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Unconventional Learning Experience

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The show you're watching is not made for educational purposes, nor is it a total Aesop magnet. It most certainly isn't full of And Knowing Is Half the Battle sequences at the end of each episode. It may not even be a hundred percent accurate about what it's depicting, and that's entirely for Rule of Cool, Rule of Funny, or any of the other Rules. But it's still, oddly enough, an educational experience — you have a better understanding of the topic it depicts than you did before.

It's a trend that's increased in time over the Internet, as wikis and fansites are very adept at dissecting the Genius Bonuses that various works have to offer, and creators realise this and start to insert more and more references to things they are interested in and know a lot about. This creates a viable middle ground — it's not essential to enjoying the story, but it adds another dimension to it if you're willing to keep your mind open to it.

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It stops short of From Entertainment to Education, which is the point at which actual educational institutions think you can learn from the show in an academic setting. See also I Read It for the Articles, which may point to this sort of thing happening but isn't necessarily true. Not to be confused with an Accidental Aesop, where the lesson learned comes from a misinterpretation, intentional or otherwise, of the original lesson, or with Space Whale Aesop, where the "lesson" learned quite literally comes out of nowhere with no relation to the circumstances of the story.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Spice and Wolf isn't intended as Edutainment about European economics; that's purely Author Appeal. Doesn't change the fact that you'll learn a lot from it.
  • While you shouldn't take the National Stereotypes as fact, and a lot of details had to be trimmed around (especially the Nazis), Hetalia: Axis Powers can teach you a lot about World War I if you look behind the lighthearted comedy.
  • While Dragon Ball does not even pretend to accurately portray martial arts, it does convey "achievement through effort" fairly well. Rigorous training is not only shown to be beneficial, but also repetitive, boring, frustrating, and incredibly time consuming. Achievement in one's field comes at the expense of other admirable life pursuits, and the unhealthiness of being too single-minded is explored. Finally, perseverance is shown to have diminishing returns without rest and recovery. Reading Dragon Ball doesn't teach self defense, but one can take lessons away from how to go about learning or improving in any number of pursuits.
  • Digimon is basically a crash course in theology, both Eastern and Western. The card game and several characters draw parallels to multiple cultures and traditions. The third series relates to Eastern principles such as the idea of a Deva as well the Four Animals of the Earth, and villains are based on the Eastern Zodiac. There's even a Taomon. The following series is Western based, with the ideas of Seraphim and Ophan, as well as Lucifer himself as a villain, with several allusions to his origins and portrayal in Paradise Lost.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs is chock full of references to classic literature from various parts of the world (mostly Japan and America, but also Russia, England, and France so far), from the characters and their abilities to the relationships between them. The translator's notes pointing out references here and there is educational enough as it is, and fans tend to be influenced to read the works referenced in the series as well.
  • Killing Bites' plot concerning half-human half-animal hybrids mainly serves as fuel for flashy, blood-soaked fights and Fanservice, but that doesn't take away from the fact that many of the attacks, skills, and even character personalities on display actually have a basis in zoology, with the show regularly cutting away from a fight to explain how a fighter's behavior or actions relates to the actual animal.
  • Similarly, Kemono Friends and its predecessor video game were just fun stories about animal girls that occasionally had information about their base animals, but it really got people taking up an interest in the animal kingdom and some of the species featured on the show, to the point where some zoos owed their continued success to it.
  • One Piece isn't even going to pretend to give you any massive insight into the real-world history of piracy, but it does make a lot of references to that history. Its allusions to both well-known and obscure real-life pirates makes the series a fairly comprehensive "who's-who", especially with regard to Blackbeard and the people associated with him — everything from his various aliases to the legend of the man who captured him having freakish invulnerability.
  • The Gundam franchise leans a little harder on the sci-fi scale, with space colonies based on real concepts of producing Artificial Gravity through cylindrical rotation and using large mirrors for energy and light. They also, on occasion, include references to Lagrange Points where such colonies would naturally be deployed.

