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Games Used To Teach History

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the going'-back-in-time dept.

Education 42

Next Generation is reporting on the use of games in educational situations. From the article: "Age of Empires III deals with the conquest and colonization of the Americas; fertile ground for imaginative students. Taking on the role of a European power - desperate to grab land and resources - helps students understand the motivation and planning behind invasion. It also paves the way for learning about its consequences. That, at least, is the theory."

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Interesting (4, Insightful)

radicalskeptic (644346) | about 9 years ago | (#13829792)

What a novel idea. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go play me some Oregon Trail.

how about... (1)

alexandreracine (859693) | about 9 years ago | (#13830253)

the first Civilisation?

There was a LOT of information in there when you discovered some new tech.

Re:how about... (1)

Cheapy (809643) | about 9 years ago | (#13832308)

Civ is great for learning some history...

But it's much to complicated for most students. I believe the main cause for this is just how realistic it is. Age of Empires is just a straight forward conquering game. Don't have to worry about revolts and corruption, just build units to counteract your enemy.

Sure, Civ is fairly easy once you learn how to play it, but AoE has a much gentler learning curve, so it wouldn't take as long to learn it.

Re:how about... (1)

Pxtl (151020) | about 9 years ago | (#13835629)

Well, if you really want to teach the subject, why not play the game that specifically had it as subject matter? Colonization was a solid title, but again very challenging. The game really was good at making you see it from a colonist's perspective - you use the natives help until you can't anymore (they help train your colonists in useful skills), then you wipe them out and steal their land because they're in the way.

Koei games (1)

Pluvius (734915) | about 9 years ago | (#13829795)

Just about everything I know about Chinese history I know from playing Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dynasty Warriors.


Re:Koei games (2, Informative)

Niahak (581661) | about 9 years ago | (#13829858)

Koei's games got me interested not only in the Three Kingdoms period, but also in other similar conflicts in China & Japan, leading to a general interest in Chinese & Japanese history.
I heard that their next plan for a Dynasty Warriors-ish game is one set in the Hundred Years' War - it'll be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

There are a lot of stages in history that can be made into the background of a great story, and I have a feeling that Koei's going to find even more. They did some nice experimenting a while back with Genghis Khan, Uncharted Waters, etc. and I'd like to see more of that done.

By the way, did you get "Pluvius" from Gemfire? Good game, I'd like to see it re-done.

Re:Koei games (1)

bypedd (922626) | about 9 years ago | (#13831447)

Ditto (until I took a class on China, of course). But it's not just history that can be learned. I knew my way around Battery park in NYC from playing Deus Ex: Conspiracy. Funny thing was, I didn't connect the two, and I found myself instinctively knowing where to turn to find the exits and the river. Video games are just as capable of teaching geography or pretty much anything else as they are capable of teaching history.

It's a bit unfortunate that "video games can be a force for good!" is a refrain among a handful of articles/teachers/schools who are trying to expand their teaching styles. Games, and, particularly serious games, are so perfect for training and simulation, yet that's not what makes it to the NY Times blurb about violent videogames targeting younger audiences or whatever.

Re:Koei games (2, Funny)

ecumenical_40oz (914889) | about 9 years ago | (#13832242)

Yes, just about everything I know about the historic Terran-Zerg-Protoss conflict on Aiur comes from playing Starcraft. And that time the soviets tried to seize america using mind control? It's all portrayed accurately in Red Alert 2. Thank goodness for historical gaming.

Not the best (2, Informative)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | about 9 years ago | (#13829822)

If you want serious history games, check out Paradox [] .

Just make sure one thing (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 9 years ago | (#13829833)

aking on the role of a European power - desperate to grab land and resources - helps students understand the motivation and planning behind invasion. It also paves the way for learning about its consequences. That, at least, is the theory."

Just make sure that introvert with a genius IQ doesn't figure out how to end with more favorable consequences. They usually stay bitter about getting picked on for the rest of their lives...

Re:Just make sure one thing (1)

Moraelin (679338) | about 9 years ago | (#13834260)

I don't know about staying bitter, but yeah, I can just see even a moderately intelligent kid gaming the game, and using some loophole to achieve an utterly non-historical result.

