In a rather unconventional move, for the first time ever, a video game has been added to the recommended reading list for Polish students. This War of Mine, a critically acclaimed 2014 game from Polish developer and publisher 11-bit studios, is being recommended for its nuanced exploration of war. Rather than putting the player in control of the badass soldier who can take on an army single-handed, you play as a regular civilian just trying to survive during The Siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. It’s a game about putting yourself in the shoes of a regular person who finds their life turned upside down by a conflict that they had no part in starting. You get to witness other characters suffering from consequences of the larger conflict, and people pushed to the edge as they simply try to survive. It’s a harrowing game, and a challenging subject matter, but it is dealt with in a sensitive and thoughtful manner.
Due to the harrowing imagery and somber themes, this is only being recommended to students age 18 and above, this isn’t intended to be part of young students’ first introduction to the concept of war. It’s being recommended for students studying sociology, ethics, philosophy, and history, and anyone who is enrolled on one of those courses will be offered a copy of the game for free.
In a statement on this news, 11-bit studios CEO Grzegorz Miechowski said the following:
“Games are works of culture. Modern ones, natural and attractive for the young generation. Games speak a language instinctively understandable by them – the language of interaction. Using this language, games can talk about everything – emotions, truth, the fight between good and evil, humanity, suffering. They are similar to literature in that regard, however, they use the aforementioned language of interaction. Of course, games are already being used in education for teaching maths, chemistry, and developing cognitive abilities, but I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a game being officially included in the educational system on a national level as a school reading. I’m proud to say 11-bit studios’ work can add to the development of education and culture in our country. This can be a breakthrough moment for all artists creating games all around the world.”
Clearly games can be effective educational tools when used in the right context. It’s not hard to imagine players learning concepts related to physics from games like Kerbal Space Program, World of Goo, and Bridge Constructor. Or perhaps learning about history from Civilization, Age of Empires, and Total War.
Even games that are primarily made for entertainment purposes can end up having unintentional educational aspects, and perhaps future generations will have a gaming related learning as big a part of their syllabuses as books and other traditional learning materials.