We often question the importance or value of video games nowadays. We ask, "Do they boost IQ? Are they beneficial for kids?" The truth is, all sorts of games can be informative in many different aspects if we dig deeper. Moreover, Being “educational” doesn’t necessarily mean being boring. An example of that can be the interesting lore of Genshin Impact.
Usually, the idea of an educational game isn’t very appealing, so today, I’m going to try to talk about a game you might have heard of - Genshin Impact. Here are a few bits and pieces of Genshin lore that have subtleties of culture and history hidden within.
Genshin Impact has many different backstories and side quests, but for now, I will be covering the stories of the nations in the game and their archons who are the gods or rulers of those places. I’ll also be listing down a few of the references to different cultures and historical periods associated with the aforementioned.
First up, we have Mondstadt: the city of freedom and the home of its ruler Barbatos, Anemo archon (or god) of the wind who also goes by the name Venti. About 2,600 years ago, when the seven archons hadn’t even come to power, Venti was a wind spirit. Then, Old Mondstadt was ruled by Decarabian, a tyrant and the god of storms. The city was sealed off by storm barriers so that no one could get in or out. Venti befriended a bard who wished to see the outside world and lived life in a carefree manner. One day, the archon war began along with an era of power struggles between many different gods. Eventually, Decarabian’s people, including the nameless bard and the wind spirit, rebelled against him. At the end of the battle, Decarabian was slain, but many others had fallen as well, including the bard. After Decarabian had been overthrown, Venti ascended to become the new Anemo archon Barbatos, ruler of Mondstadt. Venti decided to create a human vessel in which he could reside, a vessel in the image of the bard. He vowed he’d live the life the bard would have wanted in honor of his friend. Barbatos or Venti decided to leave Mondstadt, choosing to give them freedom instead of ruling them directly, but when he returned 1,600 years later, the aristocracy had become the tyrants of this age. They had slaves and ignored the pleas and needs of those from the lower classes. Venti decided to bring back the freedom he had once gifted them by joining a rebellion fired up by a slave girl, Vennessa who served as a gladiator in fighting rings for the nobles’ entertainment. They overthrew the aristocracy. Vennessa gained the position of Dandelion Knight and ascended as Falcon of the West, one of the Four Winds that Barbatos enforced to protect Mondstadt, after deciding to leave once more.
Since we’ve covered this bit of the lore, I’ll be pointing out a few details that relate to different cultures, history, or languages. The word Venti originates from the Latin language and means wind. The name is used in mythology as a name for wind spirits. When you visit Mondstadt in-game, its architecture resembles a period in Germany in the Rhineland-Palatinate similar to the medieval cities in Tangled or Sofia the First. Interestingly, the word Mondstadt is also a German word that translates to Moon City, and a lot of the characters who hail from Mondstadt also have German names or titles. Mondstadt is also made up of different clans wherein some are nobles, or higher up in society, and some are looked down on, similar to many caste systems or social classes developed throughout history. The aristocracy held fights between slaves at a Colosseum for their entertainment, and this likely references the real life Colosseum in Rome where fights were once held.
Next up, we have Liyue: the city of contracts and its geo archon or god, Morax also known as Rex Lapis. Morax lives in the city of Liyue harbor going by the name Zhongli. Unlike Venti who lives life on the edge, Zhongli works as a consultant for Wangsheng Funeral Parlor and prefers to live a more quiet and more peaceful life. Morax is the oldest of all the archons as he was known as the Lord of Geo long before anyone else had come to power. During the earlier years of his life, he met the Goddess of Dust, Guizhong, and they grew to be close friends. They built a city, Guili Plains, where their people could safely reside and live happy, prosperous lives. They ruled and watched over the city together, with Guizhong teaching her people about agriculture and appreciation of learning. Then 2,600 years ago, the archon war began, and their peace was disrupted. Due to the hatred and sadness that plagued Liyue, many monsters and demons came into being. Guizhong helped defend her city but lost her life while doing so. Morax fought off gods and monsters alike using stone spears to imprison them underground. In-game, there is a place called Guyun Stone Forest, which is made up of many tall rock formations and pillars. These formations are the stone spears that Morax used during the archon war. 2,000 years ago, the archon war finally came to an end with only seven archons coming into power and taking their places as the rulers of their respective nations. Being the oldest of the seven archons, Zhongli was tired of living life as a god; he wanted to retire from his position as geo archon. Thus, he faked his death, knowing that the people of Liyue would fare well without his protection.
