The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 16
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CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Official CELPIP Podcast where we aim to help you, our test takers get the best possible score you can, and we also help support newcomers building a life in Canada. My name is CJ, and along with my co-host Chris, we talk to a variety of guests from test takers, language teachers and test raters to employment counselors, immigration consultants, just to name a few. We also sometimes bring in our in-house staff on the show to get their perspectives, and they’re the people in the company that work behind the scenes to make the CELPIP Test available to you. Hi, Chris. We’re back.
Chris [00:00:38] Oh, hey CJ!
CJ [00:00:39] All right. Now, before we get going, I just want to give a shout out to all of our listeners. Thank you so much for making this podcast a part of your day. We really appreciate it. And we’ve heard from a few of you and we appreciate it so much. And if you like what you’re hearing, remember to hit that subscribe button, whether it’s on Spotify, Apple for your iPhone, or Google Podcasts for Android.
Chris [00:01:06] OK, but I mean, no one’s actually listening on Android, are they? iPhones are obviously the way to go.
CJ [00:01:12] Oh, OK. Whoa. Whoa, whoa. I’m one hundred percent Android. Never touched an iPhone in my life. I do all of my work on Google Pixels.
Chris [00:01:23] What? And here I thought we were friends.
CJ [00:01:26] OK, well, we’re learning things today, so I guess I’m going to have to convert you to Android at some point.
Chris [00:01:32] Well, here’s one point in Apple’s favor. Remember that if you’re listening on your iPhone, you can send us a rating as well.
CJ [00:01:40] OK. Agreed. You got me there. Score one for the iPhone, I guess. But in any case, now that we’ve got that request to our listeners out of the way, let’s get on with this show. So: fun trivia question to get us started. Chris, almost two thirds of Canadians did this in the last year, and it was really fun. What am I talking about?
Chris [00:02:08] Hmm. Oh, I know pizza. They ate pizza.
CJ [00:02:12] Uh no. Try again.
Chris [00:02:14] They ate…chicken and waffles.
CJ [00:02:18] OK, no wrong again.
Chris [00:02:20] OK, it’s got to be donuts. They ate donuts.
CJ [00:02:23] Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris. It’s not food. I feel like you might be hungry because we’re recording this around lunchtime. But here’s a clue. The industry actually makes more money than the movie and music industries combined.
Chris [00:02:41] Ah, of course, it’s video games. Two-thirds of Canadians played video games in the last year.
CJ [00:02:48] Ding, ding, ding. You got it.
Chris [00:02:51] I’ve definitely contributed to that statistic. I’ve played more than my fair share of games.
CJ [00:02:57] Well, I actually haven’t played too many video games myself, so I don’t think I’ve added to that statistic at all. But do not worry, listeners, we are not here to talk about random statistics all day, even though that’s a little bit my jam. Today, we are bringing you some more media recommendations to help you strengthen your English. And this time, like we promised last week, it’s all about games, which is something I don’t think we’ve actually talked about very much before.
Chris [00:03:27] You’re right. Games haven’t really come up much, but we’re here today to demonstrate to all of our listeners that video games aren’t just for fun. They can actually be really educational as well.
CJ [00:03:40] I love that, and maybe we should just clarify for our listeners: when we say video games, we don’t just mean games that you need a, like, $400 console to play. A lot of these games you can play on your home computer, your tablet or your Android.
Chris [00:04:01] Or your iPhone. But that’s a really great point. I think when some people hear the term video game, they immediately think of some game for X-Box or PlayStation or a Nintendo console. And that totally makes sense, I mean, those companies are huge and they have some great games. But those consoles can be very expensive, and not everyone has the opportunity or the desire to buy one. But thankfully, there are many games out there for basically any advice you can think of.
CJ [00:04:31] Yes. So anyone who’s listening to this podcast should be able to access at least some of the games we’re going to talk about today.
Chris [00:04:39] For sure. Just like movies or TV games can range in price, and I think one or two of the games we’ll be talking about today are the price of, I’ll say, like a medium latte.
CJ [00:04:52] I love it. I understand that unit of financial measurement. So in our previous episode about TV and movies, we gave a few tips for how to get the most out of a viewing experience: you know, using subtitles, pausing or slowing things down, making vocabulary notes, stuff like that. So what are some strategies that we can give for gaming?
