Player Agency and Historical Accuracy in Video Games

I strongly agree with Adam Chapman that the more pertinent question that we should ask is not “is the game historically accurate?” but rather “is the game historically typical?” Player choice inherently nullifies the possibility for perfect historical accuracy as it is impossible to force the player to perfectly recreate events while also maintaining the game’s status as an interactive media form.

Therefore, it is imperative that video games are treated first and foremost as a medium of entertainment. However, their potential as a medium for historical information cannot be denied. The level of immersion that a player can achieve in a video game is unparalleled when compared to other forms of entertainment (e.g. movies, books) and this is entirely due to the level of agency afforded to the player. Even if these games are not totally historically accurate, they can serve as a jumping-off point to get people interested in certain periods of history.

The greatest danger with this approach, however, is the potential for the content of these games to be taken as indisputable fact. The level of dramatization of historical events in as depicted in Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty is certainly not trivial and gamers need to be aware of this fact. As long as these games are never claiming to be be-all, end-all sources of historical information they still serve the important function of introducing surface-level knowledge of important events and their historical contexts.

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