Stealth Education and Video Game Chautauqua


If you signed up for the Dead Secret mailing list or follow us on Twitter, you might have heard of the DEAD SECRET Puzzle Challenge.  Each puzzle is unlocked by a YouTube streamer and anybody can submit an answer during the few hours that each puzzle is open.  The first ten people to submit correct answers get a copy of Dead Secret for free.

At the time of this writing three of the five puzzles have been unlocked, and so far the response has been phenomenal.  The puzzle questions are designed to be just hard enough that a quick Google search will not yield the answer. Some of them also have another purpose: to force respondents to learn a little tidbit about something that they might otherwise never have encountered.  So far topics covered have included pioneering psychologists, binary numbers, and the historic underpinnings of a classic Japanese folktale.


A chautauqua. Relating it to this article is a task I leave to you.

Most folks who submit an answer will just find the information they need, type it into the field, and hit “send.”  But a few might keep their research tabs open to be read in greater detail later.  A yet smaller audience might become interested in what they’ve found and spend some time learning more about it.  This is my secret goal.  My hope is that, as people trace the story paths we’ve laid, a few will notice a back alley, explore it, and discover a fascinating new world.

In solving Puzzle #3 perhaps somebody will read Hoichi the Earless, a Japanese folktale about a blind minstrel who is bewitched into playing for ghosts.  To complete the puzzle maybe they’ll discover that the ghosts he’s playing for are the deceased Taira clan, who are the subjects of the story Hoichi sings about.  Maybe they’ll realize that Hoichi’s temporary home, Amidaji Temple, is located on the straights of Shimonoseki, which is where the decisive naval battle that ended the Taira clan took place in the 12th century. The temple still stands there today, although it was converted to a Shinto shrine and its name was changed during the Meiji era.  Maybe one of the respondents to our quiz will go there someday.

Or maybe not.  There’s no way to know if we can really spur learning with the offer of a free Steam code to a horror game.  As long as folks are having a good time it’s not important that we cram some stealth education down their throats.  But if we can tickle the interest of even a few and lead them down a path to opportunities for learning and deeper thought, they’ll remember us later.  Maybe we will have enriched their lives, even just a tiny bit.  Seems worthwhile to try.

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