Chris [00:05:17] There are actually a lot of similarities between TV, movies, and games. You can play games of any genre. There are comedic games, action games, dramatic adventures, games with heavy emphasis on story and character development, just like you’d see in a TV show or a movie. The difference being that you’re interacting with your environment.
CJ [00:05:39] Okay, cool. And how about subtitles?
Chris [00:05:42] Yup. Most games with voice narration will allow you to turn on subtitles from somewhere in the options menu, and many games these days have really good accessibility options.
CJ [00:05:53] Oh, really? Obviously, I didn’t know this. So can you tell us more?
Chris [00:05:58] Well, basically, if you find yourself struggling with visual or auditory elements of the game, chances are you’ll be able to modify these settings. For example, if the text on screen is too small, you can easily change it to a larger, more readable font, or if you’re having trouble distinguishing colors, many games have special color modes as well.
CJ [00:06:19] OK, cool. I like what I’m hearing so far. What about the pace of speech? We talked about this a bit with TV and movies. Can you slow down the speech in games?
Chris [00:06:32] Well, that’s actually not typically an option. But what’s great about games is that you can generally play them at your own pace. Like, let’s say you’re playing an RPG and you start seeing that—
CJ [00:06:44] Sorry, sorry. Just one second. What’s an RPG? Because I’ve for sure heard that term before, but I’m not entirely sure what it means.
Chris [00:06:51] All right, so RPG is short for role playing game. These types of games typically focus on a story with a big cast of characters that you can control or interact with, and they usually include a ton of dialogue and plot, either in text or in voice form. So they’re an excellent opportunity for expanding your English vocabulary.
CJ [00:07:14] Right, right. OK, so you were talking about playing things at your own pace then. So how would that work?
Chris [00:07:21] Well, if you’re playing an RPG, for instance, you may need to make choices that will impact the story. But unlike a movie, you won’t need to pause it or slow things down. You can usually take as long as you want reading the text on screen and making sure that you fully understand it. And of course, it’s a great opportunity to write down any new expressions or words that you come across.
CJ [00:07:43] OK, so would you then recommend the same basic learning strategies for games that we recommended for movies and TV?
Chris [00:07:52] You’re talking about keeping a vocabulary journal and writing down new expressions and words that you hear? Yes, absolutely.
CJ [00:07:59] And I’m assuming then that just like listening to actors in a TV show, you can still gain information about natural speech patterns and pacing, even if you’re not actively making notes all the time.
Chris [00:08:11] You bet. Like we mentioned before, lots of games have voice narration, and sometimes they even have cut scenes. Cut scenes are basically short movie clips about events that are happening in the game, so it should be a pretty easy transition from strengthening English through watching a movie or TV and strengthening it through playing a game.
CJ [00:08:30] Awesome. That sounds great for our CELPIP test takers who love gaming. So with that, I think it’s about time that we brought our guests in for today. This time we’ve got Simon back, and for the first time ever on the pod, we have Patrick from our Business Development team in Toronto, and Nathan is also joining us again. So I’m really excited about what video game recommendations they’ve got in store for us.
Chris [00:09:00] Yeah. Welcome everyone. Great to have you here.
Simon [00:09:03] Hi, guys. Thanks for having me back on the podcast again, and I’m really excited to talk about one of my favorite subjects.
Patrick [00:09:08] Hi everybody. I’m happy to have my first experience on this podcast. And yeah, I’m also happy to share my knowledge because I’ve been an avid gamer for over 10 years. So I’m happy to give you some suggestions.
Nathan [00:09:18] Everyone, it’s great to be back. And basically what Simon and Patrick said, I love gaming, and so I’m really excited to talk about it today.
CJ [00:09:28] All right. Well, thanks so much for being here. So let’s get into it. How about we start with Simon today. Simon, tell me about one of your top video game recommendations.