E.g., I've seen a pretty surrealistic AAR (After-Action Report) on Paradox's boards about playing Japan in Victoria and ending up a liberal democracy long before the Meiji Restoration. The tactic used things that just wouldn't have worked in Japan's feudal society:

- e.g., taxing the land-owners 100% to impoverish and thus elliminate that class. There were civil wars for a lot less than that, and not just in Japan. The American Independence War was over a lot less of a tax levy. "All your income are belong to us", i.e., basically turning state-owned by decree, is something that _will_ cause a civil war anywhere.

- E.g., accepting to become vassals of the Dutch, to get access to the Dutch technology and know-how, such as railroads. Sorry, I just can't see 19'th century Japan simply accepting that. They had a bit of a civil war just for opening up to the outside world. Accepting another country as masters just like that? That would have every single samurai and noble in the land up in arms.

And it culminated with using a loophole where you could force a whole country to the opposite ideology of your government, so basically the whole of Japan flipped to ultra-liberal in a very short time. And then he let them revolt and overthrow the government, turning the country into a liberal democracy, which also got him out of being a vassal.

Don't get me wrong, I admire the skill and inventivity involved in abusing the game like that. _Awesomely_ played.

But if they use games to teach history, I just can see a smart kid coming up with something like that in history class. Ooer. Now that would give the teacher a heart attack.

Civ (2, Informative)

AsiNisiMasa (910721) | about 9 years ago | (#13829882)

As for the "understanding motivations" issue, I can definately bite. When I first started playing Civ II I would never want to try for a military victory. Then I got older and better at it (Civ III by then) and started to understand the reasons why one would do such a thing. Specifically, if you get tanks before anyone else, game over for them. When you have military superiority, you go for it. It's enlightening when you first find yourself being militaristically greedy.

As for history, I thought Civ II was better. they actually had factual information regarding untis/science etc. Civ III just has in game info. I dunno about AoE.

Re:Civ (1)

v1p3r007 (843068) | about 9 years ago | (#13830119)

I learned nearly all my history from playing Civ II. The information regarding the units and sciences and advancements really helped me discover new things. This is a good idea, because it will also show that even fun games can be educational too.

Re:Civ (1)

snuf23 (182335) | about 9 years ago | (#13830128)

That's how I always played Civ. Expand rapidly, rush up the tech tree, slaughter everyone near you (I think the Knight unit was a real help initially), develop tanks as early as possible, kill everyone else. Game over around 1400ad. Oh yeah and fundamentalism was the greatest for having a massive army and keeping the civilians at home happy. Stop complaining and go to church! No wonder they took it out of Civ 3.
The one time I won by reaching Alpha Centauri with the space ship was out of pure curiousity. I had wiped out every nation except poor India (I guess I have a soft spot for Ghandi). I surrounded the last remaining Indian city and kept them around to witness my glorious space ship launch.
Interestingly enough I had trouble with military wins in Civ 3 - my cities would keep revolting. I ended up winning by culture most of the time.
As for the topic of history and games, I think Colonization was fantastic. Very similar in gameplay to Civ, but focused on the idea of old world meets new. Of course I played that one by finding the Aztecs (richest tribe) and slaughtering them for their hoards of gold!

Re:Civ (1)

joeljkp (254783) | about 9 years ago | (#13831805)

Oh, yeah, Colonization ruled. I used to play that all the time in middle school. Remember the Fountain of Youth? If you found that, you suddenly got an onrush of qualified immigrants to help your colony along. And instead of a tech tree, you had Founding Fathers that brought with them specific bonuses for the colony (if memory serves). Highly underrated, IMHO.

Colonization (1)

poindextrose (640377) | about 9 years ago | (#13829985)

Having played AoEIII (which has horrible fonts that I can't read on my HDTV at all--Thanks Microsoft!), I would have to deem Colonization a far better teaching aid for this time period / sequence of events... and you can crank the video settings and still get perfect framerates ;)

Just my 0.02CAD

Re:Colonization (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 9 years ago | (#13830581)

What the fuck do you expect playing on a television? HD or not....

We love Katamari. We hate ugly fonts. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 9 years ago | (#13833333)

What the fuck do you expect playing on a television?

Namco's Katamari Damacy and We <3 Katamari for PS2 seem to have decent fonts, even when used with a standard definition TV. Why can't Microsoft's games be as reliable across different kinds of displays?

Re:Colonization (1)

poindextrose (640377) | about 9 years ago | (#13834614)

Gee, I play World of Warcraft on it, and I seem to be able to read its fonts just fine. In fact, I play many games on it, and they seem to be playable also. I played games at 1024x768 for years and was able to read the fonts, so why not 1280x720?

