The Push for Accurate Science in Video Games
You can do some pretty ridiculous things in video games. On a pretty normal basis, you can travel across the galaxy, defy gravity with a double jump, eat mushrooms to grow larger, and swim underwater for unreasonably long periods of time. And that’s completely fine.
There’s been an interesting trend recently, though, where games have tried to include more realism. While the entire game isn’t 100 percent realistic, many game developers are trying to base their mechanics or stories on real things. Not only is this creating more compelling stories and gameplay, but can also better educate their fanbase and make their created world more believable.
Assassin’s Creed and History
The base of the “Assassin’s Creed” series has always been in history. Many of the events portrayed actually happened, many of the characters were actually historical figures, and many major enemies deaths, while not caused by assassination, actually happened in the city or location you are in the game.
Their newest game, “Assassin’s Creed Origins”, takes this to a whole new level. The developers put a lot of effort into making the buildings, locations, scale, and characters very accurate to what historians understand about ancient Egypt. Even the hieroglyphics in the game on major landmarks are recreated from their real world counterparts.
Another major benefit to the game is their upcoming discovery mode, where players can simply explore the game’s landmarks and learn more about ancient Egypt. There is no gameplay, just going around the world built by Ubisoft and learning.
Engineering and Physics
When it comes to in-game physics, most games are not accurate. Can you imagine playing “Super Mario Bros” if it had realistic gravity and you couldn’t jump four times Mario’s height?
Yet in today’s world, many games are trying to recreate and simulate real world science into their games. Want to learn more about the science that goes into engineering? Play games like “Besiege” and “Bridge Constructor”. Games like these utilize real engineering mechanics for their gameplay and can teach basic principles to their players.
For physics, there are tons of games that explore different principles and allow players to mess around with them. Want to learn about the science behind the entire universe, try out “Universe Sandbox”, where you can create your own galaxies and introduce new elements that can ruin the whole thing.
Games are so good at teaching scientific principles like physics, chemistry and engineering that many schools are considering gamifying entire courses. It gives students a chance to not just learn the theory behind principles, but also the chance to experiment and manipulate it.
Architecture and City Planning
There are loads of games that simulate what it’s like to run an organization of some sort. This includes running a theme park, a hospital, a city, a country, a world, a spaceship, a colony on an alien planet, and more.
These games can educate players to the science behind properly running an organization to its top efficiency. Many of these games, like “Civilization” or “Cities: Skylines” teach players how to be part of a realistic economy with things like supply and demand. Other managerial games teach skills that real city planners use, like budgeting and working with city policies.
Accurate Portrayals of Mental Illness
Far too often, games use mental illness to create ridiculous villains or plotlines that don’t accurately portray what it’s like. Part of this comes from the stigmas attached to mental illness, and the other part comes from developers wanting to explain why villains act the way they do. A prime example of this is “Far Cry 3’s” villain Vaas, who is a ruthless slaver and murderer, whose only motivation for his actions is his insanity.
One highly popular game stands out, though, when properly displaying mental illness, and that’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The developers of this game consulted with mental illness professionals and psychologists to better understand what it’s like to suffer from psychosis.
While not perfect, it did open the world more to mental illnesses by raising awareness and hopefully helped others understand what it’s like to have a disorder. Instead of just saying this person is crazy and moving on, they took the time to identify real symptoms and actions of somebody suffering from psychosis.
Useful for Learning New Things
Video games are an interesting medium when it comes to educating the world. Unlike many other formats of education, it’s possible for video games to teach principles and theory to players without them ever realizing they are learning. A person playing Besiege could learn how gears operate without ever truly realizing they are studying engineering. Another can gain a deeper understanding of mental illness from Hellblade by simply playing it.
In the future, games will hopefully become a key part to education, both in schools and life in general. As game developers strive to create better games, they’ll turn to real life sciences and principles to do so.