Students heading to school at Indiana’s Wabash College this semester will find something very cool added to their curriculum: Portal. The critically acclaimed game about mind-bending puzzles and a deranged AI that is trying to torture you to death will sit along side Hamlet and Aristotle as required material for students looking to earn a degree.
Education purists may scoff at the thought of a video game being used as a teaching tool, especially a video game that isn’t meant to be educational. But having read the context in which the game is used, I think this is an amazing idea.
According to Mashable:
The game will be part of a mandatory Freshman seminar called “Enduring Questions” that will explore “fundamental questions of humanity” through “classical and contemporary works.”
I haven’t beaten Portal, due to the fact that I don’t have the intelligence to wrap my brain around the portal mechanics, but I know enough about the story through watching my brother play and talking about it with others to know that this game fits that criteria. The story of Chell, GLaDOS and a companion cube are a great way of talking through that subject matter with a contemporary work that will absolutely grab the attention of this all-boys student body.
Stepping outside of my “push for mass acceptance of video games” stance, I think that education hasn’t done the best job of evolving with the times. Hundreds of years later, we’re still teaching with Shakespeare and Aristotle. I’m not here to bash the validity of those works, but there are contemporary works from ‘unconventional’ sources that can be used to teach the same lessons while still doing it in a way that speaks to the current generation of students.
I hope that the implementation of Portal is a success and opens the door for more progressive teaching tools and teaching methods. At the very least, students who don’t already know the answer will finally find out if the cake really is a lie.