Simon [00:09:41] Well, I like the other guys on the podcast today, I’ve been playing games and writing about games for decades now, so I had to think long and hard about the kind of games I would recommend because I have some really strong favorites, but in terms of language learners, I had to think very carefully about what the best kind of games would be for them. And so what I’ve actually settled on are two games that came out within the last couple of years, both on Nintendo Switch, and these are games that I actually play with my kids. And it’s a very different thing when you have to start video gaming with your children; the kind of genre of games that you choose changes dramatically. So the first game I’ve chosen is actually called Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was released right in the middle of the pandemic, in the middle of, the beginning of 2020 on the Nintendo Switch. And Nintendo describes this as a social simulation game. So basically, you are given space to live on an island, you are taken to an island and you are loaned some money and you build a little house. And basically, it’s the most gentle, relaxing, embracing game that you can play because there’s—obviously there’s no combat, there’s no game over state. Your only objective is to make friends on this island and kind of network and grow your house and visit shops. And it sounds—I don’t think I’m probably selling it as best I could, but it’s, it’s hard to kind of describe this feeling of becoming part of a new community. And of course, in this community, you can be whatever you want, and it’s nice in that all of the other island residents are these like animal-human, humanoid-animal hybrids, but they’re all very, very cute in a very typical Nintendo way. And they’ve—you have visitors, and people that choose to stay and people that try to leave, and you actually connect on a very deep emotional level with these characters. And one of Nintendo’s real strengths is in character design, like they have been doing this a long time now and they really know how to give players this connection, and so everyone on this island becomes like your best friend. And then as you stay on the island and you borrow more and more money from this tyrannical property tycoon called Tom Nook, who is, appears is a very nice, friendly raccoon, but really, he’s a terrible person. He, he’s a loan shark, and you get into his pockets very deeply. So you’re actually trying to make money and there’s even a stock market, but with turnips, which I won’t go into, but you can, you can get into that and it becomes quite obsessive. But the reason I’m recommending this for our language learners is that it is all portrayed through conversational dialogue, like everything is the kind of English that we talk to our students about that they should be having more of, like that day-to-day social language where they have to interpret things that people say, they have to choose their responses and negotiate certain terms. And it’s basically a social English simulator—like, you couldn’t get a better example of the kind of environment if you’re looking, as a language learner, to practice the kind of English that you would use 99 percent of your life, that this game is the perfect platform for that.
CJ [00:13:14] OK, so that’s awesome. You had me at beach and turnip stock market, and so that is definitely something I’m curious about. Obviously, I have some follow-up questions because it sounds so lovely and welcoming. Can you expand a little bit about what you think the like the certain level of learner that this game would be best suited for?
Simon [00:13:39] The really interesting thing about Animal Crossing is that the answer is all of them. Somehow they’ve managed to find a kind of dialogue style where the all the island inhabitants kind of speak with a different speech pattern and formality. So you’ve got your neighbors who talk in very quick kind of slang with lots of phrasal verbs and idioms. You’ve got Tom Nook with his slightly more officious office language. You’ve got Brewster who runs the museum, who speaks a lot about the history and the background of these insects that you catch. And so you’ve got these, this huge variety of levels. And the really nice thing is, is that just like in real life, you’ve got the context of the situation to understand that English. So it’s really perfect for any level.
CJ [00:14:25] OK, well, that is good news for our CELPIP test takers. You can—to be able to situate yourselves in this game, any level of language will do, and that’s great. So it sounds like this game could really be used as a social platform. You talked a lot about welcoming and social spaces and being connected to these characters. Can you expand a little bit more on that?
Simon [00:14:48] Yeah, this is one of the reasons why this game, I mean, it could not have been released at a better time because one of the elements of this is you can go online and send—anyone else who plays this game, you can send them your island code and they can come and visit, and they kind of come and just hang out with you and your island. And of course, my, my daughter loves this. My daughter took over my island aggressively. It was a coup, and she’s now in control of the island. And so she loves people visiting. She shows them around all the different locations that she’s decorated. And what happened in 2020 is people were suddenly separated from their loved ones and not able to socialize. Animal Crossing became this platform where any number of your friends could come and visit you, and the Switch is a hugely popular console. It’s currently the seventh most popular bestselling console of all time, so that the number of players was massive, and so it was highly likely that you knew someone who played this game. People were like having Friday nights just hanging out on their island, on their virtual islands, and in fact, there were a few political parties as well who used it as a platform too. It really proved itself as this safe social space at a time when people really needed that.
