How does a language die? (Heaven’s Vault)

With guest co-host Pip Warr!

Hello, bonjour, hola, dia duit, eguerdi on… Language is important. You’re using it right now. In adventure game Heaven’s Vault you’re a cosmic archeologist trying to decipher the meaning of long-forgotten hieroglyphs scattered throughout a colourful nebula. But the languages of our own world are not immortal. We speak to linguist May Helena Plumb about one such family of endangered languages called Zapotec, spoken mostly in Oaxaca, Mexico. She tells us why it’s important to make sure these endangered tongues stay spoken, written, and respected.

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Who were the Viking shieldmaidens? (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla)

With guest co-host Alice Bell!

Take another horn of mead, friend. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is out and trying to rehabilitate the rowdy reputation of the Vikings. It pits you against the dastardly Saxons as the axe-wielding Eivor, a raider whose gender is up to you. To find out more about the Vikings and the reason why we’re seeing more women on the Viking battlefields in our popular media, we’ve spoken to Dr Cat Jarman, a bioarcheologist who explains how historians can learn about the people of our past. Clue: it’s all in dem bones.

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Can hackers defeat fascism? (Watch Dogs: Legion)

With guest co-host Nate Crowley!

Put your goofiest masks on, lessoners, we’re jacking in. Watch Dogs: Legion wants you to recruit random passers-by to your hacker organisation, so you can free London from a fascist megacorp. But, as ever, the real baddies are not so easily got. In this episode, we speak to hacker expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University about the culture of underground hacker groups, and the origin of government-opposed “hacktivists”.

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Do you have a brain parasite? (Baldur’s Gate 3)

With guest co-host Andy Kelly!

The parasites are here, and 50% of the global population is already infected. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this parasite seems to be a quiet one… mostly. In this episode we speak to Joanne Webster, a professor of infectious diseases, about the microscopic cat-borne organism Toxoplasma Gondii – the closest thing humans have to the mind-altering brain tadpoles of Baldur’s Gate 3.

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Is war in space inevitable? (Star Wars: Squadrons)

With guest co-host Emma Kent!

Pew pew. That’s the sound of lasers whipping past your head in new space shooter Star Wars: Squadrons. Don’t worry, it’s all make-believe. Or is it? For this episode, we speak to an expert of space militarisation about the weapons and strategies used by Earth nations to snarl at other governments in orbit. Victoria Samson is a political scientist at the Secure World Foundation and she is here to tell us that war in space is (surprise surprise) a very bad idea indeed.

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What does real cave exploration look like? (Spelunky 2)

With guest co-host Paul Dean!

It’s dark down here, in the perilous caves of cartoony platformer Spelunky 2. If only there was some sort of caving instructor we could speak to, who could tell us how to survive. Oh, there is, and we have spoken to her for this episode of Hey Lesson! Christine Grosart is a caver, diver and medic who has found actual skulls in caves. With her help, we can navigate the hazards of earth’s real unseen depths, and the dangerous animals that lurk beneath, such as… sheep?

Links and transcription below…

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Why do we crave ‘likes’? (Death Stranding)

With guest host Matthew Castle!

In post-apocalyptic hiking simulator Death Stranding, there is a weird holographic internet floating around in the air. See a nice bridge? Hit that ‘like’ button. You can even make a helpful structure other players will ‘like’ in return – a watchtower, a shelter, a strange mushroom. But why do we crave ‘likes’ in the first place? In this episode, we speak to neuroscientist Dr Ofir Turel about what happens to our brains when we spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook, and maybe even the weird world of Death Stranding.

Links and episode transcription below…

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What happens when humanity disappears? (The Last of Us Part 2)

With guest host Paula Deming!

The world has collapsed in grim action game The Last of Us Part 2. Humanity is barely getting by, whereas all the plants and animals we previously pushed to the brink of extinction have rebounded, reclaiming the planet as their own. But is this how Earth would really look without the pressures of humankind? We ask environmental writer Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, what happens to our cities, our art, and our pets when we kick the collective bucket.

Links and episode transcription below.

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Trailer – We ask the big questions at Hey Lesson

Do dogs get lost in caves? Can we prevent a war in space? How long will the Statue of Liberty last when no one is there to scrub it? At Hey Lesson, we ask the big questions. And we use video games as a handy excuse to do it. You can learn a lot from games like Star Wars: Squadrons, Spelunky, and The Last of Us. You just need to ask the right people. That’s what we do. Smart people, silly questions, video games.

All episodes come with links and a full transcription.

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Learn more at https://heylesson.net.

Transcription below.

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