Tuesday, August 04, 2015

(Spoilers) Musings: Stuff Video Games Taught Me

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

Video games were a huge waste of time according to a lot of people in my life. Only part of me agrees.

Looking back, there were many things that I learned and was exposed to through video games. These were things that I probably wouldn't have otherwise seen without exposure through a more fun, relatively cheap, readily available, and interactive medium. Don't get me wrong, the information would probably have been there at a library or accessible with a search engine. But would I have bothered to learn about them in a not so exciting format without being drawn in first? Maybe.

To be fair, not all of the things I learned were likely to be 100% accurate in the video games themselves. The interest they aroused in me occasionally led to further research through more sources though. And better something than nothing?

Let me highlight some of the things I picked up over the years from video games. I'm not saying I know a lot about any of the subjects, but some of the material stuck with me. The list includes the game and a summary of some things I learned. Spoilers should be kept to almost zero, but warning's thrown up just in case.

What'd I learn?

1. Geography:  Rome, Medieval II, and Empire: Total War
There's an island off the coast of Italy to the west? And oh, that's where Alexandria is in Egypt. Both of these games were very addictive to me. I probably spent dozens of hours focused on world domination. This involved moving armies across every corner of the globe from ancient city to ancient city. Spending days trying to "access" a certain city and micromanaging governance issues for weeks caused a lot of names and shapes to stick.

2. Western History:  Age of Empires and Total War series
When one is stuck for hours laying siege to stone walls, he or she can not wait until the invention of better siege equipment and gunpowder. These games exposed me to numerous historic figures, major events in world history, and technologies of the past. In a way, they allowed me to see and interact with historic events through stories and gameplay -- kind of like watching a movie except with much more interaction and more exposure time. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age? Aside from a certain expression involving the Stone Age, I probably would not have heard about the others.

3. Ancient Technologies:  Diablo II, Morrowind, and Baldur's Gate
Most of the technologies I was exposed to in these games involved items that were used to "vanquish" foes. These games made collecting these items a major part of the game -- to make characters more powerful and to just plain make them pretty. I remember reading an interview online about how some people didn't know there was something called a pike. That was never an issue for me because Diablo II made pikes very useful. These games also clarified the difference between a mace and a flail for me. They even exposed me to items from the medieval era outside of Europe. Being the only person who knew what a mortar and pestle was in high school science helped too -- thank you, Morrowind.

4. World War II History:  Close Combat I and II
I actually watched a lot of World War II shows and movies on the History channel as a kid, so these games were more like supplements for me. While these games were very interesting with educational content in the software, it was actually the manual of the first game that really taught me a lot -- they used to come with really thick, paper manuals without having to pay for a strategy guide or collector's edition. Once upon a time, I had to share the family computer and when I wasn't on it, my time was spent reading through the manuals. The one that came with Close Combat I was thick. It was filled with a large amount of information on equipment and descriptions of what actually happened.

5. Financial Management:  Elder Scrolls Morrowind, Baldur's Gate
Personal financial management or just saving money. I am pretty frugal in the virtual world. Whenever there is money involved and accumulation of wealth is allowed, I climb the wealth ladder pretty quickly. How? In practically every role-playing game, every field of battle is essentially stripped of material worth more than zero. I even worked out a cost-effectiveness ratio because many of those games had inventory restrictions related to weight or space (i.e. value-cost ratio to minimize the number of return trips for hauling loot to town for sale). This probably made me the richest member of the World of Warcraft guild I was in. And you should see my homes in Morrowind and Oblivion: decked out.

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