The critically acclaimed survival game Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) immerses you in a wide, open-world American West setting at the end of the nineteenth century. Players can loot trains, shoot rival gang members, and take horses – but they can also learn a lot about nature.
As researchers polled 586 people from 55 nations, 444 of whom had played Red Dead Redemption 2 and discovered that those who had played the game were better at recognizing real-life animals in images. That’s most likely due to RDR2’s 200 or so realistically depicted real-world animal species, all of which may be interacted with and hunted, and all of which behave similarly to how they would in the wild.
This comes after a similar study claimed that children who play “FORTNITE” have more friendly and positive behavior.
Detailing in the Game
“The degree of detail in Red Dead Redemption 2 is well-known, and that’s absolutely the case in terms of animals,” says Sarah Crowley, an environmental social scientist, and anthrozoologist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
“Many of the creatures interact with one another in addition to looking and acting authentically. Possums pretend to be dead, bears rush the cliffs, and eagles chase snakes.”
The white-tailed deer, jackrabbit, alligator snapping turtle, lake sturgeon, pronghorn, green iguana, American bullfrog, blue jay, and roseate spoonbill were among the 15 genuine species featured in the game that participants had to identify from images for the study.
RDR2 players received a median score of 10 out of 15 questions on a multiple-choice quiz about these creatures, while those who had no prior familiarity with the game received a median score of 7. The greatest difference was found in species that are genuinely beneficial in the game, such as fish that can be caught and eaten.
Those who had completed the main RDR2 plot (which takes approximately 40-60 hours of gameplay), those who had recently played the game, and those who had taken on a conservationist role in the online version of RDR2 earned the highest.
Teaching of Animal Behavior and Ecology
Red Dead Redemption 2 has also been said to teach players about animal behavior and ecology. One player claimed that the game had taught them how to recognize a charging ram in the wild.
“The game has a couple of species that are now much rarer, and one that is extinct – the Carolina parakeet,” explains University of Exeter ecologist Matthew Silk.
“The Carolina parakeet’s disappearance was attributed to hunting; if players shoot this species in the game, they will be informed of its endangered status. The species will become extinct if they keep shooting, emphasizing the environmental effects of players’ actions.”
Learn while Playing
Although video games are frequently linked with long periods of time spent indoors away from nature, the researchers are anxious to underline their educational potential – even if the primary purpose is enjoyment, which helps RDR2 attract so many players, people may still learn while playing.
The study’s authors claim that games are “underexplored and misused” as teaching tools and that ecologists and conservationists should take games like Red Dead Redemption 2 – which has sold over 37 million copies worldwide – more seriously when it comes to raising environmental awareness.
With many species facing extinction and significant portions of our globe becoming increasingly inhospitable, video games could be one of the tools used to educate us to take better care of the environment around us.
Games in Future
“We know that many gamers prefer realism, so game creators might be intrigued to see these findings. However, we recognize that these games aren’t supposed to be instructive,” says biologist Ned Crowley of Truro and Penwith College in the United Kingdom.
“We don’t anticipate big-budget games to contain conservation themes, but educators and conservationists may learn from game strategies, such as making things immersive and making each action count toward the game’s overall development.”
You can take a sneak peek at the full study published in the journal People and Nature.