×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

History In Video Games — a Closer Look

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the begins-and-ends-in-the-1940s dept.

Games 139

scruffybr writes "Whether it's World War 2, the American Wild West or ancient Greece, history has long provided a rich source of video game narrative. Historical fact has been painstakingly preserved in some games, yet distorted beyond all recognition in others. Whereas one game may be praised for its depiction of history, others have been lambasted for opening fresh wounds or glorifying tragic events of our near past. Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

139 comments

It honestly is just which politics you are... (4, Funny)

Umuri (897961) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843311)

For example, if you are a nazi, then you probably think 90% of video games are horrible, slanderous, libelous, and a gross distortion of history.

If you're not, you probably find them fun.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (5, Funny)

cjfs (1253208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843327)

+1 Godwin's law first post.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (0, Redundant)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843369)

I think not. The OP didn't call anybody a nazi, or compare somebody to Hitler. He just pointed out how a nazi would probably view a video game based on WW II in Europe.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843423)

+1 FAIL
For failing to realise that Godwin's law is about references to Hitler/Nazis. The "automatically lose the argument" rule is a non-standard extension.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843439)

The official statement of Godwin's Law is:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Not reference, comparison. Source [eff.org]

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (5, Funny)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843601)

Seriously guys, he called everyone who doesn't like video games a nazi. If you can't see it, you're not trying interpret his post hard enough.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843641)

Damn, Godwin's Law Nazis!

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (2, Funny)

paragon1 (1395635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844691)

Hey, no recursing!

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29845849)

Damn, Godwin's Law Nazis!

Hey, no recursing!

...or the goddamn law Nazis win?

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843797)

He just pointed out how a nazi would probably view a video game based on WW II in Europe.

Anyone who gave the new Wolfenstein less than a 10 is obviously a Nazi.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (2, Insightful)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843393)

Actually, this tends to be a problem only in WWII FPS games. Any WWII turn based strategy game I can think of will let you be Nazi Germany and kick some ass if you want to. Germany had all sorts of crazy projects for tanks and planes during the war, and these are often included as usable units in later campaigns.

Such is the mystique of those "secret" Nazi weapons (a plot used in many movies) that even games picked up on it. Iron Storm for Sega Saturn featured a battle between Germany and Japan over India as the final stage of the "victorious" campaign. If you were playing as Japan, the AI Germans would have an extremely powerful UFO unit that would decimate other airplanes with frickin' lasers and had a decent cannon attack against ground units. The game otherwise featured on realistic units, but the designers just wanted to stick that in there...

Unfortunately, if get to that stage as the Germans yourself, you don't get any UFO...

Anyway, I prefer to to have the choice to play any side... not just the "good guys".

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1)

tomatensaft (661701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844123)

There are some very good games, where Germans actually have a lot of superiority in numbers and weapons. Example: "Theatre of War 2: Africa 1943".

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1, Insightful)

indiechild (541156) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844311)

Are you kidding? Neo-nazis would love 99% of war games I would imagine. Most of the time, the Nazis are hardly even being mentioned, let alone painted in a bad light. It's usually the Germans who are depicted in WWII games, not the Nazis. And everybody loves playing the Germans.

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845071)

There is a difference between bias and braveheart, and while some bending of the facts/making stuff up is cool, what's scary is that people believe the bullshit they see in videogames/movies (granted its much worse for movies than videogames but i'm sure some retard out there believes the plot to MSG is historically accurate)

Re:It honestly is just which politics you are... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845079)

So, Jack Thompson is a Nazi? Um, I'm having a hard time coming up with a good argument against that characterizatiion.

Where is the news? (3, Insightful)

mseeger (40923) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843315)

The same thing has happened in the movies. Often historical events were only used as distorted background. And movies are as games made for entertainment purposes. So what counts is entertainment value not historical accuracy.

CU, Martin

Re:Where is the news? (5, Insightful)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843459)

People tend to actually take these things as fairly accurate depictions of what it really was like. Its just another one for nation of dum'.

Hell, even evening news are made with 'It does not have to be real, just entertaining' motto.

(And I shudder what future archaeologists with do with our pop culture as source material ... any history geek will tell you how average Joes understanding of history nowadays was pretty fucked up Shakespeare & co.).

I'd consider entertainment value quite awesome, but then you end up with people who have no idea about past, or are comfortable about fact that 'history' can be 'adjusted' to fit better whatever you agenda is. And that is worrying, even if it is just for entertainment.

