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Can gaming become an arm of educational discovery?

In conjunction with ever improving tech, Ubisoft continues to bring historical periods to life with unerring accuracy in its games. But has its latest development opened a door to educational discovery that we never knew was there? 

As gaming technologies become more intricate and advanced, so too do the digital worlds created by the industry’s top studios. Raising the bar for immersive entertainment is unequivocally the priority for the next generation of consoles, but as with the likes of with AR and VR, we’re beginning to see how this tech could soon have real world application that extends far beyond simple leisure. On this front, Ubisoft could become a trailblazer for something big in the near future. 

Even the most ardent Assassin’s Creed fan would concede that the series’ in-game mechanics aren’t perfect, but you’d have to be a real miser to dismiss the meticulous approach Ubisoft takes to world building. From 400 BC Athens and Ancient Egypt, to Paris gripped by the French Revolution and Victorian era London, Ubisoft has accurately realised whole civilisations throughout history – each with a painstaking level of detail. Just for reference, Unity’s iteration of the famous Notre Dame cathedral was so accurately recreated that government officials considered using the digital model to restore the landmark after fires decimated the roof in 2019.

While a record 14 studios are hard at work sculpting Valhalla for next gen consoles, Ubisoft has re-released two ‘Discovery Tours’ based on the worlds of Odyssey and Origins for us housebound folk during the pandemic. These free downloads are educational offshoots of both games, in which the player can roam freely within vast historical sites of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. Unlike the standard games, players can trigger audio and visual prompts much like a virtual museum without being interrupted by combat sequences or quest lines. It’s kinesthetic learning at its finest. 

Now this may be a little fanatical, but given VR’s recent evolution from gimmicky gaming accessory to discovery tool employed by the likes of NASA, I believe it’s possible that we may be looking at the next vehicle of specialist education with playable content like Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tours and Minecraft: Education Edition. For those that prefer hands on learning, or struggle to grasp concepts from generic textbooks, this could be a real gamechanger (npi). 

I’m not for a second suggesting that school children will be spending their lessons button mashing on the PS5 DualSense anytime soon, but there’s no doubting the potential for interactive learning as gaming technologies grow more and more advanced. Ubisoft may prompt other publishers to harness their immensely talented dev teams to create immersive learning tools, and their titles could become instantly available worldwide on streaming services like Steam, PSN, and Xbox Game Pass. 

Ubisoft has made no secret of its desire to assist young people in preparing for the jobs of the future. Its education arm in Quebec Canada is currently mentoring students ranging from elementary to university level, and is hosting workshops to inspire people to pursue careers in the tech industry. But for all the great work it’s doing, I’m banking that Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tours will have the greatest bearing on this burgeoning new chapter for education and gaming. 

For now, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The potential for something big is undoubtedly there with next gen console releases around the corner, but we’ll see if other publishers are bold enough to follow in Ubisoft’s footsteps in the coming years. It bodes well that the Unreal Engine 5 has just been made available free to indie developers. 

Any tech savvy professors out there looking to kill some time in lockdown? There’s no time like the present.