「服務他人是你住地球應該付出的租金。」– 穆罕默德‧阿里 (拳擊手)
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." -- Muhammad Ali, Boxer




If you believe that reading books, magazines or newspapers, or that watching movies and TV on Netflix can benefit your language-learning, then it follows that games can likewise be leveraged for the same purpose.

Like basketball? Play NBA 2k19 and listen to the commentary, which at least for the first few hours is practically indistinguishable from that in a live televised game.

NBA 2k19

Interested in crime or the law? Play the role of a detective in 1940s Los Angeles in Rockstar's L.A. Noire. Question suspects and investigate murders in what amounts to an interactive open-world movie, complete with realistic performances captured from real actors.

L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire背景設定在1947年的洛杉磯 - 充斥腐敗、毒品與爵士樂的時代,玩家扮演一位洛杉磯警察,還原一連串真實發生過的經典案件。


The depth and length of stories in games such as The Witcher 3 or Life is Strange easily rival those of prime-time TV dramas. While the film industry has traditionally influenced the design of video games, now roles have reversed to some extent. The interactive, branching story arcs of ambitious productions like Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human were recently reproduced by Charlie Brooker in the interactive episode of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

巫師3 The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 改編自波蘭小說《獵魔士》,主角傑洛特在劍與魔法的世界中遊歷,時不時被捲入國家層級的陰謀當中。遊戲的自由度相當高,劇情的推展與玩家本身的判斷直接相關,誤信NPC,導致隔壁村莊全滅的橋段是許多玩家共同的心理創傷。

Life is Strange


It is now widely understood that the global computer and video games industry has grown into one of the largest and most profitable media industries worldwide. It is perhaps less well known that the games industry now produces as much revenue as both the music and film industry combined, according to Vanilla+. Of that, the Asia-Pacific region generated approximately $71 billion USD in 2018, or 52% of global game revenues (Newzoo).


Yet the perception of games here in Taiwan seems to be viewed through a particularly narrow lens. Games are seen either as a time-sapping diversion for children, or otherwise the preserve of computer-obsessed teenagers and twenty-somethings locked in bedrooms and dorms. Adding to these harmful perceptions are the steady drip of clickbait horror stories in the news media, which tend to portray gaming as an addictive and violent form of media (see the Daily Record for a recent example). The reality is quite different - many believe that gamers simply 'grow out' of the hobby. However, according to The Motley Fool as of 2017 the average age of gamers is actually 35, over two-fifths of whom are female. Those who were playing games as kids and teenagers in the 80s and 90s have continued to play them as they have grown older. As they have matured, so too has the gaming industry.


To get into specifics, some English language teachers suggest that their students switch their smartphone interfaces from Chinese to English. In a similar way, the menu systems in video games can also be altered to English-language. Many games feature numerous language options for dialogue, audio and subtitles. The range of adult and culturally-relevant themes in games can also be enlightening from a language-learner's perspective.


And if you doubt the serious content of games, Life is Strange is a good place to start. The episodic series covers such broad and mature topics as identity, bullying and abortion.

Other games featuring mature themes include Papers Please, which examines immigration; Orwell looks at state surveillance and personal privacy, and the misleadingly-titled yet touching The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit explores loneliness, alcoholism and memories of childhood.

Papers Please

參照George Orwell《1984》中的反烏托邦場景設計的遊戲,政府招聘大量監視人員,審查市民私人文件、社交生活,市民在玩家眼中毫無隱私可言。

Adventures of Captain Spirit
Life is Strange 開發團隊為鋪陳2代所發表的小品劇情遊戲,在單親家庭的日常中,感受小男孩Chris 因媽媽車禍離世後,帶來不激烈但糾結的影響。

Simulation games can help the second-language player how to set up and run an internet startup company, manage a city's financial, industrial and nvironmental aspects, or even become a pilot or aircraft controller.


Despite the media's preoccupation with video games' connection to social dysfunction, a substantial body of research on the matter counters these concerns. The massive online environments provided by the increasing number of always-online games provide social-collaborative environments where players have a reduced fear of failure in their use of their second language skills. Just as English has become a global language for business communication, it has also become a lingua-franca in the online gaming space, too. Gamers text-chat and voice-chat constantly, and inter-player cooperation in games like World of Warcraft is an essential skill for a team's success in making progress in the game.

Furthermore, it's not just the games themselves where players can learn a language in a collaborative manner. Large extra-gaming communities exist in which gamers become producers; writing on blogs, message boards, websites, and writing game reviews and guides ("walkthroughs"). They become respected members of online communities. Thus second-language writing and reading skills can potentially be trained through participating in these wider gaming contexts. If you would like to read academic research on the issue, a large body of research has been amassed which testify to the language-learning benefits of games; Alice Chik, Mark Peterson and Steven Thorne's work are all worth reading.


At the same time, I do of course recognize that many games do not particularly lend themselves well to language learning. The kind of instant-gratification gaming so prevalent in the mobile gaming space most likely does not lend itself well to enhancing language skills. Similarly, some of the medium's staple genres, such as first-person twitch-shooters or platform games belong to a purer form of play and therefore offer a more limited range of language input.


English learners can listen to the branching dialogues performed by professional actors in English. They can practice reading skills by collecting and examining the game-world notes, etchings, diaries and in the case of Skyrim, even entire books. Students can train vocabulary ability by choosing games which align with our personal or professional interests, whether sporting, vehicular or industrial. Players who want to promote their speaking ability may choose to play with others in online or local multiplayer titles. Moreover, writing skills can indeed be trained should gamers wish to involve themselves in the wider-gaming communities on the internet.


The aim of this article has been to demonstrate some possibilities which games provide for players to learn while relaxing and having fun. Even if you might not involve yourself in gaming (and why not give one of the examples in this article a try?), it is hoped you now understand a little better those people who enjoy gaming as an active, productive way to spend one's free time.

文/Mark Hughes

本文收錄於英語島English Island 2019年3月號