Re:Where is the news? (0, Troll)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843719)

(And I shudder what future archaeologists with do with our pop culture as source material ... any history geek will tell you how average Joes understanding of history nowadays was pretty fucked up Shakespeare & co.).

I take the basis of all prescribed religion (a religious text) to be exactly this; A work of fiction, taken out of context.

Just my opinion, folks. No need to get heated about it.

Re:Where is the news? (2, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843829)

People tend to actually take these things as fairly accurate depictions of what it really was like. Its just another one for nation of dum'.

I think the worst case is when it's nearly accurate, plausible but wrong. In that case it might be better to fictionalise the names. Say it's a game where the battle of Hastings goes the other way, call them Anglics and Nordhommes. If the tactics and weapons were accurate, I'd say it was still realistic even if it is counterfactual.

And I shudder what future archaeologists with do with our pop culture as source material ... any history geek will tell you how average Joes understanding of history nowadays was pretty fucked up Shakespeare & co

And yet someone ois proposing that as an awesome new research method: http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/10/14/0042226/Explaining-Corporate-Culture-Through-The-Office [slashdot.org]

What you can learn, or even think you can learn from second or third hand dramatised interpretations is a mystery to me. If the material (say, Band of Brothers) is accurate you're adding nothing that the original researcher did, and if it's economical with the truth (e.g. Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses series) then you're just propagating inaccuracies.

Re:Where is the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29844135)

The first example discussed in the article is MGS3.

If anyone exists who might actually take the Metal Gear series as real history, I want to know about it and make them play the games...

Re:Where is the news? (1)

skornenicholas (1360763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845547)

Except 95% of history was freaking boring. Seriously hundreds of years of people walking, talking, trying to find food, running out of food, moving somewhere new, getting into pansy-waisted fights over goats and rivers, and getting drunk and telling their grandkids about how they used to be heroes. Think about every single second of YOUR life, I am sitting at work, posting to /., anybody lining to right a thesis on how this contributed to society or thinking future archeologists will go "Amazing, what insight into a primitive people!" We sit around a lot, spent a 1/3 of human history sleeping, they are hundreds of thousands of interesting lives and stories, but there are BILLIONS of stories like THIS: "I was hungry." "People died of malntrition, including my brother" "I think I may be dying to." "Yep, pretty much dead" "...." Who the hell wants movies or games about THAT? The greatest stories in human history are TOTAL bullshit. The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Dante's Inferno, this list goes ON, and ON, and ON, all complete and utter BS, but interesting!

Re:Where is the news? (0, Troll)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843623)

The same thing has happened in the movies. Often historical events were only used as distorted background. And movies are as games made for entertainment purposes. So what counts is entertainment value not historical accuracy.

Shocking. Tell me again where accuracy is actually appreciated, outside of a profession or academics? Politics? Media? Religion?

I say let Obama run the economy into the ground, we gotta focus on this video game historical accuracy issue.

Re:Where is the news? (2, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843709)

Indeed! For instance, did you know that the Spartans actually spoke Doric Greek?

There was no "Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!"

Re:Where is the news? (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844725)

Indeed! For instance, did you know that the Spartans actually spoke Doric Greek?

There was no "Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!"

As I recall from school the Spartans told them to "Dig it out yourselves" when they tossed the Persian envoy into the well. This was in reference to their demand for earth and water. Obviously this was the English translation. The Athenians did not surrender either. They threw the Persians in a pit after putting them on trial.

Re:Where is the news? (4, Funny)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845117)

The Athenians did not surrender either. They threw the Persians in a pit after putting them on trial.

At least there was a process.

Re:Where is the news? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845061)

So what counts is entertainment value not historical accuracy.

Indeed; it's just a game, not a fucking history lesson. Anyone who thinks a Gary Cooper movie is in any way like the old west, or in any way historically accurate, is woefully ignorant. Anyone who thinks any game is indicative of real history is just plain stupid; history is fixed, a game's outcome isn't.

Sure, there are historically accurate movies (e.g., The Long Riders or Apollo 13), but one shouldn't expect a movie or especially a game to mirror history.

Re:Where is the news? (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845085)

Movie or game directors are not biased against truth. Usually it is just not entertaining enough or too complex for a popcorn munching viewer to understand.

Re:Where is the news? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845069)

This is one of the many reasons I loved Blazing Saddles: Not because it was historically accurate (not remotely), but because a number of the jokes were based on putting the real story of how the American west was somewhat civilized (Chinese-Americans and African-Americans worked to death building railroads, rampant racism, and so forth) in the middle of a Hollywood western.