CJ [00:16:05] That sounds lovely. I love that your daughter commandeered the use of your island. And I am fairly certain there’s a Nintendo Switch in my house, so I will definitely look into this as someone who doesn’t play video games, like I’m so interested in that. Now for test takers, good recommendation to start. Tell me about your second one. What can they get into as well?
Simon [00:16:31] So my second choice is a little bit stranger. It’s from a series of games that I really, really love. It’s also a Nintendo Switch game and it actually came out this year, and it’s called WarioWare: Get It Together! And so WarioWare was originally a Game Boy Advance game released in 2003, and it’s a series of very quick mini games. And in each mini game, you have to do one thing and you have to do it very, very quickly. And so each of the mini games starts with a sentence, and if you know your grammar, this is an imperative structured sentence that starts with a verb. So it tells you to do something very, very quickly, and then you’ve got about 10 seconds to do that thing. As the picture comes up and you’ll have a very cartoonish, like, man with a rocket who has to fly through a hoop or a dog who has to jump over a chair. And it’s usually a single action. And so the joy about WarioWare—and the most recent version is no exception—is that it’s a series of mini games, that it will suddenly give you this command, an imperative command like “Tweeze the hairs!” or “Keep balance!” or “Stand up straight!” or whatever, and you have about five seconds to process, What do I need to do? And then it gives you the game and you have another, another five seconds to actually do that action. Many of my students have this issue where they spend too long thinking about what they’re meant to be doing, like they want to increase their response time. It occurred to me this game is basically a listening and imperative trainer because you’ve got a variety of different commands and you have to very, very quickly respond to that and do what it wants. And of course, as the ladder of these mini games gets higher and higher, the response time gets shorter and shorter. So it’s a really wonderful arcade experience.
CJ [00:18:30] OK, that sounds wild, like a real, crazy game. Now you spoke about five seconds, ten seconds. Is there a danger that the instructions might be too quick for learners to understand?
Simon [00:18:44] Absolutely. And that’s why it’s perfect, because it reflects that real-life experience of “I need to understand something quickly.” In the real world, native speakers, we respond very quickly to things, and non-native speakers can find that quite intimidating. But with WarioWare, if you come across a verb that you don’t know and you fail that game, then you’re going to remember that verb. You’re going to think, OK, that’s going to come up again. I’m going to learn that verb because next time I want to know what to do. So it’s actually secret education. They have to react so quickly that there are going to be some instances where there will be some verbs that maybe they don’t understand fully. It’s not complicated language; it’s just very, very quick. But it’s, again, really good training for real- life situations.
CJ [00:19:28] I love that explanation and it definitely requires the bravery of trying something, but at least you’re doing it on your own video game by yourself. So that’s awesome. So is there a wide variety of language used, or does it generally use like similar type of instruction over and over?
Simon [00:19:47] That’s the thing with Nintendo. One of the joys of this game is constantly being shocked at how much gameplay they can squeeze out of a single imperative sentence. And there’s a massive variety of things that you have to do, and they are repeated in their sort of groups, but not to the point where you can get comfortable. Every time you kind of reach one point, they’ll introduce a whole new set of mini games and each one has a different instruction, so I don’t think you’ll ever find that you can rely on repetition. There’s always something new to listen to.
CJ [00:20:22] OK, well, thank you for that. So we’ve got one game where it’s like, “Make yourself comfortable. This is a safe place,” and one game where it’s like, “All right, we’re going to lean into discomfort through and we’re going to learn through it.” I love it. So thank you for that. I hadn’t heard about those before, but that’s, I probably haven’t heard about most of today’s recommendations, but they do both sound super interesting and valuable.
Simon [00:20:46] Great.
Chris [00:20:46] Yeah, definitely. Same here. You know, two picks that I think sort of fall outside of what maybe we stereotypically think of as video games, and like some really unique challenges. Definitely I want to check those out. Let’s swing over to Patrick. How about you? What games have you got for us?
