Be forewarned: here there be slight spoilers of a game that came out in 2009.
With the winding down of this console generation, heralded by the much lauded or hated machine the Wii U, I would like to take a few moments and reflect on this past generation and talk about what I believe is one of the biggest addition to the gaming iconosphere ever, The Animus from the Assassins Creed series.
For those unaware The Animus allows anyone who enters it to relive the “genetic memory” of an ancestor. This is important to the protagonist, as he has descended from a long line of assassins. Desmond is not important in this discussion however, what the animus does for us as a gamer is important though.
Firstly, the animus provides believability to certain video game mechanics. Invisible walls? Ancestor never went there. Enemies keep respawning? Ancestor didn’t kill them at that point. Kill too many innocents when the game doesn't want you to? You unsynch with your ancestor and have to restart the memory.
That's only scratching the surface of the issue regarding the animus though, in Assassins creed 2 and Assassins creed 3 one of the major reasons for even playing is to develop Desmond into an Assassin, though something known as “the bleeding effect”. The best way to describe this is any thing the person in the animus actually affects them in the real world, be this skills or knowledge. Desmond lives through the life of Ezio Auditore, his Italian ancestor, and gains all the skills that Ezio had in a matter of days.
Ubisoft gave the world an example of self-improvement through videogames. Because when Desmond is in the animus that is what he is doing. He is playing a video game of things that actually happened in his world’s past. This real life “bleeding effect” is something that I believe really happens. We do get better as we play video games at certain skills.
Now by no means am I saying that by playing Skyward Sword I will actually become a sword fighter or more courageous than I am, Nor by playing Wii Sports will I actually get better at bowling, or tennis. However, in Morrowind, you actually had to read though the notes and books you found to solve the puzzles that were in the world. Sure, you can do it by guessing or by reading walkthroughs online, but to solve them without cheating or by dumb luck you have to learn to be critically aware of what you are reading as a PLAYER.
With Wii Sports especially if you are playing with other people you can learn to be a good sport about winning and losing and not lording it over your friend/sibling/significant other, and basically learn to be a decent human being.
I am not crazy in thinking that all education can be replaced with video games (I was an Education major for a long time for crying out loud!), but I also think that those who say that videogames make you dumber have not taken a critical look at some of the more recent titles
I personally believe this is something that the developers had in mind from the start; the parallel between self-improvement and videogames is there from Assassin’s Creed 1. It just takes a little bit of digging and you can see it.
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