Ever since the early days of computing, programmers have been finding ways to develop educational software for a variety of purposes.
One such programmer was Douglas Crockford, who was a particular fan of experimenting with the Atari 8-bit’s sound capabilities. One such experiment led to the creation of Interval, a piece of software designed to help you train your aural skills — whether you’re a musician, a teacher or simply someone with an interest in musical theory.
This is actually a really solid program that can still be of use to music teachers in the 21st Century — though quite how many still have an Atari 8-bit in their teaching space I have no idea…
One of the nice things about being a non-commercial site that isn’t funded by big corporate advertising bullshit is that I’m not obliged to be in “competition” with any of my peers.
That means that when people like our friends over at Digitally Downloaded do something cool and interesting, I can explore it for myself and, more to the point, make you aware of it, dear reader.
If I haven’t made this abundantly clear already, the following relates to a piece of media created by a friend of mine. And if you have the slightest interest in media criticism and making use of the conventions of gaming to educate or learn something… you should definitely check it out!
My arms ache. And it’s all because of this stupid anime.
I’ll be 100% honest with you here, dear reader: my initial interest in How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?, the new anime from Doga Kobo (Yuru Yuri, Plastic Memories, Gabriel Dropout) was for less than wholesome reasons — as I’m sure it was for many other people, given the provocative nature of the teaser image that was initially circulated.
But after watching the first episode, I signed up for the gym. Three episodes in at the time of writing and I’m already making more positive lifestyle choices. What state will I be in by the end of the run?
Wii Music is one of those releases that a lot of people didn’t pick up back in the day, primarily due to its mediocre critical response.
At least part of this was down to the (not entirely unreasonable) assumption that it would be a traditional “game” of some description — or at the very least a collection of minigames, as with the other titles in the Wii [x] series from Nintendo. But it’s actually something rather different.
And take the time to engage with it on its own terms and you’ll find something both entertaining and educational. Let’s take a closer look.
Duolingo has since launched the Web-based version of its Japanese course and it is still a worthwhile use of your time, particularly if you’re starting out. But I’ve been exploring an alternative recently after my friend “Firion Hope” on Twitter made me aware of it… and I think I prefer it slightly after spending a couple of weeks with it.
That alternative is Memrise, and if you’re looking for a way to get into the habit of daily study as well as challenging yourself a bit, it’s well worth a look.
Many Japanese video game, anime and manga enthusiasts have probably considered learning the native language of their favourite entertainment at some point… but it’s a daunting prospect.
The fact you have to learn two new phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) plus a whole swathe of pictograms (kanji) that represent various concepts or parts of speech means that it’s not a simple case of just jumping in and learning new words for things. You have to learn a completely new way of reading and writing, too.
The potential rewards are great, though, since learning Japanese allows you to access a whole host of entertainment that doesn’t get localised. And with the region-free nature of most modern computer and gaming systems coupled with international Internet shopping, importing games, DVDs, Blu-Rays and manga is trivially easy today.
So where do you start? Well, there are all sorts of ways you can tackle this challenge, but the new iOS and Android-based Japanese course from free language learning organisation Duolingois as good a place as any to get your studies underway.
One of the things video games are particularly good at as an entire medium is allowing you to immerse yourself in… things.
Exactly what you’re able to immerse yourself in depends entirely on the game — in Microsoft Flight Simulator you can immerse yourself in a realistic depiction of what it is like to fly a real aircraft, for example, while in Xenoblade Chronicles you can immerse yourself in a well-realized fantasy world.
One interesting possibility that this immersiveness allows for is the ability to “live” in another culture. For Westerners, it’s particularly intriguing to be able to immerse oneself into Japanese culture, for example, which is in many ways rather alien to the societal norms we see in America and Europe. Of course, said societal norms vary even between America and Europe, but not quite so drastically as the divergence in culture between “East” and “West.”
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.