History and Video Games

When dealing with historical settings and events, video game developers have a duty to make their game as historically accurate as possible. A misplaced button on a shirt or an item at a store that would not have been in that city during a specific time period can be overlooked, but buildings (especially major structures like the Eiffel Tower or the Tower of London), clothing, and interactions between characters should accurately reflect the era in which the game is set.

Unlike others forms of history, video games are a digital medium that allows players to immerse themselves in another place and time. Instead of just watching history being played out on a screen like a documentary, players can explore the time period to get a better idea of what life may have been like. The Assassins’ Creed series can be used to show students the historical footprint of a major city, examine the architecture of major buildings, or examine how characters of different characters interact. In games like JFK Reloaded or American Civil War Gettysburg students can alter major events to see how different outcomes would have affected the course of history and ultimately show the major historical impact of the original event.

Unfortunately, this wonderful medium comes with a culture that is, on the whole, anything but inclusive. Much like the rest of the tech industry, hardcore fans of video games are generally intolerant of newcomers, especial if those newcomers are not white or male. This drives away people who want to play video games but also people who can contribute new and creative ideas to make better and more diverse games. If tech and gaming industries welcomed more women and people of color then new games might be created to provide a larger pool of historical themes to choose from. Students could learn about slavery in the south, the suffragette movement, the social history of post-WWII India, or the conquests of Genghis Khan across the Asian continent. However, until the industry is more inclusive, students will be stuck with the 800th game set during World War II.

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