Video Games and Teaching

  1. What’s the primary historical Narrative of the game and how is it presented?

In class, our table analyzed how video games can be used as historical narrative tools. As a historian, historians have to be able to find factual historical narratives through sometimes non-fictional works and media.  As a group, our table played Oregon Trail, a game that portrays the historical narrative of Manifest Destiny. The journey out West, was a difficult one for early Americans because although the West presented economic opportunities, the road there was a difficult and oft time dangerous.

2. Who is the main protagonist in the game? How are they represented (consider the place in history and in the game)?

The main protagonists’ of the game were the characters who are in the wagon. These wagon mates share no dialogue amongst each other, as the game is told from a third person point of view. The wagon mates are peoples seeking to go West and reach Willamette Valley.

3. Who are the NPCs and who do they represent? How are they treated historically?

The NPCs’ of the game are found along the trail as the wagon reaches multiple stops. NPCs’ include an African American woman, an American child, and soldiers. In regards to how they are treated and or represented, the African American woman is stereotyped due to her having not only a Southern accent but also, she doesn’t use proper grammar when speaking, unlike her white NPC counterparts who use proper grammar.

4. How effectively is history conveyed in the games you’ve played? Is there any pedagogical value to the game? How? Why?

I feel that Oregon Trail does an effective job in teaching students about the difficulties and the long journey that the trip out West presented nineteenth-century Americans. It gives students not a visualization of how the journey was like for Americans but also gives historical landmarks and destinations.

5. As digital media are games a good way to present history to the general public? Could they serve to host academic history?

Digital media is an effective tool in order to teach history to the general public in my opinion. Gamers constantly play games that although may have fictional plots and characters, many of them are rooted in factual historical narratives. Games could be used to host academic history, it would just need more support from the general public and from academic higherups.

6. What topics do you think would be best served by games? Who should the audience be? why?

I believe games about war and exploration would be effective tools if trying to teach on those particular subjects. War and exploration games could reduce the violence and bloodshed seen in movies and photographs, and give students a safe and controlled environment to learn about war. This form of teaching could be used for students of all ages and demographics.

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