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  • February 2010
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Video Games ARE Educational

I’ve been spending a LOT of my free time lately playing video games.  It all began with Snowpocalypse 2010: some of you might remember that, back in January, I blogged about what I’d do on an imaginary snow day.  One of the major themes was uninterrupted time for gaming which, a couple weeks ago, I suddenly and unexpectedly had.  I got back into the gaming habit.

My time’s been spent on two games: Dragon Age: Origin, and epic RPG that is completely non-linear and is the first game I’ve EVER played that I actually want to go back and play through again, and Eternal Sonata.  Eternal Sonata is probably has the strangest premise I’ve ever heard of, and is the perfect game to mention to anyone who says video games aren’t education.

Chopin's Birth Place

Chopin in 1849 This guy here is Frederic Chopin. When he was a kid, he was considered a child-prodigy.  Once he was too old to be a prodigy, he was a virtuoso pianist and one of the greatest composers who ever lived.  Chopin was born in Poland on March 1, 1810 (hey, his birthday’s coming up!).  His father was French, his mother was Polish, and he was amazing. His first published compositions, Polonaises in G minor and B-flat major, came out when he was only seven.  Chopin was tutored at home until he was thirteen, when he was enrolled in the Warsaw Lyceum.  He moved to Paris as a young man met and eventually started a relationship with novelist George Sand (a pseudonym, her real name was Aurore Dupin).  That relationship ended ten years later.  Chopin’s health was already declining, and Sand sometimes referred to him as her “third child” because she spent so much time taking care of him.  After they parted in 1847, Chopin’s health began to decline even after.  He played his last concert in 1848 and passed away in 1849.

This is also Frederic Chopin, only this is how he’s seen in Eternal Sonata.  You see, Eternal Sonata is a game about Chopin.  That’s right, a role-playing game about a composer who’s been dead for well over 150 years.  Weird, huh? But also kind of magical.

The premise of the game is that Chopin, while lying on his death bed in Paris, is transported to a dream world.  There he meets up with Polka, a young girl who’s deathly illness has given her magical powers (similar, perhaps, to the always sickly Chopin’s musical prowess?); Allegretto, a Robin Hood type character intent on providing food, blankets and other things to the poor children of his town; Allegretto’s little brother Beat; and a variety of other folks.  Allegretto, Polka, Frederic and the gang are disturbed that a type of medicine, Mineral Powder, is all that the people can afford because taxes are so high, so they decide to travel to the evil Duke to ask him to lower taxes.

Did I mention that Mineral Powder makes people crazy, and the Duke is evil?  That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, really.  I’m only on chapter two.  But I already know this game is awesome.  While it’s a bit too linear (if you miss something, you can’t go back; you can’t stray off the path and explore, etc.), it’s absolutely beautiful — I’ve never seen colors so vibrant in a game in my life.

But here’s what’s really cool, and here’s why you should tell anyone who tries to tell you games aren’t educational about Eternal Sonata: it actually teaches you a lot about Chopin’s life.  Periodically, there are cut scenes with clips of Chopin’s music and slide shows and narratives about where he grew up, his life in Poland, and more.  I’ve learned more about Chopin in the past few days than I ever knew I didn’t know.  And, like I said, I’m only on chapter two.

What other games can you think of that have this kind of historical content?

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