Patrick [00:21:07] Yeah. So I wanted to talk to you about a little bit different options than what Simon was talking about. So I’m a big sports fan, so I play a lot of sports games and my favorite sport is actually basketball. And I find the basketball simulation video games to be very exciting and they’re fun to play with other people. So they come out with one new one every year, because the NBA teams are changing, the players are changing, so they have to come out with a new version every year to accommodate these changes. There’s always new features that they add. Yeah, sports, basketball or sorry, sports games in general have really changed now because of the online component. So you can play with your friends and you can even play with people online that you, you don’t even know. I would be playing against maybe a beginner and I’d be winning. And then other times I would be playing against somebody that’s been playing for a long time and I would just give up because they were too good. So, yeah, the new NBA video game. One good thing about it is they do make it on multiple platforms, so you don’t have to have the latest console, you can have the one before it, which now would be a little bit cheaper. You can even play them on your mobile device as well or your tablet, so there’s a lot of options to get that new game for NBA or other sports games.
Chris [00:22:27] OK, that’s excellent that it’s so accessible and versatile. Now this is a sports game. Are you sure it’d be good for practicing English?
Patrick [00:22:37] Yeah, that’s a great question. So I mean, we—sports games have really come a long way. Before it was just, you know, you hit the play button, you pick your team and you just go and play. But now they’ve become a lot more intricate. So they have different modes. For example, you can, there’s a mode in NBA called My GM where you are like the owner of the basketball team and you’re, you’re pretending to be the owner. So you have to hire a coach, you know, hire scouts, you know, you have to make sure that your coaches are happy, your players are happy. And there’s a lot of dialogue there. So for example, every week that you’re running your own team, it’s going to give you a sentence description on how your coach is feeling. Does he feel that you know you’re, you’re treating him properly? Are the players happy? Are they getting enough time to play or do they want to be traded to another team? So there’s a lot of management and a lot of reading there that, that’s incorporated into that mode. They also have profiles for different players where they categorize their skills. So what’s their passing ability? What’s their shooting ability? What is their stamina? So there’s a lot that you have to read and unpack. Another thing that the sports games have introduced recently is there’s actually like a story mode, which is kind of like watching a movie. You basically create your own player and you customize everything about that player. And then you go from basically high school to winning, you know, a college championship and then you graduate to the NBA and it all has a story. It’s like watching a movie. So there’s, you know, subtitles, there’s dialogue, there’s different characters. You’re kind of immersed in English. You know, these games do give you the ability to have the menus in different languages, but I would encourage anybody to switch that to English so that they can continue practicing English every day.
Chris [00:24:39] Wow. I didn’t really realize how sort of sophisticated and complex these sports themed games were, and clearly lots of opportunities to be exposed to day-to-day real-life English, so that will be extremely useful for our test takers. Any other helpful tips you have to maximize English learning for this game? Are there specific, like, game modes you recommend for learning and practice?
Patrick [00:25:07] Yeah, I would say the story mode is great because it does have that whole story and dialogue. There’s different modes. There’s one where you—it’s called My Team, and you basically have all of the players in the league at your disposal, and you can pick which ones you want on your team to combine like your own All-Star team. And you have descriptions of every player’s—you can read what their strengths are, their weaknesses. Just some other helpful tips in general is, I normally play these kind of games with my friends online, so as we’re playing, we’re talking, we’re engaging in conversation. So this is kind of the kind of game that you’d want to play with friends, and it’s fun, and you can be talking as you’re learning. And also, if you wanted to learn some strategies to do well in the game, they actually have YouTube videos where people are talking—“These are some tips to become a better player.” So you’re exposing yourself if you’re YouTubing some some strategies for the game as well.
Chris [00:26:08] Oh, OK, so I’m hearing practicing daily communication, building vocabulary, reading skills, listening skills. There’s a whole sort of learning experience here, sort of for all the, for virtually all of the skills. That’s fantastic. OK, so what about your second pick? What about your other video game that you were thinking of today?
Patrick [00:26:32] OK, so my second pick is actually a 360, so it’s totally different. This is also a role playing game, so that was the RPG term that you both were mentioning earlier. So basically, this one is called Elder Scrolls Online, so it’s similar to a previous game we talked about, Skyrim. It’s actually in the same universe, but you create your own character and you’re in this huge world and you’re interacting with different characters and you’re making decisions. And it’s actually an online-only game, so you play it online with other players. And this is the type of game that I couldn’t even count the hours, how many hours and days I’ve spent on this game. It’s one of those really immersive games that you really have to make sure that you’re making time for other things as well, because this game will suck you right in and it’s really enjoyable.