Re:Where is the news? (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845887)

Don't forget books. Writers have been doing this well before video games or movies. History has provided a rich source of narrative in general, video games are just the newest medium. I'm sure when virtual reality develops into something mainstream, we'll be able to fight alongside a realistic Ulysses S. Grant just as readily as fighting a space alien super Hitler. And then someone will write a story asking if its okay for virtual reality simulations to take such liberties. Can we get some real news please?

Non issue (4, Insightful)

iamapizza (1312801) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843325)

It's a bloody video game. They have no obligation to you to be historically accurate, it's just a "standard" that we've set amongst ourselves probably out of boredom. Go cry about something else please. If you want accuracy (arguable), then read a history book.

Re:Non issue (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843371)

You could say that about novels, too, yet people complain about Dan Brown's historical inaccuracies to no end.

Re:Non issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843593)

Yes, and they should shut up as well.

Re:Non issue (2, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843689)

You mean that wasn't a factual documentation?! WTF. I've been reading those for years searching out for my own clues. I thought it was a peer reviewed book on the NYT Top 10 for a good reason.

Farking A. There goes my senior thesis.

Re:Non issue (1)

Stupid McStupidson (1660141) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844993)

I think the reason people bitch about Dan Brown is because there is a significant portion of people(many of them tinfoil hat types) who themselves believe his novels or significant portions of them are true. Which is really maddening, because if you look at his books, especially the DaVinci Code stuff, they are awful. Horrible characters, horrible dialog, and horrible pacing.

Re:Non issue (3, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845241)

It's more than that. It is my opinion that Brown specifically leverages people's misconceptions, prejudices, and even bigotry to make stories that will feed right into their beliefs, and which the more gullible will take as being based on historical fact, all the while claiming, truthfully, that it's all just for fun. He knows this happens. I believe he wants this to happen. Yet, there is plenty of plausible deniability to fall back on. On one hand, he can't help it if some of his audience are uncritical idiots who believe his stories are based on history, but he also has to know, and apparently is willing to accept that this will happen.

There's no small amount of people fictionalizing history in a way which undoubtedly sows confusion and misunderstanding (Oliver Stone comes to mind), all the while claiming "it's only made up" while simultaneously being aware that many, many people will assume it's based on fact.

And of course, there's no small amount of people who are simply distorting history to suit their own agendas.

Re:Non issue (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845691)

Pacing? I always thought that was the one thing Dan Brown was good at his books are shit but the pages turn themselves.

My opinion of Dan Brown is he's an Epic Troll he mixes half truths with full lies and misinterpret/misrepresents everything to generate a good amount of controversy == marketing.

Re:Non issue (3, Informative)

viralburn (606633) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845427)

The problem with dan brown is that he categorically states that certain information is based on fact, which is generally not the case.

Re:Non issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843433)

Except for Return to Castle Wolfenstein - that was a historical documentary.

No kidding (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843529)

Only way I'd have problems with it is if the game presented itself as supposedly realistic and accurate to be used for teaching a given subject. Ok, well in that case it'd better be accurate. However for normal, just for fun games? Nope, don't care.

To the extent they use history, it is mostly just as a general setting. Take a game like Rome Total War. Nobody, including the developer, is claiming that this is the way Roman history went. Hell, for it to be 100% accurate it couldn't be interactive since you could change history. They just figured the time surrounding the Roman transition from republic to empire was an interesting one for a game. Gave them a setting to work with interesting background story, various factions, a map, etc. Within that framework a game could then be written.

It is no different than games based on fiction. For example the myriad of D&D games out there. Very few of them seek to implement a pen and paper campaign faithfully. Rather they simply use the universe as a convenient setting, and the rules as a convenient set. Makes for less stuff you have to write from scratch. Like a hierarchy of gods. Rather than having to come up with a new one, you've got one already. You can then use or not use the various ones in the game as you see fit.

I don't see what the big deal is. Sometimes it is fun to come up with a totally new universe, however that takes a lot of work if you are going to make it interesting and convincing. Sometimes it is fun to base things on other fiction, take their universe as a starting point and make your little expansion. However sometimes it is fun to use reality as a starting point. Take a scenario that happened in the real world and say "Well what if..." and run with it.

Same deal with Tom Clancey books/movies. They are based around our real world. The major actors tend to be the same, the technology tends to be the same, etc. However it isn't a story of what actually was, it is instead a story of what might have been, in a darker universe with more conflict. It is based on our reality, but is purely fiction. Thus while some things are "correct" there is plenty that is not because it didn't make a good story.

