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Dynasty Warriors: Achievement in storytelling, history education, and cultural studies

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18th century depiction of the Oath in the Peach Garden. DW players should be able to easily identify Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei.

There are a number of obvious cultural values and beliefs, often universal to all cultures, expressed in the games. Treachery is looked down upon, as seen by Dong Zhuo's betrayal as well as his subsequent betrayal by Lu Bu. Even the character of Lu Bu, the quintessential icon of the games, is somewhat looked down upon for his lack of purpose and loyalty other than to himself. Friendship and brotherhood is extolled on more than one occasion, particularly in the game's depiction of the Oath in the Peach Garden in which Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, and Guan Yu pledged their friendship and brotherhood, an oath that had consequences on the lives of all three as well as the entirety of history.

It is interesting though, how the game also manages to explain and illustrate cultural ideas that are more unique to China. Ever wonder why all the Chinese parents are slapping their kids for not getting 100s on tests? Ever wonder why all the Chinese parents want their kids to go to Harvard? Dynasty Warriors does a fairly good job of explaining this. Consider that in Dynasty Warriors as well as the source novel, emphasis is always placed on the importance of cunning, intellect, and strategy. It is true that characters are described as being great warriors. However, it should be noted that the greatest warrior was arguably Lu Bu, whose lack of intelligence and morality lead to a quick demise. The characters in the game and book who accomplished the most were often not only great warriors but also great strategists. In addition to their own cunning, leaders often additionally confided in and relied on the advice of intellectuals such as Zhuge Liang and other figures. Most importantly, it should be noted that for a number of characters including Liu Bei of the Shi Kingdom, accomplishment and intellect are the qualities that elevated a person from poverty to adviser or king. Bloodlines, the will of the gods, and who your ancestors were, were not the only ways to become something in the world. It is not surprising given such a depiction of the importance of intelligence in a novel of supreme importance to Chinese culture and history, that education and intelligence are qualities encouraged over generations of Chinese as an important means of advancement.



On a less serious note, Dynasty Warriors also manages to explain certain cultural references in Chinese culture. Guan Yu has been historically held in high honor and was even deified several centuries after his death. Depictions of Guan Yu in statues and paintings are everywhere in China. I can recall seeing several of them scattered around in random places in modern neighborhoods during a recent trip to Taiwan. Not only would a foreigner who has placed the games be able to identify the man as Guan Yu, but they would also be able to understand why it is that Guan Yu is placed in such high regard because the games do a fantastic job of illustrating it.

It is always amusing to me that a work that so excellently depicts Chinese culture and history was in fact made by the Japanese. I feel that people and particularly reviewers focus way too much on the mechanics of the game and as a result ignore the historical, cultural, and literary value and accomplishments of the Dynasty Warriors games. In this day and age where educators and all sorts of experts are trying to figure out how to better teach history, increase literacy, and increase multicultural awareness, how long before they come to the same realization that Koei and the History Channel has reached: that video games may be the answer.

P.S. So sad, Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI for the PC is delayed until September. How else will I waste my time in the summer other than WoW?

Updated to correct a blatent error. Thanks Mister Disco.
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About Tascarone of us since 9:27 PM on 03.03.2008

Once upon a time, back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, I was a "hard-core" gamer. Since that time, a variety of factors ranging from money to college to real life significantly cut into my video game time. Nonetheless, I have always retained my love and interest in video games, although to a lesser extent.

At present, my video game time is generally monopolized by World of Warcraft. I play a troll mage named Moor (WoW Armory profile here) on the Nathrezim server where I am a happy member of the guild Sanity.

Current-generation consoles I own include an XBox 360, a Ps3, a Wii, a Nintendo DS, a PsP, and a PC.

I am a huge fan of video game music. In fact, I confess that many of the games I own, such as the Halo games and Rygar: The Legendary Adventure are in my collection solely because I love their incredible musical scores. I have only been able to attend one VGM event, Video Game Live's New York concert on April 26, 2008 which was an amazing experience.

During middle school and high school, I was inspired to attempt music composition after hearing the reprise of Shadow's theme that appears in the ending of Final Fantasy VI by Nobuo Uematsu and "Angel's Fear" from Secret of Mana by Hiroki Kikuta, an attempt that quickly ended due to my lack of talent with little more to show than a crappy five-song musical. The highlight of my musical career as well as my journey through video game geekdom came during an impromptu musician meet-up at the Otakon anime convention in 2003 in which I had the honor of performing the violin solo in Yasunori Mitsuda's incredible "Scars of Time" from Chrono Cross.

I have been a lurker on Destructoid for some time. I am an especially huge fan of Destructoid's three excellent podcasts, which are not only the best video game podcasts I have heard but amongst my favorite podcasts of all time. I give much credit to these podcasts for bringing about a resurgence in my interest in video games and inspiring me to think more about video games. I also give them special credit for entertaining me during a series of hospitalizations in which the only thing I had for entertainment were these podcasts saved on my Zune.

I was particularly inspired by Podtoid and randombullseye and ended up composing the music to randombullseye's game Bonerquest, my first and last foray into video game composing as I quickly came to realize, as I did back in high school, that I lacked the training and talent for the art. Nonetheless, I am grateful to randombullseye for the opportunity to have contributed to a part of an actual finished product as opposed to the unfinished sketches that populate my desk and computer hard drive.

I love writing and I often find myself discussing and writing about video games on a variety of subjects and contexts. As a high school student, I had great difficulty writing long papers or long articles and so I began to force myself to write as much as possible. By the time I was in college, writing huge amounts of text for both school and school-unrelated purposes became not only easy but rather relaxing and unenjoyable. I therefore apologize in advance because I know that a great deal of my writing will probably be far far longer than what is probably necessary or appropriate. In the past, my writings on video games found themselves in a variety of places ranging from the WoW forums, a text file on my desktop, to my friends' Xanga and MySpace pages and for some time, I have thought about consolidating my video game writing at one place, which is why I am happy that I discovered Destructoid. The Destructoid staff and community have greatly influenced my thoughts on video games and opened my eyes to things that I never saw. I hope that many writing can give a fraction of that inspiration (or at the very least some entertainment) back to the Destructoid community.
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