    Comic Books 
  • Peter David tells a story from back when he was still writing The Incredible Hulk of how his daughter's second grade school teacher once sent him a note informing him that if he kept allowing her to read comic books, her vocabulary would be sub-par and her reading level stunted. So David pulled out three or four issues of The Hulk he had on hand and started writing down some of the notable words used in the dialogue and narration. Words like "sepulcher" and "cravenly" and "inconsolable" and "cylindrical". He then asked if it was usual for a second grader to not only read such words, but to know their definitions. He then closed his case.
  • Alan Moore's comics are filled with a wealth of detail about science, history, mythology, literature and feature a range of allusions:
    • Watchmen is one of the earliest exposures to high-level quantum physics for most non-specialists and cited as an inspiration for other depictions of Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything such as Lost and Bioshock Infinite. It also thematically explores multiple codes of ethics, including deontology and utilitarianism, and the flaws and strengths of each.
    • From Hell is an exhaustively detailed look at late Victorian London, and thanks to the extensive footnotes of the complete edition, it often serves as a complete primer about Jack the Ripper and an introduction to psychogeography and fractal maths.
    • Promethea likewise has introduced many readers to the occult, and Moore intended it to be largely educational in nature.
    • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is essentially the coolest literature major course you always wanted to attend.
    • V for Vendetta is, alongside The Dispossessed, a fine primer on anarchy. Fittingly, it doesn't provide any easy answers. How very anarchist of it.
  • A lot of Neil Gaiman's comic works, books, and novels are pretty well researched and entertaining. There's an extensive number of people, from fans to big names in literature to celebrities, who have become interested in the subjects he usually researches, including history, mythology (Nordic myths his specialty), religion, fiction in general, and even authors that he recommends or writes as characters in his stories.

    Film 
  • Arrival is quite possibly the most detailed primer on language ever put to film. It's also wildly entertaining.
  • The Craft debunks a lot of misconceptions about witchcraft — the girls don't worship the devil, they worship nature, spells are more like prayer, they believe in the threefold lawnote , and each coven has its own rules which are forbidden to outsiders. Of course, there's still a lot of Urban Fantasy in there, because it's more exciting.
  • My Cousin Vinny, despite being a comedy, is noted for being one of the most accurate legal movies ever made. Attempting to pull off Courtroom Antics just ends up getting the main character in hot water more than once, and it accurately shows not only opening statements but how to effectively cross-examine a witness. It's notable that many actual law schools will show it to the class for them to dissect and learn from.
  • Star Wars has been used by countless Philosophy and Religious Studies professors as a teaching tool, since the concepts integral to the Jedi way of life can be so easily likened to a plethora of Eastern religions and philosophies, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and bushido. If you're a Western moviegoer from a predominately Christian community, there's a good chance that the movies gave you your first glimpse at a form of spirituality other than the one that you were raised with, and probably served as your introduction to certain spiritual ideas — like the concept of an all-pervading divine force that encompasses the Universe itself — that are very much sacred canon in many world religions.
  • Trading Places is so informative about economics and trading that, following the 2008 recession, Section 136 of the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act (also known as the Dodd-Frank Act) — which was an Obvious Rule Patch to prevent some of the shenanigans shown at the end of the film — is informally known as the "Eddie Murphy Rule".
  • In a meta-context, Justice League had a notorious Troubled Production, which dealt with director Zack Snyder leaving late in post production due to personal tragedy, that even casual fans were able to identify (half of the footage shown in the trailers were not in the movie). In the aftermath of the underwhelming theatrical release missing footage, still pictures and testimonials from cast and crew showed a more elaborate movie than what was released and a campaign to see the movie as originally intended gained steam with the rally cry "Release the Snyder Cut." With new bits of information pouring in every few weeks and dismantling what exactly happened to the movie lead to more mainstream discussion how a film production cycle works, what reshoots entail and how editing can radically change the story. This visibility ended up serving its purpose two years later, as HBO Max saw a market for the original film and worked with Snyder to develop a new project based on the original material, called Zack Snyder's Justice League.