Re:Non issue (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843537)

It's a bloody video game. They have no obligation to you to be historically accurate,

Of course not. It's just that most players can't tell the difference [tvtropes.org] between the realistic parts and the fiction.

Re:Non issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29845365)

Damnit man! What are you thinking? Linking tvtropes on SlashDot? I'm trying to work here!

Re:Non issue (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845509)

Yeah, after the segment on WW2 in history, my child asked why the Allies didn't just type in IDDQD before D-day.

not many use it substantively, though (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843367)

Even games that have accurate summarizations of history in their story rarely use it to much good effect beyond a sort of flavorful seasoning. It's not really playable history that makes you think about it, in the way good historical fiction helps you understand and imagine aspects of history. If anything, the use of history in educational games like Oregon Trail is the closest to that, and even there it's a little superficial. (The article does correctly point out that alternate history has been dealt with pretty well in games... but oddly, real history, not so much.)

We do, for whatever reason, have that more with current events to some extent. In the mid-1980s, Chris Crawford [wikipedia.org] released the excellent Balance of Power, which attempted to use gameplay to interactively illustrate [erasmatazz.com] some aspects of the Cold War. More recently, there's been a flurry of interest in "newsgames" and "persuasive games" [amazon.com], using games as a sort of editorial-cartoon-style take on smallish current issues, like tainted spinach outbreaks [shockwave.com].

But where's playable history in any real fashion? It doesn't have to be pedantically boring, designed by Professors of Roman History to illustrate some sort of minutiae of interest to their field. Even semi-accurate, dramatized history of the History Channel variety would be interesting if it were playable in some significant sense, not just "you're playing an RTS that has Roman legions as units". Or something as good as the alternate-history games, but with actual history. Lack of interest? Too hard to figure out how to make it work? I mean this as a serious question, fwiw, not as berating game designers. It seems there's a lot of popular interest in at least some kinds of history, as evidenced by things like the History Channel, and yet in games we've gotten only really superficial elements. It may just be inherently impossible / really really hard, but somehow it seems to me that it ought to be doable.

Re:not many use it substantively, though (1)

GravityStar (1209738) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844613)

Well. There's the Civilopedia? It's the one example with the most historic information I can think of right now.

What do we really know about history, anyway? (2, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843379)

What do we really know about history, anyway? You get different accounts of the same event by people who were actually there. Then, as the stories are propagated by those who weren't there, you get even more different stories. Eventually, things may be written down, and you may find evidence that fits with some stories but not others, but, in the end, what do we really know?

Even in cases where there is agreement among people who have actually studied a historic event, what people at large believe about it is usually based on parroting what they hear from others. So, what we "know", then, is not actually what historians believe actually happened. And even that is only a belief.

In that light, I see the more important aspects of games to be how much fun they are to play. Is the gameplay good? Is the experience immersive? Is the story believable enough? Feeling realistic and being in line with historic events (as applicable) is an important part of that, but I wouldn't say it is overwhelmingly important for games (it's different if you build a simulator for training, of course).

And let's face it: if we went for total realism, there wouldn't be any game to play. There would be only one way to proceed, and that would be the way it actually happened in real life. That's not a game, that's a movie - and a specific genre, quite apart from the big hit movies. So let's not be too tough on games that deviate from history a bit more than others, given that none can possibly give a completely accurate account, anyway.

On the other hand, if you are going to base your game on a historic event, you might as well faithfully depict the historic setting as we know it. Otherwise, what's the point? Unless you're making a parody, of course. :-)

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843419)

Having just read Bill Bryson's "Down Under." I'd agree with that. Its amazing how many different versions of the same 'fact' there are about various aspects of the country's history depending on which source you consult.

I suspect the same goes for most places, periods and cultures

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (2, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844379)

Its amazing how many different versions of the same 'fact' there are

For instance, the largest naval engagement of the First World War was the battle of Jutland. Apparently, both sides won... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Jutland [wikipedia.org]

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (2, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844499)

True, but no mainstream historians think it was a victory for Venice over the Ottoman empire. That's to say there's a range of opinions, but there are limits and there's a core of facts that aren't disputed (even if it'ss only the place & date).

And it is possible for both sides to win; tactically the Germans won (sank more ships) but strategically the British did (the German fleet ran home and never came out again).

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

paragon1 (1395635) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844727)

So it was tactical that the Germans strategically retreated?

Are you confusing the Germans with the French?

