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    Sean Kheraj

    Can historical simulations through computer games provide a new language to interpret the past? Or are they just games?


    I think that computers games offer a visual language in interpreting the past. Being able to interact and physically see the the information come to life is something unique to this technology. Also, a game allows for a new way of learning the information. Instead of the traditional learning style that a book can offer, a game can engage with the participant. It becomes a more amusing way to learn and absorb the knowledge. The participant will be more invested and interested in learning more as the game continues.


    I believe, based on Tom Taylor’s article, that there is benefit to historical simulations through computer games. These games have the ability to provide a new language to interpret the past that makes learning history easier for students. In describing the game Civilization, Taylor notes that this game “puts the interactor in the position of being an active participant in figuring out how the model develops”. This is important for learning because the student gains autonomy and can interact with processes of history despite the fact that they were not present during the actual event. Additionally, incorporating computer games into learning provides the ability for the teacher to reach a larger audience because these are not foreign or dying technologies. The language used in computer games and the interactive-based organization of this game enables students to understand history in this modern computer based language that enables the use of these technologies to thrive.


    I think historical simulation through computer games can provide a new language to interpret the past. It offers knowledge about the past through a contemporary lens (a digital approach). For example, in many Chinese museums, in order to enhance young children’s knowledge about the past, people have developed computer games such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and the Qing Dynasty. Thus, computer games can be a tool to support dissemination of historical facts and educational purposes. According to the author from the article “Historical simulations and Future of the Historical Narrative,” one insight they highlighted was that games and play are useful tools in learning about histories. As an Early Childhood Educator, I found this is especially interesting as over the years, there had been articles and news reports published to explore the potential negative impacts of technology, rather than demonstrate the positive side about computer/digital games. Why was it controversial? After reading both articles this week, I realize I need to view the topic in a neutral way when examining the impacts.

    Connor Pantaleo

    I think that depending on how they are presented they could be a valuable medium to history. The problem with history video games that are currently popular is that they alter aspects of reality to make the game more entertaining. That being said they still may have aspects which are historically accurate, but to an untrained eye it may be difficult to separate the accurate from the fabricated. This presents another issue which has already occurred in other forms of entertainment such as television in which the viewer may gain a false sense of reality from the information presented to them. All this taken into account I believe that there is a place for digitally interactive forms of history, but it should not be left to the end user to interpret the fiction from reality.


    When looking at gaming,I feel that the historical simulation that is shown through these programs can interpret the past. Since this is a simulation, audiences are able to learn about key concepts within history through gaming. Since technology is always advancing, this form of communication will never die. Due to this I feel that this is a very crucial way to convey messages. This can be seen when looking at games like Civilization, Assassins Creed or even Crusader Kings. These games convey messages about early civilizations. Through a storyline, creators are able to input key historical concepts within it, in order to educate audiences about social, political or economical aspects of these civilizations. These games also use language that was common during the time period to allow users to gain a more enhanced experience.


    I think gaming could provide a new and interesting way to generate interest in history, especially for younger students. As Taylor states, it could allow for a wider public embracement of historical studies.

    However I’m not convinced that gaming could ever be used for meaningful research purposes of historians or give any meaningful historical value. I think a consequence of gaming is naturally — as Taylor notes himself — that these games use only a historical premise, and are not designed as historical simulators. The developers may have an interest in history, but are not historians. Even a game designed by historians would not truly recreate history, it at best would offer an accurate visual representation of history but not history as it truly occurred. Additionally, even if the medium could achieve in recreating historical events perfectly as they occurred, it’d then arguably lose some degree of that interactiveness quality.


    I believe video games can be a good way to get people interested in the past. It can be an accessible, interesting way to share information with an audience that may not know about the historical topic otherwise. Additionally, as described in Tom Taylor’s article, by having an active role in a game, a player can feel like they are actually participating in an historical event. I feel that this is especially true now that there is such advancements in gaming such as Virtual Reality simulations that make the player feel as though they are physically present in a historical situation as well. This aspect of video games is entirely unique. Reading a book, or even watching a movie do not allow for participants to have active decision-making opportunities as games do. However, I do feel like this can be a problem because due to this decision-making, game outcomes can be altered based on the players’ actions (I.e. losing/winning a situation, gaining points, decision-making between two options, etc.). This can alter the availability of historically-accurate topics that may be explored in a video game. To add to this, video games are primarily used for entertainment purposes which may be a cause for concern in regards to historical accuracy. As video games have a tendency to add aspects of drama in order to hold the players’ attention it may alter the actual story.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by amandamarino.

    As a player of “Historical” based games and a history major I think games can be used to teach a potential wide audience about certain times. For example Sid Myers a famous developer of the Civilization games was praised for his use of true history in his games. A player can learn about characters such as Naepolean and Catherine the great. Games such as the Assassins creed games are based around being very accurate but the player is caught up in the middle of events such as the golden age of piracy or the industrial revolution. However like many people have already mentioned games also leave out or change points in history to better fit a story. despite this games have come a long way in providing accurate historical accounts, and can be a new way in which many historians can look at potential new ways to study and provide a wider grasp of the information.


    I think historical simulations are a great tool to use for learning about the past vs. just reading about that event in a book or an article. It is interactive and allows students to gain some background and lived experience through their character from that time period. However my concern is with what Taylor describes as “an important contribution simulations can make to the historical narrative is their ability to convey thinking in a historical time”. This is important because it can expose players to issues of race, class and gender of that time period, and how it affects the decision making process of certain figures in this time period. However, a downside can be the context it is represented in. The historical literature can provide context in a more in depth way than a historical game could provide. For example, the political climate and events preceding certain historical events. For example, if my game was featuring Rosa Parks and I understood the racist sentiment at the time, it would also be helpful to note the segregation going on as well to provide context about the racist sentiment within the United States.

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