Historical Video Games

Using video games to learn about history can be a great way to engage a wider audience, however, by the nature of video games, the history shown must be an interpretation of history modified to allow user experience and entertainment. In fact, an argument could be made that video games are at odds with portraying historic accuracy as games by their nature allow the player to decide what to do while history has a concrete set of events that occurred. This was mentioned by McCall and Chapman earlier. Looking at historic games, like Walden: A Game, there are still issues with how history is portrayed. Walden: A Game sells itself as “an exploratory narrative and open world simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond” (according to the game’s website). Walden seems to avoid some of the problems other historical games have by not trying to show the events of history but rather put the player into the life of a historical person to try to shed light and meaning on their story. They do so fairly well by including numerous quotes and passages from Thoreau, exposing the player to his way of seeing the world. However, the game has its weaknesses. Players must find “inspiration” to progress through the game by doing various activities and must scavenge for food and resources. These additional game mechanics could become the player’s main focus depending on their disposition and interest in the game’s subject matter. However, a bigger problem with Walden: A Game is that it seeks to place the player in the mind of Thoreau as he experiences nature and humanity. The irony is that Walden is trying to do this through a computer screen, the antithesis of the experience it is trying to simulate.

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