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845267)

The strategic situation for both navies was the same after the battle as before. Neither gained their hoped-for objective; both sides lost material and manpower, but not strategic position. The wikipedia article expounds on the topic, giving several viewpoints.
All-in-all, it was rather inconclusive, allowing both sides to claim victory without much bare-faced lying. More realistically, both sides actually lost, since they thumped each other bloody, and gained nothing.

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29844773)

While it's true that both sides claimed victory, the reference is out place here because the facts about this battle are well known, it's just that the battle didn't have a real winner, so both sides put a spin on it to make it appear as if they achieved their objectives.

A better example would be the well known battles in the wars between the greek states and persia, where we don't even know reliably how many soldiers were involved on both sides, and even estimations vary by a large margin.

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845107)

Actually, it sounds like from Wikipedia like both sides lost, and claimed victory anyways (as military leaders are wont to do).

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843745)

What do we really know about history, anyway? You get different accounts of the same event by people who were actually there. Then, as the stories are propagated by those who weren't there, you get even more different stories. Eventually, things may be written down, and you may find evidence that fits with some stories but not others, but, in the end, what do we really know?

This question isn't really constricted to history, but to reality in general. Consider that were you an excellent world-reknown magician and decided to visit an extremely poor and superstitious 3rd world country with your act. Of course, even if the audience would be completely truthful in their accounts, they only saw what you let them see, and for all intents and purposes, you could become the next biblical-like figure.

The truthful accounts would be wrong. Then you have to add on the liars, bullshitters, and contrarians. Even your staff may not have a full picture of what went on or how, they fill in some of the details with speculation that later gets debunked because some of it just isn't doable as they envisioned, as the only one who knows the trick inside and out is the magician. That would make it seem the believers in the crowd are more accurate than the staff and their account is then passed on. The magician himself stays silent.

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

cloudwilliam (517411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844343)

What do we really know about history, anyway? You get different accounts of the same event by people who were actually there. Then, as the stories are propagated by those who weren't there, you get even more different stories. Eventually, things may be written down, and you may find evidence that fits with some stories but not others, but, in the end, what do we really know?

Man, that's a depressing paragraph. Sounds like you're writing that in a darkened room with walls painted black, while listening to the Cure.

Re:What do we really know about history, anyway? (1)

Chonnawonga (1025364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845367)

You haven't got your facts wrong, just your understanding of history. The past isn't just a series of flashy events. For the past fifty years or so, the academic discipline has got its shit together and realized that 98% of the past is just people living their lives and trying to get by, and that that's actually interesting and important. And we can get at past realities through all sorts of documents: not just people writing down "I think this, and tomorrow I'll do that" but police and court records, censuses, farm account books, notarial records, churches' baptism/marriage/funeral records, and on and on.

There are facts about the past and historians do work hard to figure them out. It's not just a case of he said/she said. Now, whether those facts belong in video games is another question entirely.

History is just a conveniently premade "world" (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843387)

Where you don't have to pay royalties for the ideas. In that sense, in video games, it plays the same role as a franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings. Just as with history, with them you get major characters, direction of story (a plot), costumes, backdrop, and "feel".

Now, I know with anime, most games don't get 'canon' exactly correct. Why should we expect they get history correct? In the end, it's just attribute it to artistic license.

Moreover, the important part about the study of history isn't specific facts about narrow things, but the recognition of repeatable patterns due to human nature, and avoiding the same mistakes twice. For some reason, most history classes ignores this part, and zooms in on meaningless facts (such as dates) and the teachers almost never are concerned context, or the greater lessons learned, etc. The interpretation of most lessons is almost always left with the students, many of whom won't consider anything but memorizing the basic facts to pass the test.

I had one excellent history professor, he lambasted the history channel for their distortions and mistakes. Why should we expect anything more out of a purely entertainment medium such video games than an (entertainment) TV channel supposedly dedicated to history? The best lesson to learn here is simply not to believe everything you read, see, or what someone tells you to without verification.

Re:History is just a conveniently premade "world" (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844067)

Exact dates are still one of the most important base facts in history, because without them it's not possible to point out causal connections. And if you want to achieve a certain learning from history, you need to look at causations and consequences.

Re:History is just a conveniently premade "world" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29844197)

You're bloody brave assuming you can establish:
* Document provenance
* Identity of decision
* Factors influencing
* Mode of influence

and claim to demonstrate that, let alone tie this all down to a simple date claim.

Dates aren't as important as the entire documentary context.

That's why societies employ people specifically to store create records of held documents (record managers, publishers), store documents (librarians, archivists), and use them to create arguments about what may have possibly happened (historians).