While Mondstadt is based on Medieval Germany, Liyue is based on Ancient China. Liyue Harbor or the modernized city area of Liyue is a business district, a center for trading much like Quanzhou, an ancient port city where trade flourished during the Song and Yuan Dynasties. Just from the name Liyue harbor, it is implied to be near the sea. They rely heavily on trade for profit and progression. People from all around import and bring in goods from many different nations. The people of Liyue celebrate a festival called Lantern Rite around the beginning of February, a fictional take on Chinese New Year in real life. The architecture of the buildings around Liyue resembles that of the Ancient Chinese due to the eaves rooftops and warm color palette. The city also has a shopping district or a road lined with stalls and shops. Much like in main shopping routes, the road is lined with food carts. The less well-off end of the city or the area with more of the common folk focuses mainly on street food while the cuisine in the area of the wealthy is more high-end. The names of most of the characters in-game who hail from Liyue are also Chinese.
Lastly, we have Inazuma, the nation of Eternity. They call their ruler the Raiden Shogun, god of eternity. She rules over her nation from her palace and is openly known to be the archon of Inazuma, unlike Venti and Zhongli. She aspires to achieve eternal life for herself, her nation, and her people. Inazuma is a more secluded nation compared to the rest as you can only get there by sea, and even then, contact with the outside world is controlled. This is because of the Vision Hunt Decree enforced by the Raiden Shogun. Visions are gifts from Celestia to certain humans that give them the power to manipulate elements such as fire, water, ice, etc. The Shogun takes away these visions because she believes that humans pursuing their dreams would lead to more suffering and loss. Thousands of years ago, The Raiden Shogun, also known as Baal, won the archon war and took her place as one of the seven archons. She had a twin sister named Beelzebul or Ei, who acted as her kagemusha or body double while she presided over Inazuma. As far as anyone else knew though, there was only one Baal who ruled Inazuma. 500 years ago, an event known as the cataclysm took place. The Abyss or the main antagonists in the story was at odds with Celestia, or the place of the Gods. This resulted in another war, and the destruction of Khaenri’ah, one of the seven nations. During the cataclysm, Baal, or the Raiden Shogun died unbeknownst to her people, so her sister and body double, Beelzebul took her place as ruler of Inazuma. Overwhelmed with grief, Beelzebul stayed in her Plane of Euthymia, a private realm where she mediated and began her endless pursuit of eternity, believing that her ideals would preserve Inazuma forever. Through an unknown process, she created a puppet with a set program of rules to deal with the daily affairs of Inazuma. The puppet is the current ruler of Inazuma although Beelzebul sometimes gives the puppet orders. The puppet has its own consciousness and rules as it sees fit. To the people, there only ever was and is, one Raiden Shogun.
Inazuma is based on Japan, and its architectural design, landscape, and locals’ attire reflect Japanese culture. The nation’s name, Inazuma, is the Japanese word for lightning. Inazuman cuisine is also very similar to real-life Japanese food such as ramen, sushi, bento, etc. Creatures from Japanese mythology also reside in Inazuma such as tanuki, kitsune (fox-like creatures), tengu, and many more. The island is plagued with thunderstorms and The Raiden Shogun is the electro archon (electricity). The Vision Hunt Decree and limited freedom of the nation parallel the Sakoku policy during the Edo period of Japan. Relations and trade were limited as most foreigners weren’t allowed to enter Japan at the time.
Genshin Impact has so much more lore to it that wouldn’t fit into this single article. Character background, objects or materials in-game, even NPC’s (non-player characters) or the people who act as background or supporting roles have stories. Every single bit of lore is informational in its own way whether by promoting practical applications in life or academic knowledge.
All sorts of games can be educational when you go about them from the right angle. Genshin Impact is just one of the many popular games nowadays that hold more than what meets the eye. I’m not saying a game being educational is an excuse for getting addicted; we still need to set boundaries, but this also shows how video games can still help us gain knowledge of all kinds. After all, learning can happen even in the most surprising ways.
Morax/Zhongli’s picture: Genshin Impact 1.3 Update Will Address Zhongli, Geo Element Problems (thegamer.com)
Venti’s picture: venti genshin impact - Bing
Baal/Raiden shogun’s picture: Genshin Impact 2.1: Baal (Raiden Shogun) release date, skills, weapons and more | GINX Esports TV