Trigger Happy
Edge|November 2020
Trigger Happy
Shoot first, ask questions later
STEVEN POOLE

The question of how ‘educational’ videogames are has long been contested. Some champions of the form have liked to point to how SimCity has been used in college courses on urban planning, for example, as a riposte to those who dismiss videogames as junk food for the mind. Others darkly invoke the use of custom videogame builds to train real soldiers by the US army and argue that educating people in the tactics of killing is not necessarily a wholesome good.

Certainly games are not necessarily reliable sources of real-world information. This was emphasised recently by the wonderful story of writer John Boyne, in whose novel, A Traveller At The Gates Of Wisdom, the narrator plans to poison Attila the Hun. Gathering the necessary ingredients for the potion, he makes sure to include an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”. As the writer Dana Schwartz alertly pointed out on Twitter, the novel is supposed to be realistic historical fiction, but these ingredients come from, er, Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. To his credit Boyne responded, admitting that he must have just briefly Googled a poison recipe and not noticed that the source was an interactive fiction about a pointy-eared hero.

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November 2020