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Making History Personal

Ready Player One

In this week’s reading, the in depth look at the ARG “Tecumseh Lies Here” reveals how to effectively use gaming as a narrative in history. Unlike a typical video game that tends to take the Hollywood approach by making things exciting instead of historically accurate, the creators took painstaking details in order to build a game that sticks to the history, yet while in a subversive timeline. By partnering with the University of Western Ontario, Compeau and MacDougall was able to integrate the universities’s collections into the game, while not relying on corporate sponsorship that allows editors to revise the game for better sales.

This approach cannot be understated in a world of smart devices and the stereotype of historical knowledge being important dates. Indeed, by focusing on an interactive adventure to engage learning and participation offers a better platform compared to the typical lecture hall setting. Critics may reject these measures, but “edutainment” software like Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium’s “The Oregon Trail” has left a cultural impact along with imparting the knowledge of challenges faced by early American pioneers. Additionally, with computer gaming allowing the use of modding, historically correct games with attention to detail can be realized by developers similar to Compeau and MacDougall. The mod Europa Barbarorum for the historical game Rome: Total War completely engrosses the player by use of historical maps, detailed historical records regarding Roman society, historically correct models, and even as far as translating unit speech into proper Latin and Greek. While “Tecumseh Lies Still” obviously took a straight educational path, the integration of interactive entertainment and history provides exciting opportunities for new pedagogue techniques in the classroom. From a personal perspective, the game “The Ides of March – The Roman Republic Game” is a similar concept to “Tecumseh” except with a subversive timeline set after the assassination of Julius Caesar. I was fortunate to experience this in lieu of a final exam in an undergraduate course at Appalachian. This offered a thoroughly engaging exercise that was able to capture the chaos of Roman politics during the Republic significantly better than typical final exam fodder in forms of essay and multiple choice questions.

2 replies on “Ready Player One”

I have been searching for an interactive, historically accurate, game to place in museum exhibits to help engage museum patrons, and something like “Tecumseh Lies Here” might be it. However, I can see why both the creators of “Tecumseh Lies Here” and museum curators have chosen not to make more historically accurate games as they are time consuming and expensive to make. We have played “The Oregon Trail” in History club, but I had never heard of the other two games you mentioned. I know that the professors who created “Tecumseh Lies Here” said they would not be doing that type of project again, but their students probably learned the most in that class than they did in any lecture based class in the whole of their education. You mentioned using these types of historically accurate games in the classroom. When I was in sixth grade, we did not use a video game, but my science teacher created a game about what was creating pollution to a stream. We had to investigate the possible sources of pollution to the stream. Science was not my favorite subject in school, but I enjoyed the project. I likely remember more of the information presented by the project than if my teacher had just presented a lecture on the subject. Interactive games are a great way to teach students as they remember information gain through experience more easily. Also, in the current process of teaching, due to COVID-19, students can participate in interactive online games from their homes.

I agree that the use of historical games is a great gateway into teaching history in today’s technologically charged society. I have see several historical sites use these types of games to engage a wider audience as well as for use in classrooms like Mount Vernon’s Be Washington simulation game. It is important that these games aren’t influenced by Hollywood and are as accurate as possible so that students are taught real history instead of the creative take to certain events.

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