Chris [00:27:24] Thank you for that public service announcement, that warning that this might be so fun that you begin to neglect your regular life. OK. So what level English do they do? Do you think that players or I’ll say test takers need to be able to follow the quests?
Patrick [00:27:41] I would say this one’s a bit more intermediate to advanced. They do use a lot of higher level vocabulary and there is a ton of dialogue. So there’s like millions of characters in the world and there’s millions of quests, so every character that you approach, you can talk to them. There’s just a lot of dialogue involved. So, you know, 50 percent of the game is reading the dialogue and then picking between different options on how to respond. I’ll just give you an example here, but some of the vocabulary in this particular game would be like: “A dark army marches across Skyrim. Count Varendis’ Raven Watch seeks allies in the wild land of the reach to uncover the true intent of the grey host.” So, as you can see, it’s a little bit more of a higher level vocabulary than, say, a sports game. So it just depends on where you’re at with your English learning. But I would say this one, you do have to have a little bit higher level of English to really enjoy this game.
Chris [00:28:41] OK. That’s good to know, and obviously still possible for sort of intermediate users, but it’s just going to be a bit more challenging, obviously. So my understanding here is that, you know with the sports game, you have people kind of playing on their own pretty much, right? But here you are, basically have the ability to play alongside other players. So I’m just wondering what the impact of that is. Does that sort of optimize or increase the learning potential here for in terms of developing English skills, do you think?
Patrick [00:29:19] Yeah, I think this game, it actually really encourages you to team up with your friends and you have like a faction together. And when you’re completing quests, a lot of them, it requires multiple players to, to work as a team. During these kind of quests when you’re, you know, taking on the bad guys, so to speak, you, you have to work together. You have to communicate about what your strategy is to complete the quest. So I would often play this game alongside my friends because I felt that it was, this game was more suited to playing in a group with a group of people. I was really constantly speaking English to my friends and giving each other directions and strategy. This game is especially useful for playing with other people, and that will really throw you right into practice mode with practicing your English.
Chris [00:30:10] Excellent. OK. Thank you for both of those. I’ll admit I haven’t played either, and I probably wouldn’t have played, you know, a sports based one, I’m not like a big sports guy. But after the explanation that you gave, that it has this whole social element and this kind of hierarchy of management and all of that, suddenly it sounds quite appealing. So I kind of I look forward to trying both of those out, you know, sometime soon.
CJ [00:30:39] I must confess, Patrick, you have just really blown my mind. And this is really nice to get to sort of hear what our colleagues’ interests are. And those are two super different games. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of interest in sports and so that can sometimes be something that like, we haven’t addressed that a ton in our sort of content. And so it’s really good to have something for our like CELPIP test takers who are avid sports fans out there. That sounds really cool, and I’m deeply interested in this like Elder Scrolls. So now I do really want to hear what Nathan has for us in store because I’m sure that’s going to be some really interesting games as well.
Nathan [00:31:22] Yeah. Well, I think just like Simon and Patrick, I really struggled to narrow down my choices because I love games, I’ve played a lot of games, so I just I have a lot of games in mind. But I would say my favorite type of game is anything with a really good story. And I think coincidentally, that really applies well to kind of strengthening your English through games because stories, they just have so many different uses of language, whether it’s dialogue, whether it’s kind of narration during a cut scene or you’re making choices in the plot, things like that. So my first recommendation is a game called Fire Watch, and it’s very story based. I think it’s available on pretty much every platform, every device, except your phone. It’s a few years old, maybe five or six years old. So even older computers should be able to play it fine. It’s a first-person game, which means that you don’t see your character, you, you move through the world just like you do in real life. And I guess for the genre, I would probably say adventure. It’s an adventure game. So the basic premise is that for various reasons, your main character, Henry, has decided to take a job at a watchtower in the middle of the forest in a national park. And so that basically means he’s going to spend his summer in the tower watching for forest fires and reporting them in. This is, it’s set in 1989, so it’s before Wi-Fi or smartphones or anything like that. You start your job there, but pretty soon things start getting a little strange. You come back to your tower one day and it looks like someone’s maybe broken in and stolen things. And as you wander through the forest, you start experiencing kind of pretty mysterious events, which I’m not going to spoil here. So the atmosphere can get kind of spooky, but there are definitely no jump scares or anything like that. It just kind of it keeps you keeps pulling you forward.