    Literature 
  • Since the original novel mixed and matched fiction with the occasional digressive essay on topical subjects, many 19th Century novels which were contemporary for their time have nonetheless taught casual readers a great deal about America, France, Russia, and England. Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, and Honoré de Balzac especially are considered mandatory reading to really get a sense of what the 19th Century was really like. Balzac especially, with his exhaustive attention to social classes and economics, is often cited in works by professional economists such as Karl Marx and Thomas Piketty.
  • A lot of postmodernist fiction revives the 19th Century style only taken further:
    • Thomas Pynchon will often send you running to read about obscure and difficult topics such as high-level mathematics, rocket physics, corporate history, the aristocratic Thurn-und-Taxis family, and the Herero genocide.
    • Jorge Luis Borges fills his fiction with all kinds of literary and philosophical games and puzzles, though Borges is so Genre Savvy about this trope that he often mixes fake facts and history with real ones just to mess with readers who are trying to learn without actually putting the effort:
    That history should have copied history was already sufficiently astonishing; that history should copy literature was inconceivable.
    • Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics was written in the hope of educating readers and children about 20th Century physics and evolutionary theory by means of the form of the classic folktale.
    • Salman Rushdie's novels are at times lengthy essays that parody and riff of some aspect of history, contemporary life, and hobby horses that he found interesting. Some of his work averts it in being straight historical fiction.
  • George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is fantasy, but it is heavily based on the Wars of the Roses and medieval history in general. His books feature several characters, places, and incidents that allude, directly and indirectly, to various events across feudal history, and deciphering them has often led fans of his books to gain a sophomore knowledge of medieval Europe.
  • Dodger by Terry Pratchett had a non-fiction spin-off called Dodger's Guide to London. But the novel itself is a pretty good guide to Victorian London.
  • The Discworld novels can teach you such things as unconventional historical means of arsenic poisoning, the symbolism of maypoles and broomsticks, the origins of midwinter festivals, and the meaning of the word "susurrus". You just need to tease it out of the fictional stuff, for which Sir Terry recommended the public library.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed is simultaneously an entertaining introduction to what an anarchist society would actually be like and also Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: The Novel. By the same author, The Left Hand of Darkness will cause you to question everything you think you know about gender.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide guide lays out some pretty good basic survival tips and techniques when dealing with a disaster, even though said disaster will (almost) certainly not involve zombies. A few people have claimed to have used it during real natural disasters. It even includes the often underappreciated advice that not every disaster is an apocalypse and that the law should be respected for as long as it has any meaning — in other words, don't wish for a disaster so that you can show off your survivalist chops.
  • The Survive! novels by Jack Dillon are Edutainment for children that feature protagonists having to deal with different natural disasters like volcanoes, forest fires, and avalanches. The plots themselves have lots of demonstrations of children and teenagers having to fend for themselves after being separated from adults, and the end of the books contain facts and figures on how to handle yourself in such an emergency.
  • The children's book series Horrible Harry is many young readers' first introduction to Korean culture. One of the main characters, Song Lee, is Korean-American, and many aspects of her culture are referenced in the books. They're also accurate and well-researched.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Band of Brothers is a pretty good history lesson for high school students who want to learn about World War II. There's some Artistic Licence – History, but for the most part it's a good representation of what happened, and it's often shown in high school history classes.
  • NCIS has been called educational about the American justice system by showing an otherwise obscure government entity that is part of the morass that is the American Political System and how it interacts with that system. It still has to deal with police investigations, due process, search warrants, Miranda Rights, and the like. It was a particularly good primer for people in totalitarian regimes to see what the government should really look like. On a totally different tangent, it also teaches viewers about classic films because of Di Nozzo's constant references to them.
  • The riffing in Mystery Science Theater 3000 is packed with popular culture references, stagecraft notes, and trope deconstructions that can result in hours of research.
  • MythBusters is in the business of busting myths, so it is educational, but notably, several people have credited the "what to do when your car is submerged" episode with saving their lives.
  • While MacGyver (1985) often beefed up the plot with different Artistic License and Rule of Cool (and censoring details on the more destructive ones), the general idea and basic science behind various gizmos and improvisations made by Mac always checked out. The real-life results might not be as impressive (as checked by listed above MythBusters), but they still end up happending. And even ignoring the solutions themselves, the series sure as hell promoted outside-of-box thinking and ad-hoc solutions to problems.
  • The Wire demonstrated, in one episode, that gambling can be used to teach probability math. In fact, if The Drunkard's Walk is to be believed, gambling is probably the only reason probability math was invented. It also offers some excellent advice on how to avoid electronic surveillance and self-incrimination when you get arrested, and police departments have complained about this before.
  • Instead of watching 24-hour news networks, you can tune in to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report which satirize these programs, and still get a good chunk of pertinent information on whatever it is they report. The Daily Show is particularly notable for being a "better" news source than many mainstream American news channels like Fox News and MSNBC, with a survey showing that viewers who got their news primarily from the Daily Show were the best informed about political issues in the country. (Fox News viewers were the least informed.) Jon Stewart has even won journalistic awards for his work on the show, but was notably uncomfortable about this, acknowledging his success but stating that it's the "real" news media's job to be more informative than he is.
  • You can learn a great deal about historical artifacts from Pawn Stars (see, The History Channel isn't suffering complete Network Decay!), and it can even show you how to avoid damaging valuable antiques.
  • Legion, based on the Marvel comics, while surreal and very Mind Screwy at times, has a great deal of episodes that are basically lectures and studies in psychology and psychoanalysis, from the basics like depression to the most complicated, like actual personality disorders and mental health.
  • NUMB3RS discusses math in every episode.
  • All things considered, it is probably not wise to let a hypochondriac watch House. It has described a plethora of exotic diseases, even as it warns that it's utterly stupid to diagnose yourself with them.
  • The West Wing has this in spades for the political system and U.S. history. People have learned all sorts of obscure things about how the Presidency works by watching the show.
  • If you watch The BBC series Spooksnote , especially early episodes by playwright Howard Brenton, be prepared to learn quite a lot about the intricacies of British and international politics, the roots of terrorism, and real spy tradecraft. In contrast to American shows like 24, Spooks routinely tosses out literary moments, like guest star Anthony Head quoting Coriolanus to justify betrayal, or Officer Carter citing Lawrence of Arabia going undercover as a Circassian as justification for one of his operations.
  • The Big Bang Theory is a show about scientists, so naturally they will teach people physics, biology, and mathematics.
  • The Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode "Sabrina The Teenage Writer" has a lot of useful advice for people who want to write fiction: Basing characters off real people is not a substitute for Character Development, don't force the ending, unexpected twists that make no sense aren't good writing, make sure the characters know why they're doing what they're doing, and making something more realistic for the sake of it doesn't automatically make things better.
  • The Good Place discusses multiple philosophical questions and introduces the viewer to many concepts in philosophy. In particular, T.M. Scanlon's What We Owe to Each Other experienced a large spike in searches and purchases, as the philosophy of contractualism is a running theme in the show.
  • Drunk History: For all of the antics of the drunk narrators, over-the-top reenactments, and anachronisms, the historical events are retold accurately and respectfully enough for its audience to say that they learned more from this show than they do at school, especially when some light gets shined on more obscure people and events.
  • HBO's Watchmen TV series has been praised for teaching many viewers about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, a historically important incident of racial violence that's seldom depicted in American popular culture. Google searches for "Tulsa Race Riot" apparently spiked the night that the first episode aired.

