Learn from gaming

Image by: Maria Vlasova

Historical video games undergo criticisms for inaccuracy, but as their popularity increases, they can grow to be a powerful source of information as well as entertainment. 

Games like Assassin’s Creed III or the Civilization and the Total War series might not be academic, but they provide a chance to creatively investigate a subject that’s often considered mundane or obsolete.

History is a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events. But, history isn’t only rooted in truths; it’s also packed with biases and opinions, both past and present.

Video games with a historical background have recently undergone scrutiny, similar to movies that distort historical events.

For example, Assassin’s Creed III is a video game rooted in the events of the American Revolution. The player acts as the game’s main character, a half-Mohawk man fighting for the revolutionaries against the British. 

The protagonist’s allegiance to the revolutionaries has brought this game into the ongoing debate over historical video games. According to most historians, Native Americans largely sided against the revolutionaries and fought with the British in return for the protection of Native lands. 

But historians, like the creators of historical video games, interpret facts to present their own version of the past. Thus, the study of history often produces multiple interpretations of a single event.

For example, Maximilien Robespierre — a leader during the French Revolution — is both celebrated for his virtue and sovereignty, and condemned for the violence of his regime.

Non-conventional methods of learning, like video games, allow players to engage with these deeply-layered topics. 

By having these games readily available, students can be exposed to the bare bones of a given topic, and can then pursue more in-depth study.

At my high school, there were only three options for history classes: Canadian, American or European. 

And while lectures in university cover a wide array of topics, many important moments in history are glossed over. 

During one of my two-hour HIST 122 lectures — that was solely based on revolutions — the French Revolution was discussed for no more than 10 minutes. 

Such pivotal moments in history aren’t merely footnotes.

Instead of frowning upon video games and movies for taking liberties, they can be viewed as springboards — a new opportunity to engage learners of all ages. 

After all, just like a virtual battlefield, history is never neat and clean.

Joseph is The Journal’s Assistant Sports Editor. He’s a third-year history major. 

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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