Sunday, May 24, 2015

Text Adventure Games: Achaea and the GRE

Text adventure games, more so than any other genre of game, require a strong grasp of language. They aren't a button-mashing kind of game, nor are they simply abstract theorizing about damage output or puzzles. At their very core they are games about words; choosing a word with the correct connotation, or stringing together an artistic sentence. So of course the argument can easily be made that text adventure games can help increase one's vocabulary, right?
I had no idea how correct I was until I began studying for the GRE.
For those of you who don't know, 'GRE' stands for 'Graduate Record Examination', and the thing itself is a widely-used standardized test in the United States and the English-speaking world. It serves as an admission requirement for most non-specialized graduate programs (business students, medical students and law students take separate exams), and is designed to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing and critical thinking skills.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because when I started studying for the GRE, I was truly shocked to realize how much my favorite text adventure game, Achaea, had affected my vocabulary.
It began innocently enough, when my roommate and I decided to go through a list of commonly used words on the GRE from a study book and see what we knew to start off with. On the very first list of words alone, I recognized the following due to my text game habit (perhaps you'll recognize a play of them yourself, if you play Achaea as well):

Cacophony - "harsh discordance of sound". If you've ever been to the Siroccian Mountains, you'll find the orcish women singing a cacophonous tune.
Caustic - "severely critical or sarcastic". One of the Divine of Achaea, I believe Pandemonium, has a voice that is described as 'caustic' when He shouts things across the world.
Ephemeral - "lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory'. This one is not technically hard-coded into the game, but one of the past city leaders of Shallam, Mirane, wore 'Ephemeral Dawn' in her title.
Implacable - "not to be appeased, mollified, or pacified". If you've ever used the STARE emote directed at another player, your character stares implacably at them.
Nebulous - "vague; cloudy; lacking clearly defined form". Anyone who has ever been friends with a Magi should be familiar with the nebulous water weirds that they're able to summon.
Noxious - "harmful; injurious". The red fog so synonymous with Mhaldor is described as noxious' (I'll admit I already knew this word before I saw it in Achaea, but the association was strong, which helped).
And this was only in the first set of fifty words!
While it is no secret that text games can help one's vocabulary and writing skills, I write this article today because I know that I, for one, had always believed that in a very abstract way. I played for non-educational reasons, of course, so I never stopped to think about what, if anything, I was learning. I've always thought of my vocabulary as particularly strong, too, so I was privately skeptical about how much tangible benefit I could really get from a game. Imagine my surprise when I knew over 10% more words than I otherwise would have due to my text game habit!
The moral of the story is never to underestimate the power of text games in developing a stronger vocabulary and a stronger grasp of the English language (or whatever language your favorite text game might happen to be in). Just make sure not to skip other forms of studying altogether!
By Lisa Ohanian
If you don't mind accidentally improving your vocabulary while you play, try out some text adventure games today!
Lisa Ohanian is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from
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