    Music 

    Podcasts 
  • The attention to historical detail, plus the bonus episodes exploring the history behind the fiction, mean that is is possible to learn quite a bit about the history of the Johnson Administration and the politics of late 1860s America from 1865. Likewise, the bonus episodes also provide quite a bit of information about what goes into the making of an audio drama podcast.

    Radio 

  • To save money, the original The Lone Ranger radio series used music in the public domain for its soundtrack. This meant that a generation of young children were introduced to classical music (especially the William Tell Overture) from listening to the adventures of their favorite hero.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Tabletop RPG games like Dungeons & Dragons can easily be considered one long arithmetic problem personified as a fantasy adventure. Games with a Point Build System or Min-Maxing particularly focus on algebra, and games that focus on non-narrative combat resolution like with dice or cards teach probability theory. Playing any game long enough also forces you to have an understanding of game theory. The genre has also been a boon for parents hoping that their kids would be more sociable and use their imagination.
  • Board Games and Card Games also teach probability and, in some cases (e.g. Monopoly and its progeny) arithmetic.
  • Even Plugged In admitted that the Yu-Gi-Oh! Collectible Card Game had the educational benefit of helping kids practice math. There have been many cases in which parents reported that the Pokémon TCG taught their children similar basic math skills.
  • Some of the real world settings in the GURPS line are described in sourcebooks with a level of detail and accuracy comparable to that of a high school history textbook. Moreover, they're also good at explicitly separating myth and history.
  • Some historically based strategy board games can really help in history class, including Here I Stand (wars of the Reformation), Twilight Struggle (the Cold War), and World in Flames (World War II).

    Theatre 
  • Hamilton is essentially a biography of Alexander Hamilton in the form of a hip-hop musical and soundtrack.
  • There's a running joke in the Broadway community of learning from historical musicals:
    "Studying for a US History exam? Just listen to the soundtracks for Ragtime, Assassins, Hamilton, 1776, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson."