Re:History is just a conveniently premade "world" (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844519)

The whole idea of history as repeatable is not really held to within the field. Just because results are similar does not mean history repeated itself. The factors that caused these similar outcomes may be completely different. History has no predictive value, it is only descriptive. It can allow you to understand how something got the way it is, but it cannot tell you where it will go from there. Whenever I hear someone say "history repeats itself", I usually see someone with very little schooling in the field beyond basic intro classes. And yes, IAAH(I am a historian)(by education). On another note, they should just change the name of the History Channel to the Nostradamus and Anti-Christ channel. You gotta love how they somehow combine Nostradamus with the Mayan 2012 prophecy, too.

hmmm (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843401)

Video games can also grossly misrepresent evolution [spore.com], driving [wikipedia.org], archaeology [lucasarts.com] and just about anything else they're based on. They are for the most part a source of entertainment meant to create a virtual world that may or may not have anything to do with real life. That is the point. They're supposed to be fun. Sometimes the historical inaccuracy is the whole point; It can be fun to interact with a world that isn't historically accurate; alternate timelines for example.

Re:hmmm (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846001)

Video games can also grossly misrepresent evolution [spore.com], driving [wikipedia.org], archaeology [lucasarts.com] and just about anything else they're based on. They are for the most part a source of entertainment meant to create a virtual world that may or may not have anything to do with real life. That is the point. They're supposed to be fun. Sometimes the historical inaccuracy is the whole point; It can be fun to interact with a world that isn't historically accurate; alternate timelines for example.

I'm pissed that my video game misrepresents Elves.

History in Movies (1)

Doshin (962218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843443)

Whether it's World War 2, the American Wild West or ancient Greece, history has long provided a rich source of movie narrative. Historical fact has been painstakingly preserved in some movies, yet distorted beyond all recognition in others. Whereas one movie may be praised for its depiction of history, others have been lambasted for opening fresh wounds or glorifying tragic events of our near past. Movies have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?

Winner history (1, Insightful)

superFoieGras (1423701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843453)

History used to be made by the winners. Now it's made by the winners who hated history back in high school...

history in games that can teach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843483)

Its one thing to have a game which claims to have a historically accurate environment such as Assassins Creed.

Its another thing to have a game that can teach people history.

Examples i can think of are the Caesar games and its derivatives, basically a Roman simcity would be good for teaching children about Roman daily life.

Paradox games, particularly Europa Universalis 2 which although not being as good a game as EU3 included a lot more events occurring on actual dates such as civil wars.

Hearts of Iron 1 and 2 with the C.O.R.E mod including events such as the Sudetenland crisis. (Though they deliberately avoid reference to things such as the holocaust and Stalin's purges. I don't find the concept of terror bombing a civilian populace be it Dresden or Manchester quite as confronting as in game reasons to favour building concentration camps or Stalag would be.)

Hmph (3, Insightful)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843487)

Of course thanks to the genius of Holywood we all know the Enigma machine was really stolen by a bunch of Americans (U-571) and not by Poles....

Movies have been playing silly buggers with history since the first movies, video games are no different. Both are forms of escapism from reality.

Why's this a) a suprise and b) taken so long for some to figure out?

Re:Hmph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843547)

I *knew* that U-571 was going to be brought up.

Who knew that a movie written by a man whose sole knowledge of submarines was limited to a toy submarine he played with in the bathtub as a child would make people so butthurt?

Re:Hmph (2, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843603)

One thing I have learnt as I get older is to chill out about things and not take life so seriously.

Even though I'm British and proud of what we (and all the Allied forces) did during WW2, I actually thought U-571 was just a fun, "turn your brain off" movie that was good entertainment. It's not as though the film opened or close with the lines "This film accurately depicts real events during WW2" after all.

And if people are concerned that kids go see these movies and think that's what really happened, then maybe history teachers need to do a better job and maybe parents should be showing their kids how to take reference books out the library or how to search for factual information on the Internet.

Re:Hmph (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843869)

Which is missing the point of my post, while I don't mind u-571 to accuse video games of screwing history (or atleast portraying it as a negative) is skipping over the fact since the first movies history has been treated as little more than a toy... by most entertainment forms.

Re:Hmph (4, Informative)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843891)

Of course thanks to the genius of Holywood we all know the Enigma machine was really stolen by a bunch of Americans (U-571) and not by Poles....

