Playful Pedagogy: Exploring the lines between Entertainment and Education in the Virtual Reality Oracle

Richard A Cole, Esther Eidinow, Chris R Bevan, Hugh Bowden, Kirsten F Cater, Quinton Deeley, Michael J. Proulx

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Virtual reality constructions of antiquity offer an ever-expanding range of playful encounters with antiquity. Such experiences may be framed as educational, for instance those deployed in museums, or entertaining, as is the case with video games. But increasingly, the experience of a virtual world is framed as both. The line between entertainment and education is becoming progressively more blurred thanks to the deployment of pedagogical opportunities in video games, AR features on history trails, and app-based games in museums.

This chapter explores what role playfulness can have in education—and education in play—drawing on explorations of user responses to the Virtual Reality Oracle (VRO), a VR experience of visiting the oracle of Zeus at Dodona, in NW Greece, in the 5th century BCE. The technology around VR has typically been used to reconstruct ancient sites and their architecture. The Virtual Reality Oracle focuses instead on the nature of a historical experience. Building on the ancient evidence for the sanctuary, it makes use of characters and storytelling to construct the experience of oracular consultation. The VRO allows users to personalise their experience, and manipulate and replay its virtual world, enabling teachers and students to explore ancient Greek religious practice. By investigating user responses to the VRO, this chapter will determine whether and to what extent playfulness is experienced as a feature of the VRO, and investigate the implications for both the process of learning about the ancient world, and, more generally, the design and use of interactive teaching materials.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlayful Classics
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

Structured keywords

  • Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition


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