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed series fit this nicely. The buildings you climb in particular are quite accurate to reality, and the menus usually include factual information about them. Basically everyone but the main protagonists are real people, although they're often highly fictionalised. This is handwaved within the series by saying the Templars wrote the history books (and encouraged people to learn about them too). Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag made many fans become revisionists of pirate history overnight, and its use of sea shanties as accompaniment also exposed many of tunes to non-folklore specialists.
  • Both Age of Empires and Civilization are seen as a more interesting way of learning about history and technological developments. Civilization in particular is notable for its Civilopedia, from which you can learn a great deal.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the Spiritual Successor to Civilization, gives you just enough info about fields ranging from ecology to economics to sociology to philosophy to Chinese poetry to make you want to look stuff up when you are inevitably forced to quit, as well as including some pretty cool projections about plausible near-to-middle future (next 100-500 years) technology. At the very least, it will completely disabuse you of the notion that genes are blueprints.
  • Many people were first exposed to Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and Atlas Shrugged by playing Bioshock and taking a trip to Andrew Ryan's underwater playhouse.
  • Forgetting the alternate universes, steampunk cyborgs, and floating cities, BioShock Infinite is an astonishingly accurate depiction of American exceptionalism, political extremism, and xenophobia of the late 1890s.
  • Impressions' City-Building Series from Caesar 3 onward included an extensive in-game encyclopedia, particularly expanded for Pharaoh and Emperor. On top of that, the campaigns in those games followed historical events and construction of famous landmarks as much as they could, with narration to each mission discussing real-life events and people. Plus, of course, the city-management aspect of it all. While never intended as edutainment, both Pharaoh and Emperor ended up on list of teaching aids approved by Ministries of Education across Europe.
  • The classic 4X game Imperialism is about running a generic 19th century empire, but because so much of the gameplay revolves around developing your economy by procuring raw materials and intermediate goodsnote , it's also a surprisingly accurate picture of the sorts of supply chain and sourcing challenges faced by manufacturing businesses.
  • Darkest Dungeon can teach players basic math and other calculations through tasks like calculating percent chances to inflict or resist statuses.
  • Dark Souls teaches you different types of medieval weapons and armors (standard weapons, not boss weapons) as well as bringing attractions to historical European martial arts (HEMA). That said, the overswings may get you killed in a real fight.
  • You can learn a lot about China's Three Kingdoms Period from Dynasty Warriors, and a lot about the Sengoku Era of Japan from Samurai Warriors... just as long as you remember to take it all with a grain of salt. If nothing else, you might get interested enough to look some of the characters up, just to see how much they were changed — and better yet, how much of the awesome, far-out stuff was actually real.
  • Dwarf Fortress teaches how to make steel, the properties and types of different rocks, the use of potash in farming techniques, the true meaning of the serenity prayer, and how to plan around everybody you command being a complete moron.
  • Medal of Honor and other First Person Shooters set in World War II can teach younger players about the time period, along with a few bits of questionable accuracy and a heavy dose of America Won World War II. World War II strategy games are also likely to get players interested in the facets of tactics and strategy within the war's history, especially if it's the kind of game to avert Easy Logistics.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon teaches you math. If your normal-type mon just used a base power 30 water-type attack on a foe Venusaur chopping 1/6 of its health, and you have another mon that outspeeds Venusaur but can be two-hit-KOed by it, and that mon is a fire-type with about the same special attack stat as your first mon and has a base power 30 fire-type attack, should you switch it in? (Answer: yes, because barring a miracle, you'll get to one-hit KO it.) But wait, what if your opponent knows all of that and will switch Venusaur out? Pokémon teaches you game theory.
    • The 3rd-generation games teach visual braille while the player tries to unlock a set of legendary pokemon.
    • Pokémon X and Y have a simulated photography minigame at certain landmarks, which teaches the player some of the basics about camera aperture width, focus length, and shutter speed. After all, if you're going to take a photo with the Ultimate Weapon mere moments before it's fired, you want to make sure it's a good one, right?
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! certainly taught a lot of people the geography of the Caribbean, especially considering it was using a properly scaled map in-game, so it was player's best interest to pick up real-world map with major ports for at least basic orientation.
  • According to Time magazine, Steven Johnson argues that SimCity taught his nephew about taxation issues, and that even a segment of one The Legend of Zelda game had enough detail to "bury the canard" that it is passive entertainment.
  • Extra Credits had an episode on "tangential learning" on the topic of how video games, rather than being the brain-rotting evil incarnate the Moral Guardians claimed, were in fact an easy way to learn various facts about many things depending on the plot in question. It didn't even need to be exact or in-depth to work, as, for example, God of War, despite its inconsistencies with actual Greek Mythology, could encourage someone to go and read about it, or Mass Effect could encourage someone to go and read a book about Dark Matter or the Galactic Core.