I'm undoing a few moderations here but I'm afraid I just have to point out your horrific factual innacuracy. You slam Hollywood for saying American's captured the first complete Enigma machine, then you make up some nonsense that it was actually Poles? If you bothered to check your facts before criticising the facts of others you'd know it was the British, HMS Bulldog to be precise, that captured the Enigma machine in 1941.

I can only hope that you were making some cryptic comment on the whole historical innacuracies situation, but even if that's the case; too subtle.

Re:Hmph (1)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844087)

He's just getting the characters confused - the Poles were involved: they developed the first versions of the "bombe" devices used for attacking the Enigma encryption.

Re:Hmph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29844147)

Perhaps Hollywood was confused too...

Re:Hmph (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845987)

Perhaps Hollywood was confused too...

Perhaps the people who actually did it are dead or close to dying and the "facts" surrounding it will die with them as they get written and re-written over the course of time. Also perhaps in 1000 years, nobody will give a shit (I don't even give a shit and it's only been like 80 years).

Re:Hmph (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29845747)

Polish submarine is a completely different story [wikipedia.org].

GP is right in this sense that commercial version of Enigma was in posession of Poles even before the 1939

Historians talk about history very differently (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843509)

The idea that history is "factual" rather than a rolling series of arguments is both interesting and amusing.

I wonder, with what vehemence, slashdotters would react if historians of science and technology ceased reporting on the human practice of science, and began advising on code design?

"Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it."

Mainstream media rarely depicts the historian's conception of history as currently practiced. At best it is Whig history (telling history to create moral lessons for today). At worst it is a fantasy purporting to a relationship with reality. Do you really expect games to speak into the complex construction of self-identity? The formation of power within classes leading to social conflict? The institutional factors behind the limits of political decision making within and between states? Or the emergence of sub-altern narratives (the utterly voiceless repressed) through careful emergence of non-standard documentary traditions?

At best your demand is Grognard: that the belt-buckles are accurate and that Division X was not in Location Y. If you truely want to look at games serving history, look up Stalin, a three turn economy simulator designed to test Stalin / Trotsky / Bukharinite debates about preventable deaths.

Re:Historians talk about history very differently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843655)

Yet somewhere a freedom fighter is terrorizing an innocent populace with asymmetrical warfare and baseless propaganda.

Re:Historians talk about history very differently (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843671)

First of all, the full title "Stalin's Dilemma" is so so so much more googleable. Second of all, it's not really THAT hard to provide the link, is it? Copypasta of your 'Stalin, a three turn economy simulator' has it on lucky.

http://playthisthing.com/stalins-dilemma [playthisthing.com]

Re:Historians talk about history very differently (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845595)

How about a WWII FPS that starts with you negotiating German reparations at Versailles, progresses through the effect of hyper-inflation on the German psyche, follows the competition between National Socialism and Marxism for populist support--all leading up the a brief period of warfare and an epilogue of mass rapes, economic devastation, and simmering hostility and distrust between the Soviets and the other former allied powers. Sounds like fun to me.

Re:Historians talk about history very differently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29845823)

How about a WWII FPS...

Wrong genre.

That suits a platformer.

Nonsense (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843605)

"Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?"

As someone who has studied history extensively for my degree and has somehow managed to use that for my career without being an academic, I take serious issue with the phrasing and implications here. Historical narrative is little more than an eloquent game of connect the dots. It takes liberties by necessity. Its misuse is only a matter of perspective. If you ever find yourself learning history in a meaningful way while playing a game, stop breathing. Read a fiction novel and don't post this mindless drivel.

In related news: Nearly everything you hear is influenced by the whims of popular narrative. Sometimes what you hear is "bad".

Ingloriuos Basterds (1)

atilla filiz (1402809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843677)

Wasn't Hitler killed in a French movie theater by two simultaneous plots by Jewish a girl and Jew-American soldiers?

Games are like books. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843705)

There are history books, books loselly based in history, totally wild interpretations (like 300).
There are history games (like wargames), books loselly based in history (typical shooter in Omaha beach), totally wild interpretations...

Narrative is just a element in gamming. Like textures, fonts, GUI, models, ... and Gameplay. Gameplay is probably the 50% of a game, a 40% is visuals, and the other 10% is everything else. Theres only two type of games where history/narrative is really important for a game: wargames and educatives games. All other games are mostly narrative lights (Quake), or self-narrative-creators (Sim City), or worlds (Morrowind), ...

I am getting old, and I really appreciate games that build some credible characters and history (like L4D). But videogames are a superset and narrative is a subset. You can do much more than just narrating something. We can talk, or we can walk. Games can do both,... and more. Books are limited, games are not.

