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Games & Simulations for Historians

Reading through the historical gaming experiences of Group E/5 made me realize that the pursuit of accuracy can be a fruitless effort in games. I say ‘can’ for a reason. This entire course has forced me to consider the place of history amongst the constituent elements of a game. It could be argued that history only fits into the plot and story elements of a game. But, our class has certainly moved beyond that belief. Instead, we have looked toward the mechanics themselves as being vehicles for ideas that are quintessentially historical. These ideas considered, I argue that careful detail must be given to the complexity of the player mechanics instead of character accuracy.

The historical flash games contain a bank of useful information to the player. But, the manner in which they present the information is varied. ‘Mummy Maker’ and ‘Pyramid Challenge’ seemed to place the player in the historical role. The tasks requested of the player were directly related to the assumed role. This ‘role-playing’ approach is being used in every game that has been presented so far except for ‘God of Fate’. That said, ‘God of Fate’ seemed to offer the player the ability to control individual politicians and other figures to control a more focused agent.

This role-based approach seems to be the flavour of the day. Spoiler alert: Our group is also using this approach. The use of a role-based approach is arguably a matter of mechanics as much as it is one of narrative. If we seek to use this approach we must provide a sufficient amount of personhood for the player to inhabit. In many Bethesda games, the player is required to craft their character yet there are certain unchangeable factors that operate regardless of that choice. Those factors generally being the aspects of the character that the designer reserves choice to. Mechanically, the game should react to the personality choices made by the player.

If we seek to forge a sense of empathy between player and character we must mitigate the fusion of their personalities. I believe this connection is only made difficult when the character is so set in stone that there is no room for the emotions of the player. At that point, the player can only look for qualities that they themselves identify with. This avenue is certainly advantageous and practical for both stories and films, as well as video games. Though in my opinion, allowing the player to become the character, or at least meld with their constructed personality, is how we truly engage the player in the potential interactivity this medium affords.


I am the Lone Wanderer,

my name is Mr. T Kyle Lagrandeur and I’m a Blood Elf Priest.

Also the Hero of Time, even though it does not jive with the above position.

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