What Can Games Teach Us?


What details can you tell me about your favorite game? You could probably describe the concept, the mechanics, the story, the characters, and the reason you are drawn to it so much. Depending on the game, you could probably tell me about the actual world that it takes place in, the setting.

Many games go to great lengths to teach you about their world, such as its history and how/why the world works the way that it does. It might occur through the masterfully crafted lore of a fantasy or sci-fi themed game like in Skyrim, or a carefully reconstructed historical setting like in the Assassin’s Creed games. Regardless of the genre or title, every time you play that game, you are getting educated about it by playing through it.

Most games that do this successfully do so in a subtle way, not forcing the player into it. It allows the player to discover the history and inner workings of the world that they inhabit through experiencing it, or collecting pieces of lore that they can choose to read along the way.

One of the most exhaustive examples of these types of games today is Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. Specifically, Morrowind through Elder Scrolls Online.

I invite you to have a look through this website. Throughout the many years of the Elder Scrolls franchise, hundreds of “books” have been written to add another element of immersion to the game. The books within the game can teach you anything from 101 uses for troll fat, to a full blown history of Tamriel. But you are never forced to read them, they are there for you if you so choose. The sheer amount of lore that can be poured through could give a curious soul months of extra enjoyment out of the game.

It doesn’t just stop at books though. The game developers also do a good job of working in oral history as well through dialogue. Players can learn a lot about the world just from listening to what the NPCs have to say. Take what this Redditor had to say about something they found within the game:

  • Caspus Dwemerologist 6 points 3 years ago

“It’s worth noting here: Some of the most important stuff added in ESO was not done through lorebooks.

In working on my mini-project, I’ve had to quote character dialogue, because they occasionally reference events, objects, or people in history that are not referenced anywhere else.

For example: Look up Mane Zebiden-jo. Go ahead, try it. Only result you’ll get is a broken link to a French discussion from about 4 months ago.

I can tell you that he was the Mane some 400 years before Akkhuz-ri, and that his visit to the Temple at Rawl’kha involved him meeting his father, who acted as his spiritual guide through this leg of his walking of the Two-Moons Path.

It’s going to be a long time before we truly understand and categorize everything ESO is bringing to the table.”

The incorporation of an oral tradition or oral history is especially true in Elder Scrolls Online. Many of the historical events, myths, and legends that can be discovered in this game are not located in any books that we know of. The only way we know of them is through dialogue.

The Elder Scrolls franchise also does an excellent job at teaching you about the culture of the places you visit. For instance, in Morrowind you learn that it is apparently both disrespectful and illegal to wear Indoril (Ordinator) Armor inside of the city of Vivec, because if you do you will be attacked. In Skyrim, you learn that killing a chicken will inflict the wrath of a whole village. While these things are not an explicit part of what the game teaches you, it still occurs.

Through the careful and intentional crafting of lore, both oral and written, the game can teach you about itself just by you playing through it and stopping to read every once and a while. It is woven into the game enough to feel like it is a natural part of it.

This month we are going to be taking a closer look into games like this, games that teach you about their world through various means, and what implications that could have on education in the real world if we were to try to apply the same concepts.

Stay tuned! Once again, I’m here to discuss what our favorite games can teach us about how to educate the current and future generations. Welcome to February aboard the airship!

Until next time, my friend.


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