Re:Games are like books. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843833)

Exactly! Why expect games to be any better than any other medium? Now if the game maker was to, say, sell the game as being "educational" - then I'd say accuracy would be important. But heck, otherwise it's fair game (no pun intended). Heck, I remember a lesbian acquaintance waxing poetic about a feminist pseudo-history of the U.S. Civil War some years ago - she wasn't concerned about accuracy, other than the actual battle names.

Re:Games are like books. (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844411)

For Hollywood, a game is 10% (or less) gameplay, 90% visuals, screw everything else. Is there any surprise they don't go for historical accuracy? It is like being shocked finding out strippers didn't graduate from some Ivy League style dance school.

They ruined movies by turning it into only action / adventure, romantic comedy, or kiddie show as a choice. Now games are mostly FPS crap with some RPG and RTS thrown in for good measure. Historical accuracy is only one small loss in a massive sea of crapulance. It's like they are trying to race to see who can make the next ET sequel.

Kind of superficial (2, Informative)

FornaxChemica (968594) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843713)

The content is rather shallow for an article entitled "History in Video Games", it's just a few recent cases. History plays an important part in several old video games: the majority of wargames (Civilization, Ages of Empire, Centurion Defender of Rome, Nobunaga Ambition, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, North and South, Napoleon), which he did not even mention once, semi-educative games like the Carmen Sandiego series and even your occasional action game !

I was reviewing SNK's Guerrilla War on NES last week on my website. The Japanese version, entitled Guevara, is clearly a depiction of the Cuban Revolution, all the key names and some locations have been retained; you play as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and the final boss is Batista.

And a better example than Final Fantasy, among old RPGs, would have been The Battle of Olympus on NES set in Ancient Greece. Not to forget all the games from Japan who have references to their own history and myths, like Samurai Shodown.

It's called historical fiction people.... (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#29843715)

and it's a genre that's been alive in the literary world for far longer than computers or for that matter electricity have existed.

I know it's hard to imagine something has been done before computers, but setting a fictional account in a realistic historical setting is as old as the hills(with the Illiad being a likely example dating from as I recall about three thousand years ago in it's written form and probably substantially moreso in oral tradition).

As to the whole Army of 2, six days in fallujah thing. Army of 2 was a creepy and tasteless romp into mental illness with psychopaths wearing face masks high fiving in pools of blood, folks didn't like it for that more than for anything else, and making a game about a war which isn't over and which involves complex diplomatic issues(like the Iraq war where they hate us and we want them to like us) isn't exactly a great idea.

Giant Enemy Crab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29843999)

That is all.

Praise the slashquote system (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29844605)

I can't help but smile at the slashdot quote system that shows quotes at the bottom of the screen. As I'm reading this, it reads:

Some parts of the past must be preserved, and some of the future prevented at all costs.

Only games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29844763)

Why all the complaining about games?

I mean, we all know that Indiana Jones snatched the Holy Grail from the Nazis and thank god that Shakespeare stuck so close with the history facts for "Hamlet". Jepp, that's how it all happened.

Gosh...

History is written by the historians (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845793)

(Insert Historical Reference Here) have(has) utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does(do) (Insert Historical Reference Here) take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?

Really though, a game is just a freaking game, it's not a history book. History books should be taken with a grain (perhaps a bushel) of salt anyways.

If you're not reading and/or in-taking information that you intend on using as fact critically then you're not reading and/or in-taking information that you intend on using as fact correctly.

Perception of misuse is a user error, or "I - d - 10 - T" as they say in the business.

If I want to believe that WWII consisted of one man gunning through hordes of nazi zombies in a series of boxes, then that's my own prerogative.

I Learned All My History from Civ2 (4, Funny)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845917)

For example, in 500AD, President Julius Ceasar of the Roman Empire discovered railroads, which led to Charles Darwin's Voyage, which as every schoolboy knows resulted in the Romans immediately aquiring the knowledge of both Amphibious Warfare and Economics, thus allowing them to finally end their 3000 year war with King Abraham Lincoln of the United States. This expansion led to much unrest amongst the populace, however, and in order to maintain order Ceasar was forced to convert nearly 35% of his worforce into Elvis impersonators.

Victory at Sea (1)

schiefaw (552727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29845969)

I once had a game on my Mac called "Victory at Sea" (pre-OSX days). The game was buggy as hell, but the game was researched by Jim Dunnigan and Albert Nofi. They created a book of the same name from the research they had assembled.

Great research, crappy game (because it was unplayable).

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...