Games can be a fantastic tool for delivering complex concepts in an approachable manner, Physics a la Portal and so on. So it's great news that RICE University have announced a new course that has English students use Skyrim as a set text: 'Scandinavian Fantasy Worlds: Old Norse Sagas and Skyrim.'
According to the course page, the "course has two goals. First, it introduces students to fantasy as both psychological concept and driving force in gamer culture; and second, using these paradigms, it considers how and why medieval Scandinavia serves as a locus of modern Anglo-American fantasy. To these ends, students will read selections from Old Norse and Old Icelandic sagas (in translation) as they play different quests within Skyrim.
"While the course begins by identifying moments of intersection between the worlds of the sagas and of Skyrim (inclement environments, supernatural figures, mythologies), the course is not in any means meant to map the former onto the latter. The purpose of establishing these connections is to then consider how elements of medieval Scandinavian culture have been taken out of historical milieu and literary context, morphed into unfamiliar shape, and appropriated towards other fantastic pursuits.
"We’ll consider the political saga of Skyrim, with its emphasis on Empire and rebellion, as pursuits made possible by way of Scandinavia in order to think through what Scandinavian fantasy worlds are really about and why they resonate with contemporary Anglo-American culture."
There is one caveat, though: "Limited Enrollment!"
As much as I came to this post to whine about lazy layabouts, blah blah blah, that would mainly be down to the fact I've an essay deadline for Friday and can't justify playing any more FTL. Looking over the course description, Skyrim seems an ideal candidate to use as an example of how games form their world's by lifting characters, customs, and plots from the vast landscape of literature and other art forms.