For me, gaming is a both a pastime and a way to broaden my horizons. With everybody else debating whether games are art or entertainment, I’ve been too busy educating myself to notice. Its ability to teach is often overlooked, but as gaming continues to mature, it’s a quality that deserves more light shone on it.

If you think about it, it’s actually incredible. It’s rare for a form of cultural expression to have such a strong effect on people. After all, without gaming I’d have large gaps in my knowledge – what other entertainment mediums can say that?

For example, Assassin’s Creed taught me about ancient civilizations, their cultures and the architecture they built, while the Call of Duty series sparked a desire in me to find out more about World War II.

Even fan-favourite Gears of War helped me think a bit broader. It made me ponder the reality of warfare, the huge human sacrifice and the way soldiers become part of a massive machine, i.e. cogs.

However, for me the most educative of games is Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption. Before I entered the Wild West, I knew very little about the period. Its lawless inhabitants were alien to me. This was about to change; by the time I was done I knew every little detail about America’s frontier.

I learned the weapons of the period, the clothing people wore, the way they spoke (or at least the Hollywood Western accent), how chaotic Mexico was at the time, the way of the land and finally, how harsh the landscape was.

It was exciting, not just from a playing perspective, but how much I enjoyed taking in all this information.

It didn’t stop there. It also pushed me in the direction of Western cinema to find out what Red Dead Redemption was paying homage to. It turns out, a lot. In fact, with Rockstar Games’ title as the starting point and a lot of film watching later, popular cultural references began to make more sense.

The learning snowballed. It became apparent how much people relied on their horses back then. Cars were one thing, but the opening of Red Dead Redemption showed the importance of a healthy steed. Their transport was alive and as a result, kept people the same – it made sense to look after horses.

Then the railway came – America started to shrink, towns started to crop up and modernisation was coming. This is evident in Red Dead Redemption as even the characters themselves don’t know how to cope with the change. It’s fascinating that when the sun did set on the Wild West, it has still managed to retain its ability to captivate hearts and minds. It helped expand my existing knowledge while also creating an important gaming icon. It’s remarkable that the period can still charm so many today.

So how about you? Have you found yourself walking away from a game with a burning desire to learn? Maybe games are just for fun. If you’ve got a game that’s expanded your horizon, let me know in the comments below.