still cases of video games that can impart some information, even if it isn’t the most immediately useful.
Games that historical fiction are perhaps the biggest example of games that are capable of teaching people while simultaneously entertaining them in such a way that they may not even realize that they’ve learned much of anything. Take for instance Koei’s Dynasty Warriors, a series based on the book (which is historical fiction itself), Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Fans of the series know it to be ridiculous and over-the-top at just about every opportunity it is given, and yet, it still (largely) follows plotlines that occurred in history.
While much of what is built upon these historical event are silly and unrealistic to massive degrees, the events themselves are still being told, and history is being taught. To the average person in western culture, The Battle of Chibi probably doesn’t mean anything, but to someone who has played any game in the Dynasty Warriors series, the name is iconic. The Battle of Chibi, which took place on the Yangtze River, was a great naval battle that took place between the warlord Cao Cao and his rivals, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Despite the fact that Cao Cao had superior numbers, he was beaten when the allied forces set one of their own ships ablaze and let it sail into Cao Cao’s fleet, causing massive destruction and casualties.
What’s remarkable about this example is that there is even more of that story to tell, and that all of that was learned from a video game which, at first glance, appears as though it couldn’t teach someone a thing about history.
While video games will never reach a point where they can replace tradition schooling, there are at least some aspects of them from which we can learn something.