  • The Total War series can teach a gamer quite a lot about the different periods of history, despite various inaccuracies. Some mods like Europa Barbarorum (for Rome: Total War) have been created with the help of university professors and the like, thus going so far as to teach the audience about economics, politics, and even languages of the ancient world.
  • Shin Megami Tensei's Crossover Cosmology taught many gamers about various (often obscure) aspects of religion (from Christianity to Hinduism) and mythology. The Persona spin-off series (especially from Persona 3 onwards) also covers a wide range of topics from geography to advanced English to the major arcana to, of course, Jungian psychology.
  • Belief in this trope is where the foolish idea of "Murder Simulators" got started — the Moral Guardians believed that people were learning how to become killing machines from video games where you shoot people. But the firearms community hotly contests that people can learn anything about firearms from video games — while they welcome the newfound interest, they acknowledge that video games are generally not good resources for learning about gun safety.
  • Ace Attorney is a weird case — while the law is frigging complicated, and it depicts a legal system that is very different from the American adversarial system commonly seen on TV, it is apparently a good crash course on the Japanese legal system and is a good enough primer on evidence law that law schools there (and in countries with similar systems) have been known to teach it.
  • Knights of the Old Republic is based on one of the Dungeons and Dragons systems (specifically D20). Unlike in the tabletop game, all the maths is done by the computer, but the game makes up for this by featuring a lot of classic maths and logic puzzles, with name changes to fit the local aesthetic. The creators of the Star Forge apparently decided to defend the maps to their superweapon with seventh-grade-level math.
  • Minecraft is basically a treatise on the location and allocation of natural resources disguised as a video game. Learning how to use redstone is a good way to learn boolean algebra. If you have enough time and patience, you can create a calculator or even a computer (if a basic one) out of blocks and redstone.
  • Mass Effect is, at first glance, a Space Opera epic about a wo/man named Commander Shepard and his/her fight against extragalactic genocidal robots called Reapers. It also manages to explore scientific concepts like the Fermi paradox and evolution, socio-political concepts like globalism and racism, and literary concepts like Lovecraftian horror and the Byronic Hero, when you're not blowing up Eldritch Abominations or banging aliens.
  • If you're interested in how to lead a populist religious movement and in general create a world changing social movement, just pick up a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. It also teaches you how to navigate the political and diplomatic landmines that a leader faces.
  • The entire output of the company Paradox Interactive: Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, and Hearts of Iron. It's otherwise known as Everything You Wanted to Know About the Medieval Era/the Renaissance/the Victorian Era/World War II but Were Afraid to Ask: 101 Course. If anything, Europa Universalis and Victoria are fantastic way of learning names and locations of various historical regions throughout the world.
  • Automation is intended to be an automobile company tycoon game, but the game has such detailed modeling of car design that the in-game tutorials are basically just really good educational videos.
  • World of Warcraft
    • A number of players (as well as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games in general) credit it as a great way to passively learn how to type faster, as you'd need speedy typing skills to participate frequently in a very active guild chat.
    • A boy used the skills he learned from the game (namely, drawing aggro and playing dead) to save his sister from an angry moose.
    • And it also turns out that being in a raiding party can teach one teamwork and leadership skills that are applicable to the real world. A well-balanced and cooperative raiding party with a leader who can plan and strategize on the fly and earn respect while doing so is a raiding party that wins battles and loot, after all. It's gotten to the point that more than a few young adults with those skills entering the workforce have asked job-hunting and professional development forums for advice on how to state those things on their resumes and in job interviews without explicitly mentioning Warcraft.
  • Some Mirror's Edge players have taken to passively theorize freerunning routes.
  • World of Warships covers several decades of naval shipbuilding and references the very complicated naval politics of the era. Expect a double dose if you pop on the forums.
  • Casual listeners of music don't really think about time signatures until they have to do something that involves committing to keeping a rhythm, like playing an instrument — or playing Rhythm Games. Long-time players of Dance Dance Revolution and beatmania, for example, may remember "Holic" being their first real touch with time signatures that aren't in 4/4, 3/4, or triple time (the song runs in 7/8, then 7/4, before finally switching to 4/4), making the song a Wake-Up Call Boss for a number of players of both games.
  • The Metal Gear games are a unique example of a video game franchise that can teach you about nuclear weapons, ICBMs, firearms, mechanics, genetics, psychology, philosophy, Cold War politics, and foreign cultures and media.
  • Despite its cartoonish look and its reduced scale of the Solar System, Kerbal Space Program uses relatively accurate physics, giving players a basic overall knowledge of orbital mechanics.
  • While still a game, M.U.L.E. teaches a lot about economics, including supply and demand, what happens if someone controls a monopoly (especially on, say, Food), and shows the effects of certain crises (e.g. pirate ships, planetquakes, "Fire in Store") and the economics of such. It even teaches a bit on the Prisoner's Dilemma — for example, if every player decides to "defect" and backstab one another, or greedily hunt for Crystite, everyone loses.
  • Discussed and exploited in WarioWare Gold. With Fronk's nudging, 9-Volt finds he can answer his math homework questions easily by rewording them as RPG problems (for example: If you have 100 health and you get hit for 56 damage, how much health do you have left?)