Don't speak on that which you do not understand.

That is the theory indeed (3, Funny)

jayhawk88 (160512) | about 9 years ago | (#13830116)

The reality, of course, is that students learn how to fend of an archer rush, but not much else.

I learned a lot from games. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13830192)

Like that the Egyptians loved to rush their enemies with a bunch of Sirian Werebulls, backed up by a few Biomechanoids.

Re:I learned a lot from games. (1)

Pxtl (151020) | about 9 years ago | (#13835682)

That, and they must've used Kleer Skeletons to build the pyramids because it's freaking nuts how many of those little bastards they've got.

Battlefield got me interested in WW2 (5, Funny)

lupinstel (792700) | about 9 years ago | (#13830224)

Playing the Forgotten Hope mod for Battlefield 1942 got me interested in WW2. This is how I learned how the allies totally pwned the n00b germans despite their brillant defenses and 1337 hax0ring at both Omaha and Gold beach. The allies best tactic?... bunny hopping.

Re:Battlefield got me interested in WW2 (1)

FortKnox (169099) | about 9 years ago | (#13839729)

Bwwaaaahahah! You had me going to the end, then I lost it. Well played!

Anywho, for my contribution, try playing shogun or medieval total war. Both games require you to carefully balance your nation while attempting to grow where influences such as religion and economic choices make each invasion a difficult decision... not a simple, invade-kill-invade-kill (try it in MTW and you'll find every place you invaided rebels unless you take care in what you do).

Slight Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13830270)

THe problem with Microsoft, Speilberg and HBO is that they're publishing entertainment, not edutainment (not that the two are exclusive). Their goals are not to provide an historically accurate insight into past events, but to create a well balanced and enjoyable game. The problem is that their goal is to create an interpretation of events which is appealing as entertainment, and if some facet of the actuality does not fit into the plot formula/game design/etc. then it'll be dropped in favour of more explosions/better game dynamics/etc.

I don't know about any of you, but the concept of letting Microsoft write the history perceived by future generations doesn't sit well with me.

- Josh (Anonymous Coward who couldn't be bothered logging in)

Dangerous ground... (1)

Hakubi_Washu (594267) | about 9 years ago | (#13830455)

Using these games for teaching is very difficult, simply because they're sometimes os convincing. The same problem with movies...
Take "Gladiator", where the Archers light their Arrows on a fire trench in the ground. There is absolutely no evidence this is historically correct (and the makers were aware of that, check the commentary)
Or, for a game, take "Age of Empires", which features moving catapults (even having a damage area). Simply put, these didn't exist! I have an interview with Bruce Shelley where he claims he did it, because people "expect" that in a game and he usually uses children's book's illustrations as base for his ideas...

So, they're not bad, for entertainment, but should be taken with some barrels of salt when used in actual education.

Knights of Honor (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | about 9 years ago | (#13830778)

I've found 'Knights of Honor' to be extremely interesting from a historical point of view. Supposedly, if you start out in the early period as one of the territories that lies in modern day England, you can actually form Britain by conquering the entire island.

Re:Knights of Honor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13831028)

Knights of Honor isn't bad, but compared to 1st party Paradox titles, the historical merit isnt even close. Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria, Hearts of Iron.. there you have unrivaled and unparalleled historical gameplay that is very complex and can be educational.

Don't want to teach kids violence. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13830855)

Well considering that history is very violent and that there is a lot adult content within it can we still give these games to children with the new violent video game laws? I mean we don't want to teach children to resort to violence like was done many times in history.

Re:Don't want to teach kids violence. (1)

Derkec (463377) | about 9 years ago | (#13834435)

No kidding. I'm a member of PETA and Oregon trial is nothing more than an animal murder simulator. It's only redeeming value is that the animal murderers are likely to see much of their family die off as kharmatic punishment.

(tongue placed firmly in cheek)

I knew it the whole time (2, Funny)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | about 9 years ago | (#13831144)

All I ever needed to know about North American colonial history, I learned from Day of the Tenticle.

Which, come to think of it, explains a few things.

