Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Know Ronin

When I was in high school, I took a class on Oriental history at the local community college. This was largely because the public high school system was so shoddy at teaching history that I wanted to learn something more fundamental than "World War II was a lot like World War I" (actual quote by my advance placement history teacher).

One day in class we were discussing the age of the samurai and how their traditions evolved over time. The teacher mentioned the word ronin and asked if anyone knew what that meant. I raised my hand and said it was a masterless samurai. He seemed surprised and asked how I knew that.

I told him I read a lot. I didn't tell him I read it while researching a Dungeons & Dragons campaign and the information actually came from a book published by TSR.

I was reminded of this anecdote when I read the Guardian's post on how kids are losing their vocabulary and the inclination in culture to blame those introspective, anti-social geeks. Even though most people I know who are heavily into geek culture are pretty voracious readers.

What about the noveau geek? The Nintendo kids of the world. Let's pretend that some kids are turning mostly to interactive content on their televisions. Just how does the usual video game compare to reading? Forget the "Everything Bad" train of thought - we're not talking cognitive processes here ... just straight up vocabulary.

I must say, I can't think of many great examples here. Maybe it's a lack of morning coffee - but games like Dynasty Warriors, Shadow of the Colossus and Katamari Damarcy don't exactly use a lot of five dollar words in their dialogue. It's not, of course, that I think video games need to take up a child's lack of education as a cause. Shadow of the Colossus is better without loads of dialogue.

Still, how is it that pen and paper gaming was so much better for my vocabulary?

tagged: ,


Greg Tannahill said...

Well, I learned a lot about Japanese history from the Samurai Warriors games, and I learned a lot about... er... wrestling history from Smackdown: Just Bring It.

Yeah, that's all a bit lacking, really.

On the other hand, I bullshitted my way through an English oral presentation on fairy tales by largely quoting from White Wolf's "Changeling" sourcebooks, and various RPGs have given me an appreciation for the worth of various weapons, such as for example the value of polearms versus cavalry or firearms versus heavy armour.

Plus I've got in the habit of always picking up any spare coils of rope I see lying around; you never know when you're going to need one.

Josh said...

Everyone at work mocks my brass lantern. But when Grue Day occurs ... they'll understand.