    Webcomics 
  • MS Paint Adventures can broaden your vocabulary, teach you about data structures and the Western zodiac, help you think in a more non-linear fashion, and be more attentive to detail. (Way more attentive to detail.)
  • morphE happens to be set in the Mage: The Awakening universe. Reading through will give the audience a large amount of information required to be able to swiftly transition into the game proper. Spells, realms, and species are explained fairly well, and the comment section is always full of people explaining what had happened in the update and what different game mechanics could be applied.
  • Scandinavia and the World and Polandball comics can teach foreign cultures and customs, history, and even vexillology (the study of flags). The latter is especially useful in Polandball, since the only way to recognize the characters in a given comic is by memorizing national and historical flags. The Polandball wiki includes a surprisingly thorough list of countries' relations with each other, giving you a one-stop shop to find out who hates whom and why all over the world.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent:
    • The Translation Punctuation uses the similar-looking flags of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. While a cheat sheet is provided, parts of the comic are much easier to read once one has gotten the hang of the differences between the flags.
    • Some characters who are technically monolingual are able to talk with each other entirely because of the similarities between Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. The Encyclopedia Exposita of Adventure I even includes a couple vocabulary sheets showing those similarities.
    • A language tree made for the comic pretty much has a life of it own on the Internet because of the effort that was put in it.
    • Both Norse Mythology and The Kalevala inspired the fantasy elements, which can encourage people to seek out both. Finding people who have already done so is fairly easy in places where the comic is discussed.
    • Many of the places that have become surviving settlements in the comic are real, but not widely known of outside of their respective countries.
    • People trying to figure out how people are managing to do various things after the loss of both modern technology and global trade has led to the fandom being a decent source of information on pre-industrial and early industrial life in the Nordics.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • The amount of detail woven into the verses and visuals of any given Epic Rap Battles of History battle can surprise listeners, especially when it comes to actual historical figures. Did you know that Vlad the Impaler was said to eat bread soaked in his enemies' blood, Picasso had a wiener dog named Lump, or that Thanos had a helicopter with his name on it? You do now.
  • While the research in Death Battle is often a bit more hit-or-miss, the show offers a few tidbits of mathematics, science, and history. It also no doubt generates interest from viewers in some of the more obscure combatants and where they came from, such as Bucky O'Hare and Gamera. And you get a cool fight scene between two fictional characters too. What's not to love?
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device is a very light-hearted and comedic take on Warhammer 40,000, but it does do a very good job of explaining the incredibly in-depth lore of the franchise.
  • Lindsay Ellis eventually moved away from The Nostalgia Chick and her "Loose Canon" series into video essays that can teach viewers a lot about film theory, composition, and criticism. Her The Whole Plate series on the Transformers films has a lot to teach about framing, Male Gaze, feminist theory, and queer coding. She's said that this is partly her intent, to save people from the debts of going to film school.
  • Todd in the Shadows' Trainwreckords series looks at albums that absolutely flopped, generally ones that killed or had a hand in killing the creators' careers. However, Todd doesn't just look at the music, he adds in a ton of background information about the musicians, their careers, the music scene at the time and so on. As a result, watching his videos will give you a decent amount of knowledge about the artists, including a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with the album the video's about.
  • Cinematic Excrement, in later episodes of the series, goes into more detail about the movies, their production, and other tidbits.
  • Liana K runs a YouTube channel that's predominantly focused on video game analysis. But she's done videos on a lot of other topics, and as such can be quite useful for learning about issues such as sex positive feminism, objectification theory, Gaslighting and recovering from trauma. Unsurprising about the first two, since Liana was a Women's Studies major at university.
  • Jackson Lennon is an Irish teen YouTuber (or was; he turned twenty in 2021), and his content is a mixture of Slice of Life vlogs and Edutainment about LGBT issues (he's a bisexual Transgender man). He documented his transition, provided useful Q&A videos about dysphoria and transitioning, has advice on coming out of the closet, and highlights problems faced by trans people in the health system.
  • Ellen Brock is a YouTuber with lots of helpful advice for aspiring authors in how to edit their work themselves, what to put in an email to agents and publishers and what mistakes to avoid.

