Video games have often been an outlet for people to escape reality and immerse themselves into any number of fantasies. However, a surprising amount of games have turned to our own history as a backdrop for such fantasies, using events throughout time and spanning many cultures. Such ideas have been around for nearly as long as other conventional games, but it seems that the more the gaming industry grows and matures, the more history based games emerge and become popular as well, and not just for the academic mindset. Many people now play historical games as avidly as any generic FPS or RPG, and don’t even recognize the impact because of the level of immersion and overall FUN it provides.
As I said before, games featuring historically accurate content have been around for some time, “Mario’s Time Machine” being a great example. And while the gameplay wasn’t terribly exciting itself, the amount of history and education packed into it was staggering. Skip ahead a few decades to the popular “Assassin’s Creed” franchise and see what the genre has become. No longer just navigating tiny pixels around cliche’ backdrops and reading through mountains of text, this particular title puts you directly into the action. LIVING the history to the point that it doesn’t even feel like education anymore. Of course, the accuracy is somewhat debatable at times, but that shouldn’t diminish the experience of learning in the best, and most fun way in my opinion, you can through something as basic as a video game. It’s refreshing to see how much time and effort developers put into the research as well. Going to the location the game takes place in, reading about the mindset of the era, the fashion, politics, social norms, and countless other factors that would make an otherwise forgettable experience into something you’ll want to play over and over again. You’d be surprised how much you remember if it’s all put together well also. I will admit that the majority of my knowledge of the Italian Renaissance comes from running Ezio Auditore across the rooftops of Venice in “Assassin’s Creed 2”. Sure I knew a little bit before I ever picked it up, but putting myself in that environment only added to my education.
All the fun of education aside, I realize that you can’t get a proper grasp on the actual events JUST with gaming. A true education, on whatever subject, should be thoroughly researched and taught through a multitude of mediums., the game console being a bit low on the learning scale. During these modern times, we still have a long way to go before such education through gameplay could ever be a legitimate source of respected knowledge. That being said, just consider how far we’ve come already. If, in only a handful of years, we can go from “Mario’s Time Machine” all the way to “Assassin’s Creed”, just think of what we will have and how far we will go in another handful of years. We can only move forward in this regard and I can’t wait to see whats next!