Today's World History Lesson (1)

coaxial (28297) | about 9 years ago | (#13831896)

This is what I learned from Civilization:

On Febuary 13, 1639 Montezuma sent a fleet of trimemes, ironclads, and troopships to the African continent. When the fleet reached the western Saharan coast, a motley group of 8 divisions of muskateers, 4 calvary divisons, 4 cannon batteries, a contigent of knights, and three battle hardened phalanxes of spearmen were unloaded. This was the Aztec First Expeditionary Force. The 1EF began razing trade routes and farmland as they fanned out across the desert. The city of Alexandria quickly fell quickly to the Aztecs. The 1EF then turned south. Swazi, Npodo, and Ulundi all succumbed to the onslaught. After several months of intense fighting, Montezuma finally reached the Cape of Hope and his ultimate goal. The Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar

some similar games (1)

shirishag75 (893320) | about 9 years ago | (#13832070)

some of the games which i liked is spicetrade as well as /games/buzz/content/p/7/102757/food_force_installe r.exe [] which is a game where it's UN+food packets thing is happening. Don't remember the web url for the description & all but still a nice game. Spicetrade is better. I hope we see more of the earlier free as in beer as well as in souce games.

"Learning" (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | about 9 years ago | (#13832450)

I must admit some skepticism with the idea of learning from videogames. While it is true that some people will read the flavor text (the historically accurate part) other people will only learn that a trebuchet is something like a catapult that must be unpacked, the Japanese start the game with the ability to build the phalanx because they have a bronze working tech, and that you can make it all the way to Oregon just by buying lots and lots of bullets and shooting a lot of buffalo every day. Seriously, most kids are illiterate these days. They aren't going to wade through flavor text and booklets, they're going to play the tutorial, skim the dialog, and find the part where it tells you what to do.

games in education work (1)

peaceful_bill (661382) | about 9 years ago | (#13832815)

I'm a middle school teacher and use games extensively to teach my kids. I have a blog where I've devoted a substantial amount of time and energy to help other teachers use games to help kids learn! check it out at You may want to check the section on games in education here: [] []

COTS games are an exceptionally powerful learning tool - providing we use them in a thoughtful and deliberate way. If we stick a kid in front of a computer for an hour, and expect them to learn something - they won't. But if we use solid insructional design, and good assessment, we can see learning happening. Good topic.

WWII games are good teaching too (1)

awakend (924220) | about 9 years ago | (#13832962)

how about MOHHA or CALL OR DUTY even Battle field 1942(funny in nintendo there was a game with the same title) yeah some of these games are educational but also I encourage some of the gamers who play history oriented games to actually read about that way you'll know some facts about it and not be believing everything that's in the games.

but i know some of you are being though at achool or remember the school history classes

three headed monkeys (1)

H0D_G (894033) | about 9 years ago | (#13833557)

...and Monkey Island give good insight in to caribbean history... but seriously, if it gets people interested in the topic at hand, go for it.

The "Where in _____ is Carmen Sandiego?" series (1)

Lisandro (799651) | about 9 years ago | (#13833837)

Remember those? I had the time, world [] and USA versions back in the C64 days, and it did taught me a lot about those subjects... i could even pinpoint capitals in a US map, which back then was quite more than i could do with a map of my own country. Same for world capitals, and trivia facts mentioned in the game.

    More info on the series on Wikipedia [] . The bit of trivia about CS showing up in an Animaniacs episode is true; i did saw that and got a good laugh out of it...

"Where in #%&@ is Carmen Sandiego's luggage?" (1)

Moraelin (679338) | about 9 years ago | (#13834275)

See title. That's one game I'd like to see :P

Re:The "Where in _____ is Carmen Sandiego?" series (1)

KevlarTheSleepinator (827583) | about 9 years ago | (#13836560)

...and it did taught me a lot about those subjects...

i'm assuming one of those subjects was not grammar? ;)

Whatever We Learn (1)

Hydr0g3n (924370) | about 9 years ago | (#13837562)

In games they dont get too specific with the information because its not like everyone who plays the game will understand everything. If the game interested you then you should go and do some more extensive research. And to think that we wouldve learned that history is repeating itself...

comprehension (2, Interesting)

clragon (923326) | about 9 years ago | (#13839935)

i think it's all a matter of comprehension. like that story about Sun Tzu when he visited his 80 year-old master, the mast showed Sun Tzu his mouth, which had no teeth left, but had a working tongue. Sun Tzu understood and left, while his students were wondering what the lesson was about. some people can learn from video games, doesn't matter if it's history or co-operation skills. but some people just play the game and does not relate it to real life.
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