    Western Animation 
  • Go on, ask any kid who grew up in the 90's where they learned the state capitals, the names of all the U.S. Presidents, the plots of The Godfather and Les Misérables, and the story of Ferdinand Magellan from. The answer is actually Animaniacs.
  • Things that can be learned from Avatar: The Last Airbender: Eastern philosophy and metaphysics, traditional Chinese characters, the length of a total solar eclipse (around 8 minutes), Western elements and cosmology, and a little bit about chakras (at least the names are accurate). Its sequel series The Legend of Korra shows the same spiritual society struggle against technology, modernization, and materialism, and how the various different philosophies about how to live one's life vying for dominance in this new world are a good metaphor for the kind of thing modern society still struggles with — Korra's Coming-of-Age Story in this paradigm parallels many of the struggles young adults go through all the time.
  • Looney Tunes has for decades been the primary vehicle for children around the world to first came across many classical musical pieces, to the point of "Weird Al" Effect — many of these tunes are now impossible to take seriously because of their association with the Looney Tunes. Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody #2" has arguably suffered from its association with "Rhapsody in Rivets", "Rhapsody Rabbit", and "Daffy's Rhapsody" (the special tune recorded by Mel Blanc). Rossini's The Barber of Seville suffers from its association with "Rabbit of Seville", and Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (when not associated with Apocalypse Now) is associated with "What's Opera, Doc?".
  • The episode "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic teaches quite a lot about economics: public relations, supply and demand, quality control, artificial scarcity, and the effect of competition on markets are just a few of the things you'll learn here that you'll only revisit in high school.
  • Several animated shows have taught children how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver, which is not only useful but potentially life-saving. Kids have saved lives from seeing the technique on SpongeBob SquarePants, Pair of Kings, and Hey Arnold!note . In one particularly interesting instance, a boy saved his friend after having learned the maneuver from The Simpsons — where it appeared in a background poster.
  • Gargoyles has a lot of references to the works of William Shakespeare, and the creator has said it has gotten quite a few kids interested in the Bard's work. Interestingly, its depiction of the historical Scottish king Macbeth is almost nothing like his depiction in Shakespeare's play on him — which is just as well, as Shakespeare's play was notoriously inaccurate (and kind of had to be for political reasons), and the show's depiction is much more historically accurate.

    Other 
  • Watching or reading works in foreign languages can teach that language. It's not perhaps as good as spending a couple of weeks having to speak and read that language exclusively, but it's good practice beforehand. Watching movies and video games with subtitles are a particularly good way to pick it up, or picking up a work you already know almost by heart and hearing it in a different language. In Latin America, there's a meme about how "I learned English more from the PlayStation than from school."
  • Neopets is a good way to teach economics to young kids, to the point where it has been studied in university courses as an example of a "perfect economy". Trading and bartering with Neopoints relates to the principles of exchange. The NPC-run shops and their fluid stocks teach supply and demand, and the user-run shops can teach arbitrage. Employment is 100% because anyone can play the games, and there's even a symbolic Stock Market.
  • This Very Wiki is considered a place to learn some useful things. But it has a few side effects.
  • Many Western Europeans have credited English-language memes and funny pictures with improving their skills in the language.
  • Some people credit their interest in mythology and historical figures entirely on the Nasuverse, specifically the Fate franchise. While there are inconsistencies with how each figure is portrayed, many people learn about international folklore and the heroic figures that come from them through the characters that show up as Heroic Spirits or Counter Guardians.

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