Games for learning

Last week, beloved GameSpite contributor Bob Mackey published a really great 1UP feature that recounted his own efforts to use videogames for learning with an audience of kids who had little experience with the medium. Yes, as in “traditional book-learnin’.” It’s a great read and I highly recommend it!

But did you know that videogames are educational even for us dyed-in-the-wool gamer types, too? It’s true! Why, just the other day I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey and discovered that astronomers are lame.

Each section of Strange Journey’s dungeon is named alphabetically; the first is Antlia, and the second is Bootes. I didn’t really think much of the name Antlia, but I recognized Bootes as a constellation. So, out of curiosity, I decided to look up the first sector’s name and discovered that it, too, is a constellation. “Weird,” I thought. “I’ve never heard of that one.” So I did a little more reading and discovered that it’s one of nearly 100 constellations established by some French guy in the 19th century.

“But I don’t remember an Antlia in Greek mythology!” you exclaim. Apparently, that’s because they decided to ditch classical names for these newfangled constellations and go with amazing new inventions of the Industrial Revolution. Antlia, as it turns out, is named for an air pump.

I grew up a little bit obsessed with astronomy, and I loved reading all the legends surrounding the names of stars and planets and constellations. Now I’ve discovered that floating around up there with a noble hunter and a mighty bear and seven sisters is a bike tire pump. This is probably the single most disappointing thing I’ve learned in months. But I guess it’s handy if Virgo ever has a flat.

Oh, also, I somehow sank 10 hours into Strange Journey over the past two days. It didn’t feel like it was that long, but yeah — it’s every bit as addictive as Etrian Odyssey, if not more so. And that makes me really glad Atlus didn’t include a game clock in the Etrian games, because I don’t even want to know how many hundreds of hours I’ve invested in them.

8 thoughts on “Games for learning

  1. That whole air pump things is pretty lame. But! It’s still sweet stuff in space, so that’s totally rad. Right?

  2. It’s mostly southern constellations with the lame namesakes, since no one important and Northern Hemispherean was around to name then when they were handing out cool names. They aren’t all winners though; who can forget Triangulum the… triangle.

  3. I am glad someone is into Etrian as I am, I can not wait to play strange journey as it sounds like it is a perfect mix of EO/SMT both series I love.

  4. “It’s mostly southern constellations with the lame namesakes, since no one important and Northern Hemispherean was around to name then when they were handing out cool names.”

    Oh yeah… I guess that makes sense, huh?

  5. Hm, Air pump constellation? That reminds me a bit of the strange constellations I’d make up in Animal Crossing.

  6. I swear I increased my vocabulary way more by playing video games (specifically RPGs) and Magic: The Gathering than any by any other source in middle school. I still have an excellent vocabulary to this day.

  7. The Southern hemisphere has a lot of commonplace objects as constellations because many of them were named by an Australian priest/astronomer who was upset that the northern sky was largely populated by heathen gods. Wish I could remember his name so that it doesn’t just sound like I’m making this up!

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