Educators are increasingly interested in educational applications for games and in incorporating play and interactivity into the classroom. Explore the information and misinformation embedded in games.

Analyzing Games

Games convey ideas, sometimes serious ones, sometimes problematic ones. For a couple of examples, play September 12th or Spent, and view this criticism of The Call of Juarez: The Cartel. Think of the ideas and arguments embedded in the history-themed games you play. Questions you might consider include:

  • What are the historical themes and storylines embedded in the game?
  • How are characters portrayed in the game?
  • What are the ideological assumptions operating in the game?
  • What are the goals of gameplay?
  • What information and choices are offered to the player, and what information and choices are withheld?
  • What historical lessons do players glean from these games?
  • What makes these games compelling?

Play Some Games!

Games and controllers are available on reserve to check out and play at the D. H. Hill Library Ask Us center. They may be played on the provided laptop or connected to a screen in the D. H. Hill Game Space or in a library study room. Ask library staff if you need any assistance setting up the computer. The library owns several games set in historical contexts or with potential history applications:

  • Papers, Please (Steam): “Papers, Please is a single-player ‘Dystopian Document Thriller’ in which the player steps into the role of an immigration inspector in the fictional country of Arstotzka in the year 1982. As the player stands on the threshold between two different countries, a unique perspective of immigration and border security springs out of the mundane task of inspecting papers. On a second layer, the player must simultaneously provide for his/her family using the salary earned from the job, which pays based on how many people have been processed through in a day.” (Games for Change) | In the News
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization IV (Steam): “In this strategy game, you build a civilization up from spearmen and triremes to mechanized infantry and battleships. For those unfamiliar with this epic series, the game allows you to create and evolve a civilization through the ages (4,000 BC to 2050 AD), beginning with basic scout units all the way up to nuclear weapons.” (Macworld) | Educational Application
  • Banished (Steam): “In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture. Options for feeding the people include hunting and gathering, agriculture, trade, and fishing. However, sustainable practices must be considered to survive in the long term.” (Shining Rock Software) | Educational Application
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (Steam): “From the dust of a gold mine to the dirt of a saloon, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a real homage to the Wild West tales. Live the epic and violent journey of a ruthless bounty hunter on the trail of the West’s most notorious outlaws.” (Steam) | Educational Application
  • Gone Home (Steam): “Gone Home is a first-person interactive story adventure video game. It’s a compelling period piece following the experiences of Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 20-something woman returning to her family home in Oregon on June 7, 1995 after a year in Europe. Arriving to an empty house on an ominously stormy night, you are left to work out where your family has gone, picking your way through a quintessential 90s middle-class home. Confronted with a range of evidence, the player can piece together the lives, thoughts and relationships of a cast of absent characters, as well as understanding their (occasionally complicated) relationships with history and the past. In this way, the game has been praised as means to educate players about the process of historical interpretation.” (Play the Past) | Educational Application
  • Call of Duty 2 (game system): “Call of Duty is a first-person and third-person shooter video game franchise. Since its release, Call of Duty has stood as the exemplar of historical reality as a backdrop to a video game, with each of its following releases living up to this standard. Gamers are given the choice of playing through a number of different campaigns based on country, with each tailored to reflect the worldview, struggles and successes of that particular unit. Each battle is constructed based on a historical one, attempting to reflect reality as closely as possible. Call of Duty 2 is set during World War II and is experienced through the perspectives of soldiers in the Red Army, British Army and United States Army.” (Wikipedia) | Educational Application
  • Assassin’s Creed: “Assassin’s Creed is a historical fiction action-adventure open world stealth video game series that consists of seven main games. The Assassin’s Creed games primarily revolves around the rivalry between two ancient secret societies: the Assassins and the Knights Templar, and their indirect relation to an ancient species pre-dating humanity, whose society, along with much of Earth’s biosphere, was destroyed by a massive solar storm. The games’ real-world chronological setting is the year 2012, and features Desmond Miles, a bartender who is a descendant of several lines of prominent Assassins. Desmond is forced to use the “Animus”, a device that allows him to experience his ancestral memories. While the game is presented through protagonist Desmond Miles, the bulk of the game is played as Desmond experiences the memories of either Altaïr, Ezio, or Connor through the Animus.” (Wikipedia) | Educational Application
  • Flight to Freedom (online): “Flight to Freedom is an age-appropriate, but realistic depiction of life for an African American teenage girl living in the pre-Civil War period. Kids will experience what it’s like to be ordered around by a master, leave family behind to run for freedom, and have to make difficult decisions. If they make the wrong choices, Lucy can be caught and the game will end. Some kids might find the game experience to be intense because there is emotional trauma throughout the story as families are torn apart, people are treated poorly, and characters are unfairly imprisoned. Also, most decisions have no right or wrong answer, which may be a new experience for kids. They can earn a badge for being rebellious, but they can also earn one for following all of the rules. One badge is earned by saying a prayer in a difficult moment. In many levels it is not possible to earn all badges, as some conflict with others.” (Common Sense) | Educational Application

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