CJ [00:33:21] OK, cool. Unsurprisingly, I’d not heard of this game, but also I don’t think I’ve heard of any games quite like that before, either. It sounds really unique, which is awesome, so thank you for sharing that. Now, obviously, I have questions, which is: when you say sort of the dialogue and what happens is very natural, does this mean that test takers might come across some terms and expressions that they haven’t seen before?
Nathan [00:33:50] Actually, I’m super glad you mentioned that because, yeah, so the dialogue feature in the game is definitely my favorite part. So the game is really well-written and the dialogue, just the way it’s, it’s written and it’s also voice acted, and so you can you can listen to it as well as read it, and it’s really, really natural. So the dialog is all— it’s, everything you hear is something that you would very likely hear in real life. It’s very conversational, very casual. And so I think that really applies a lot to test takers who, you know, they want to focus on conversational English. They’re going to learn a lot from the dialogue, the vocabulary choices and the expressions and the idioms that they hear in the game. I should point out that some of the dialogue there are going to be curse words, and sometimes they do discuss somewhat heavier subject matter, but it is dealt sensitively and any cursing in the game is very conversational and it’s kind of in a joking manner.
CJ [00:34:53] OK, OK, so thank you for that. That’s great and important and part of life. So you mentioned earlier that Fire Watch is set in a national park in the year 1989. Do you think that impacts how relevant the dialogue is for players if they want to improve their English?
Nathan [00:35:15] That’s a good point. I don’t really think so, though, like the characters, they’re not going to talk about modern technology or politics or kind of current events, stuff like that. But the important thing is just how the game is written. The narrative and dialog have a very natural flow to them, conversations written in such a way that you’d hear it in real life, so I don’t think the setting is much of an issue. One thing on a different note that it’s kind of fun to mention—so, unlike The Elder Scrolls that Patrick was talking about, which, I’ve definitely played games like that where you can just, you’re sucked in for too many hours than you want to say: Fire Watch, although you do get sucked in, it’s only like five hours and then you’re done. So you’re not going to get overwhelmed by length or anything like that. And each part of the story is broken into days, and so you can play a day or two in the story, go to bed or go go to work, come back later, play a few more days. And so it’s, it’s a nice kind of casual approach to gaming in that respect.
CJ [00:36:18] OK, engaging but not all-consuming. Noted. And that’s important, but it is also nice to know that at least if you’re getting consumed, you are improving your English language. You can sort of keep that point in one’s back pocket, dear listeners. OK, so tell us about your second choice, your second game suggestion.
Nathan [00:36:45] OK, so my second game, it’s, it’s a little bit different from anything we’ve discussed so far. It’s called 80 Days and you can play it, I believe, on your phone, your tablet, your PC or your Nintendo Switch, and it’s super cheap. Last time I checked, I think it was like five dollars for Android or iPhone. And so it’s very loosely based on a novel called Around the World in 80 Days by the French writer Jules Verne, and it’s set in 1872. Basically, you’re an assistant to a very, very rich man who has just made a bet to travel around the world in 80 days, which back then would have been like very, very quickly. And it’s your job to decide where you’re going to travel next and what you’re going to, what supplies you’re going to buy along the way. What sorts of adventures and misadventures you’re going to have as you explore. And I think one really interesting thing and definitely my most favorite part of the game is just the quality of the writing. It’s probably some of the best narrative writing that I’ve seen in a game. You will be doing a ton of reading. I love to read, so it’s not an issue for me. And it’s, I think it’s not really a problem for many people, but just kind of know that going in: there will be a lot of reading, a lot of text. But that’s actually a really big plus, especially if you’re if you want to kind of practice your reading skills because you will be doing a lot of that. There’s nothing jargony, there’s nothing scientific. You may come across new terms, but it’s very well kind of painted through the context of the situations that you’re in. As you’re exploring the world, you’re, you’re traveling around the world, so you’re seeing different cultures and kind of different practices, and I think it does a really good job of respecting and treating sensitively all the different ideas and mindsets that you might see kind of as you’re traveling around. So yeah, it’s, it’s the kind of game that really keeps pulling me back.
