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E3 look at Gaming and Education

May 19th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Gamasutra has a report (reigstration required) on a panel discussion led by UC Irvine’s Patricia Seed on the place of computer games in her university history courses, specifically Civilization.

The most interesting point in the report comes from high school history teacher Jeremiah McCall. He says that asks students to consider what aspects of a game are accurate and which are for gameplay value only. Somehow this leads to an ability to think critically about biases in sources and the contested nature of history.

I’m skeptical about how well this works. Criticizing a game and its oversights is very different from reconciliing different eyewitness accounts of the Boston Massacre.

Seed offered a course at Rice called “World History Through Games“. The course focuses on Age of Empires and Civilization and how they portray historical progression. There are also sections on European board games and how they use history as a backdrop for competition. This sounds like an exciting course, and something appropriate to the university level. I have long wondered what impressions of history are conveyed through games and such a course is a fine companion to the usual university stand-bys about history and Hollywood.

But do the students learn about history or just about how history is used or manipulated? Once you know that you need access to fresh water to grow your city or that iron is kind of important, where can we move there learning wise? This is a very different matter from actually teaching historiography or in-depth analysis of a particular issue.

As you can tell, this will probably be a constant theme of mine in this blog since historical strategy games are supposed to be something more educational and intelligent than Painkiller. I have my doubts that this is actually the case, but if people keep saying it I will keep writing about it.


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