When I’m not hiring and killing prostitutes, jacking and crashing cars, or ruthlessly gunning down helpless, disabled civilians due to a feckless overexposure to violent video games, I like to kick back, relax, and play some video games. It’s the perfect way to unwind.
But amidst these barbarian broadcasts urging all players to repeatedly stab everyone they meet in the face or heart, video games transmit an altogether different message. Saturating the minds of gamers with the most potent and dangerous weaponry known to man – knowledge.
Throughout my life I’m perpetually enlightened by a medium considered by many to be corrosive to the mind. There are studies relating gaming to the improvement of cognitive abilities, hand-eye co-ordination, logic, memory and multi-tasking. But in addition to these less tangible attributes, video games spray out facts like an edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica thrown in a petrol powered wood-chipper.
The earliest single fact I remember absorbing from a video game penetrated my mind at age 8. A fact that has rattled away in the depths of my memory ever since. Descending in a lift, embroiled in codec communications with Naomi Hunter, Solid Snake was on his merry way to save the world from the threat of nuclear armageddon.
This particular conversation revealed much in regards to plot. However the fact itself was largely irrelevant. It was simply a comment, 20 words or less. It taught me this:
The country know today as the Republic of Zimbabwe was previously the Republic of Rhodesia.
Did you know that? Did you know that when you were 8? No. You didn’t. Nor did anyone else in my class. Not even Mrs. Brown. It’s one of the many things I have Metal Gear Solid to thank for.
Since then I’ve assimilated information on every topic from foreign language and historical warfare to mythological characters and car transmission.
Assassin’s Creed 2 informed me of the Bonfire of the Vanities. While it wouldn’t be my chosen Mastermind subject, I’m aware of the basics. Caused in part my followers of Girolamo Savonarola, objects that could potentially lead one to sin were publicly burned. The most infamous of such fires took place in Florence in 1497. Art, clothing, literature and musical instruments were all ignited for the good of the people.
Thank God for the intangible, invulnerable, incombustible blog post, eh?
AC has also educated me on Italian architecture, Roman baths and Rodrigo Borgia. Ubisoft didn’t have to include the vast amounts of historical information that they did. But in doing so they added an extra layer of detail to an already marvellous game. Educing millions in the process.
Not only am I a clear connoisseur of Italian culture, I’m also fluent in the language. For I can fluently pronounce the Italiano equivalent of; fuck and rest in peace – cazzo and requiescat in pace, respectively. Both phrases that would prove useful if I’m ever to find myself being pursued by Italian mafioso.
From the Romans to the Greeks. The God of War series has acquainted me with the guys, gals and Gods of Ancient Greece; Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Athena, Cronos, Daedalus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hercules, Hermes, Icarus, Poseidon and Zeus. Those of whom I haven’t penetrated with a blade, I have with a penis.
If it were not for Kratos’ charming shenanigans my knowledge of Greek mythology would be limited to what I learned from Xena: Warrior Princess. Which wasn’t much, other than that I’d like to bang Xena Warrior Princess.
Thanks to video games I know more guns than I do people. A testament to both my anti-social tendencies and immaculate memory. Again it was Solid Snake that first introduced me to the FAMAS and PSG-1, both of which are now fan favourites in the Call of Duty franchise.
Guns aren’t the only harbinger of death in video games. There are also opportunities to get medieval on an unfortunately antagonist’s ass. Assassin’s Creed, Demon’s Souls and World of Warcraft have taught me much about melee weaponry. Informing me of the differences between a cutlass and a claymore, a falchion and a flamberge and a sabre and a schiavona.
While my wanderlust is yet to be physically fulfilled, video games have allowed me to virtually travel to various global locations. Improving my geographical understanding of the world. Alaska, Iwo Jima, Miami, Okinawa, New York, Rhodes, I could even navigate the nine circles of Hell. Which is useful, because that’s where I’m going.
Courtesy of EA and Visceral Games‘ Dante’s Inferno, I’ve been introduced to the works of Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy had long been something I had known of, but not truly known. Had it not been for this game I may never have read this epic poem. Now I can confidently recite the nine circles of Hell, and the sinners that inhabit them. An example of yet another cultural text introduced to me by the most rapidly evolving creative medium in human history.
The legitimate facts I’ve absorbed over the years are infinite. To list them all would be to type 27% of the contents of my mind. Neither of us have the time for that. I’ve learned about car transmission courtesy of Gran Turismo. I’ve learned about historical battles thanks to Age of Empires. I’ve learned about the wars of the world thanks to Call of Duty and Medal of Honor.
Facts you say. That’s all well and good. But unless you’re a frequenter of general knowledge quiz shows it’s not much use. Well fine. But aside from facts, video games have also distributed practical advice that has aided me in life. Here are the most important life lessons a man can learn:
Never under any circumstances approach a flaming red barrel.
Never trust your best friend, especially if his forename and surname rhyme. I’m looking at you Lance.
And for the love of God…
Always take heed of caution signs.
Article first published as The Teachings of Fiction: What Games Have Taught Me on Technorati.