Gaming, Culture, and Education, Can They Really Not Coexist? (Part 2: Gaming as a Cultural Exchange)
In this day and age, gaming is has a multitude of faces, art, escape, interactive story, and any number of things that the individual finds to fit with their personality or life experiences. There is also something else that gaming can help move forward, and that is cultural exchange. What this means to me, is that the game developer while not taking away from the quality of the gameplay, or of mechanics, adding a bit of cultural significance to games that they make. Of course this is something that requires that the cultural additions have to fit the game. Meaning that you need to match the inclusion of culture with the genre of the game. This can, I believe bring something more to gaming that can create a new way to learn things about other cultures, and broaden horizons of gamers, bringing about interest in cultures that someone may not have known much about before.
There are of course examples of this existing in gaming, though in average, cultural inclusion is very unobtrusive. One such example of cultural exchange in a game is the Yakuza series (Ryu Ga Gotoku りゅが如く) which is a semi open-world game where you play as an ex-Yakuza Kiryu Kazuma (桐生一馬) the interesting thing about these games is the small personal story that happens throughout the game series, with a through line that permeates the whole series. On the side of the cultural exchange, there are a lot of activities and interactions that show bits and pieces of Japanese culture. Some of the heavier cultural idiosyncrasies in the game have to do with the way that the characters interact with one another, the hierarchy follows the traditional system of kouhai, senpai that is prominent in Japan, and prominently displayed in popular culture, especially in reference to the yakuza. This and so much more is present in the games that if you keep an eye out, you can learn about Japan and its cultural dichotomies. If learning about a new culture sounds interesting to you, and you own any of the recent consoles, then if possible, I recommend that you buy the local version from the country that the game is created in, because it may very well be slightly different with how characters talk, or interact with one another. This can seemingly exist with English speaking countries, because although there may be similarities between cultures that share a language there will invariably be differences that you may not experience by playing the localized version that you have.
Of course it is a good idea to not take everything in a game as a complete cultural reference to the country that is was created in, whether that be to personal bias of the developer, or propaganda from above, it is always best to take it with as critical an eye as possible. Then again, it is also not needed to be completely cynical in these situations either, rather you should take a balanced approach of seeing cultural queues from the game while also taking into account the fact that it is of course a video game, so it is not meant to be taken literally, and that it was created by humans who have sometimes a biased ideal of what their culture, should/or how they want it represented in the game world they created, and how it fits into the story. Even so, this is still a good way to get an inside look on how people who live in a different country see their culture, by how it is represented to the world in digital form. I also think that there is room for a more educational take on cultures in video games, the main issue with that becoming a reality is of course the still existing stigma that educational games are not meant to be fun, and fun video games should not be educational. I however feel that these two things need not be mutually exclusive to one another, and that in bridging the gap between fun, and education, will bring gaming into a new horizon that could be something both entertaining, fulfilling, and educational, but also help us to broaden our world while at the same time bring in a bit of understanding of other people. In doing so find that while we may be different, in the end we are all humans, and that we can, and should, find a way to bring that understanding to the forefront.