Historical Learning through Games

I take issue with McCall’s statement that “Exploring a historical setting as a fictional character will not help one understand what happened and why.” Perhaps the fictional character fails to add to the historical narrative the game develops, a poorly designed one might even obstruct it, but this model has many merits over the traditional means of teaching history: namely book learning and lecture. To state categorically that an interactive platform will provide no means of understanding history is hyperbolic and obviously false. An interactive experience as simple as walking through a 3D representation of a historically relevant location already provide a unique perspective that, often times, cannot be gained any other way.

Moreover, the “whys” of history–people’s motivations–are much easier to communicate when a person is actively participating in a simulation than when these influences have to be teased out of written documents. A ship’s manifest may have a wealth of information to divulge, but I have certainly had an easier time understanding the necessity of trade when navigating the geopolitics of a game like Civilization. Realizing that my empire is too large to be protected with my meager coffers really drives home the problems that confronted the Roman Empire as it began to crumble

Nevertheless, I do agree that perfect historical accuracy cannot be achieved by video games. Of course, most historians agree that perfect historical accuracy cannot be accomplished in any medium, so perhaps we need not hold games to so high a standard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *