Poland’s Ministry of Education will soon include 11 bit studios’ This War of Mine on its optional reading list for high school, a move that makes a strong statement about the role of videogames in art, culture, and education.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made the announcement while visiting 11 bit studios’ headquarters today. If you’ll excuse a machine translation (I can’t read Polish, and haven’t been able to find a proper translation), here’s what Morawiecki had to say:
“Games are part of the canon of Polish reading. We are considering that the content of these games should be included in optional reading. In order to deepen knowledge. Including games in the education system includes a broader idea of yourself and bringing something new to culture – not only Polish, but and the whole world ” (via money.pl)
It’s not unusual for games to be used as a tool for teaching other subjects, but this is the first case I’m aware of where the game itself is what’s being taught, in the same way that most curriculums include literature and film. This War of Mine makes a good candidate for that sort of exploration, too, with its unique approach to themes of war by casting you as a civilian just trying to survive.
11 bit studios’ CEO Grzegorz Miechowski also shared a statement:
“Games are a work of culture. Modern ones, natural and attractive for the young generation. Games speak a language instinctively understandable by them – the language of interaction. Using this language, games can talk about anything – emotions, truth, the fight between good and evil, humanity, suffering. They are similar to literature in that regard – however, they use the aforementioned language of interaction.
“Of course, games are already being use in education for teaching maths, chemistry, and developing cognitive abilities, but I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a game being officially included in the educational system on a national level as a school reading. I’m proud to say 11 bit studios’ work can add to the development of education and culture in our country. This can be a breakthrough moment for all artists creating games all around the world.”
Hopefully, more schools the world over will start to see the value of including games on reading lists and as part of media studies courses. There are already so many games out there that would be perfect for teaching that sort of literary analysis and media literacy—In Other Waters, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, and 11-11: Memories Retold are just a couple of recent examples. (And, just maybe, we wouldn’t have so many people claiming that games shouldn’t be “political” as a result.)