Two weeks ago I was on a school trip in Berlin. Each time I go on this trip (this was the fifth time) a student looks up at the Reichstag building, turns to me and demands to know if that was the building 'they' assaulted at the end of Call of Duty: World at War. Every trip, without fail, and it always makes me chuckle.
Returning to my blog after a two week hiatus, I find myself mulling over an odd question (which formed somewhere between leaving the amazing city of Berlin and challenging my students to Mario Kart on the coach ride home) that I wish pose to anyone who has ever been a student or teacher:
If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?
There are numerous lists peppered across the internet describing the video game worlds we'd most like to live in or the worlds that would be awful locations to visit. But what about the educational value of such places? Are there video game lands that – if we could visit – would make inspiring, educational experiences for young people. Whilst most gaming worlds would be interesting to visit, some would be way too dangerous. We might argue that the world of Fallout 3 would prove insightful for any student studying nuclear physics, but I wouldn't want to fill out the risk assessment...
I have a few examples in mind, but for now I present just one for your consideration. The first thing you'll notice is that suspension of disbelief is required. Not only is the location in the past, but an alternate past at that. To make matters worse, the site is in a poor state of affairs before the original game even begins. The point however is to consider how incredible a video game world could be if we could visit it in all its glory.
A School Trip to Rapture (Bioshock)
Rapture only really had few good years. The construction of the underwater city began in 1946 and was fully completed in 1951. By 1958, a devastating Civil War and increasing addiction to the superpower-inducing 'Plasmids' sends Rapture into the chaos which the protagonist of Bioshock 1 is subjected to. In those few good years though, Rapture would have been an amazing place to take students.
When History students at my school hear that the Berlin trip will include a 15 hour coach ride, they tend to groan and grumble. You would have no trouble convincing students to journey to Rapture; few would miss the opportunity to take the submersible down to the ocean floor, to behold the sea life swirling about the staggeringly beautiful architecture.
If you were simply taking students to see Rapture, as a reward for hard work or as a fun weekend away, you would not fail to find enjoyment. An entire entertainment centre can be found at Fort Frolic; a large Farmer's Market, a museum, department stores and numerous lookout spots will keep students occupied at all times; the luxury apartments offer excellent accommodation. You can also rest assured knowing your students are safe: not only is the entire complex literally water-tight, but the Sentry Bots will keep a close eye on anyone wandering off.
But what if you're planning a trip to Rapture for a particular subject? Whatever the course, your students would greatly benefit for a stay in this extraordinary place. The very nature of Rapture allows the study of almost anything to be greatly enhanced,
In Rapture, Science, Industry and Art would thrive undisturbed by intervention from governments, religious institutions or other social agencies. (Bioshock Wiki)
For a short while at least, Rapture was a place where invention, creativity, study and self expression were paramount. It's in this environment that the minds of your students will greatly develop.
Is Rapture relevant to your subject?
Biology: a trip to Rapture combines the study of genetics and gene-splicing with the ideal environment to observe marine animals close up.
Business Studies: What better way to expand the minds of budding business men and women than by visiting stores and shops that thrive despite being trapped at the bottom of the ocean.
Citizenship: Students can witness the development of a brand new society, with new laws, rules and ideas. Then they can witness how all of that failed horribly.
Design and Technology: The benefits of learning how a city can be built and sustained underwater should be apparent. The transport system should also get the young minds racing.
Drama: There is an excellent theatre in Rapture. The performers are a tad eccentric, but they put on a good show.
History: If the chance to view a slice of 1940s/50s lifestyle isn't enough for you, discussions on ideologies – democracy, communism, fascism, objectivism – would be thoroughly enriching to any young historian.
Physical Education: Students will have their eyes opened to the real limits of the human body in an environment where Plasmids are commonplace. Just don't let them get too close to those needles.
Religious Education: Okay... so religion isn't really allowed in Rapture. Yet students may gain some important insight by observing a society devoid of religious involvement.
It's good to be writing again. I lead the Berlin trip two weeks ago, and last week involved a lot of work on my new house. That's partly why this post is a little shorter – and a little more random – than usual. Next week is probably going to be just as busy, so I will probably add a part 2 to this post to keep things simple. I have two other locations I would love to take students to. I'm hoping you have a few ideas yourself. Maybe you can think of some other benefits of visiting Rapture? Or maybe I've overlooked a potential risk of visiting this game location? I'm pretty sure it's risk free.