Making History Personal

Teacher’s Creed

For a game that includes magical apples, secret world controlling cults, and time-traveling pseudo-science, the Assassin’s Creed games are aesthetically very accurate. The digital recreations of ancient cities, outfits, and buildings are shockingly authentic and detailed. Although the historical figures and events in the game differ from their real-world counterparts, the setting has been commended by many for its historical accuracy. Assassin’s Creed Unity, for instance, recreated the layout of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame. According to The Verge, Caroline Miousse, an artist for Ubisoft, spent two years recreating the cathedral and modeling it down to the brick. It isn’t a perfect reconstruction, but it’s very close. Soon, Ubisoft plans to release a VR tour of the game and teased it in the video below.

Games, even games that are closer to science fiction than historical fiction, can be a great teacher. Many who play the Assassin’s Creed games walk away with a little more knowledge about history. If they paid attention to their surroundings as they played, they saw the beauty of a place they might never have a chance to visit. If that’s true for a video game about saving the world from the Knights Templar, then how much more success would a game like Tecumseh Lies Here have?

Tecumseh Lies Here (TLH) was designed to teach and help a student learn about a historical event and how to research that event. Part digital, part tabletop roleplaying, and part travel and exploration, TLH is an immersive experience that encourages the student to reason and learn in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. Frankly, if the educator has the time and means, it is the perfect game for teaching. Compeau and his associates were able to adapt the game to the different groups of students and the situations in which they found themselves. Incorporating Twitter, YouTube, and texting into museum visits and hunting through archives, allowed the student to learn history and how to be a historian. If it wasn’t for the sheer difficulty and amount of work that goes into setting up the game, it would be worth allowing all students to participate.

The unfortunate fact is that augmented reality games of that complexity and magnitude are unfeasible for most schools. However, at the speed that technology is advancing and its usefulness in the teaching process, teachers need to find ways to incorporate digital media into their classrooms in ways that are fun and memorable. Although assigning Assassin’s Creed might not work, there are plenty of other historical games. Teachers might be able to use games like these to introduce or supplement a lesson. Youtube videos like the one above and VR tours like the on Ubisoft is planning on making will allow students close looks at historically important locations. There’s even the possibility that teachers can create miniture TLHs for their classroom by having the students play a game, create videos, post on a class forum, and research in the school library.

4 replies on “Teacher’s Creed”

That sounds really cool. I’ve never played the games, but to know that, aside form some parts, it’s pretty accurate. That is some of my problems with historical fiction tv shows. I’m never sure how much is historical, adn how much is fiction, and I drive myself crazy trying to find out. On the positive side, I end up learning a lot about one aspect of history.
I hate traveling, so being able to see such places from the comfort of my home seems like a great idea. Also, it allows fo people to explore at their own pace, as they have the energy to do so, instead of getting tired walking everywhere and exhausted from interacting with so many strangers. I spend hours in museums, trying to look at and read everything.

So, with Assassin’s Creed in particular, while Ubisoft’s visual designers are some of the best in the industry, their use of history in the game is notoriously fast and loose.
In Black Flag, one example of this is the character of Laureano De Torres, the Spanish governor of Cuba, and in the game, a Templar Grandmaster. He died in Havana in 1722, but the game called that one a decoy.
Similarly, in Unity, which is for everyone that does not play Assassins Creed is the one that Katlyn is talking about, one of the biggest errors is in the vote to execute the king. Historically, there were multiple votes, with regicides consistently in a plurality, but not an outright majority, with the rest split between punishments. In the game, it is 361 votes for execution, and 360 for imprisonment. (
Similarly, going into the side stories, there are chronic problems.
For example in the American Prisoner DLC Mission, Thomas Paine is under house arresst, and the Warden has the manuscript for The Rights of Man, however, historically, he was invited to come to Paris because he had already written the Rights of Man defending the French Revolution, and was writing The Age of Reason at the time.
In Chemical Revolution, the man they hold up as the villain in the death of Antoine Lavoisier, was Jean-Paul Marat, but Marat had been dead for the better part of a year before Lavoisier was accused and executed.
These are only a few of the examples of Assassin’s Creed being generally bad at presenting historical events. Now, games can definitely be good history to one extent or another, but Assassin’s Creed is not one of them.

I love the thought of using video games as a gateway into history. I think as long as people are cognizant that these aren’t supposed to be totally accurate portrayals of historical events, games can be useful for getting people invested in the past. For me personally, I’ve been playing the Civilization series ever since I was a kid. While it’s not meant to be a faithful recreation of the past, it can be educational (players can still learn about historical events even while playing very inaccurate scenarios).

I totally agree that games can be a good tool to teach students about history. I really like your comparison to the Assassins Creed games. I think they can be used as a gateway to research of a specific era. If I remember correctly some of the games even have built on historical information that the player can read to get some background information on the events and historical figures in the show.

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