CJ [00:38:46] OK, that sounds like there’s a lot going on. And you touched on something about reading, which I will ask about shortly. But first, a kind of—because there’s a lot going on and it sounds really great, but for listeners who are just curious, in terms of like understanding and aligning with other things we’ve talked about today, what sort of genre would you classify it as?
Nathan [00:39:09] That’s a good question. And honestly, I, I don’t really know. I think it could fall into a lot of genres. There’s a little bit of strategy to it. There’s definitely some adventure. I might even call it interactive fiction, which is, I don’t, I don’t know if that’s a genre or not, but interactive fiction is basically very similar to a narrative that you would read in a book, except you interact, you make choices, you decide where the plot goes, and it’s maybe a bit more focused on the reading. So in the game, you do make a ton of choices, which is good just on an entertainment level because every single time you play the game, which only lasts maybe an hour or two tops every time you restart it, you’ll have a completely different experience because of the choices you made. The many different genres it falls into also helps if you want to improve your English, because many people with many different interests could all kind of get something out of this game.
CJ [00:40:07] OK, fantastic. One of the things I’ve heard you talk a lot and I’m sure our listeners’ were, ears were ringing when you were saying this, that there is a lot of reading. This is a good opportunity for practice. It’s really great for test takers who want to improve in that area. But is this the type of game where you need to sort of sit down and play it for a few hours at once? Or can you just like stop and start it?
Nathan [00:40:30] You can absolutely play it for as long or as short as you want. So like, the way you play the game is you travel from city to city and you maybe have a five- or ten-minute adventure. It’s super easy to just hop on the bus, play the game for 20 minutes, hop off, do your thin,g and then come back later. Or if you’re just bored on a rainy Saturday afternoon, you could just play it for a few hours. So it’s totally up to you.
CJ [00:40:55] OK, wow. That’s super cool. Thanks, Nathan. I think that’s really even good to know that you can just like, play for a little bit as you’re sort of going about your, your days on transit and such. Both of those games sound fun and actually super educational. This has quite literally been the longest conversation I’ve ever had about video games. Somewhere in, somewhere around the conversation with Patrick, I was like, “Yep, this is the longest conversation I’ve had about video games,” and I hope actually that our listeners, whether or not you’re interested in video games, come away with something or are thinking about this other way to expose themselves to English because I’m actually super excited. I will, I will try some of these and play like my first video game in years.
Chris [00:41:40] I definitely do some gaming, but this has totally opened my eyes to some other possibilities here, and I’ll definitely be checking out some of these picks. Thank you so much for everyone for joining us today, Simon, Patrick, Nathan. This has been great. You’ve made some terrific suggestions, as always.
Simon [00:41:57] Thanks for having me, guys. I love being here to talk to you about games, and I’ve always loved listening to the other recommendations as well. Thank you.
Patrick [00:42:04] Thanks. I second, what Simon said, it’s been great sharing our gaming picks, and if you do decide to practice English this way, happy gaming to all of you and it’s been a pleasure to be here.
Nathan [00:42:15] Yeah, I echo again what Simon, and Patrick said. It’s been a blast to be here. I’ve enjoyed sharing my games and it’s opened my eyes to some new games and genres that I want to check out, and I think it’d be super helpful for our test takers as well.
CJ [00:42:29] OK, well, thanks again so much. And Chris, I’d call that another productive episode, I think. Oh, Chris, Chris?
Chris [00:42:39] Hmm, well, oh totally. Yes, yes. Wait, what are we talking about?
CJ [00:42:45] Um, I’m sorry, were you just—were you just on your phone just now?
Chris [00:42:50] What? No, no. I definitely wasn’t playing a game on my phone just now. That, that didn’t happen. Why would you think that?
CJ [00:42:59] I mean, OK, anyway, have fun. But before we go, let’s talk a bit about the next episode. I think it’s going to be special for a couple of reasons. First, we’ll be talking about board games, and I will always make time in my day for a board game. I love a good board game.
Chris [00:43:23] Plus, it’ll be the last episode in our series about media recommendations—well, at least for now. There are so many great board and card games out there that I’m sure we’ll have no shortage of amazing recommendations.
CJ [00:43:36] I 100 percent agree.
Chris [00:43:39] Well, until next time. Best of luck preparing for the test.
CJ [00:43:43] And happy gaming, everyone.
Chris [00:43:45] Bye.
CJ [00:43:46] Bye.