Many of us here at extra credits love history and love historical games so it’s weird that we’ve never really talked about them. Well, seeing as how we have just relaunched extra history now seems as good a time as any. There’s a lot we could go over here but there’s two large questions which surround the making and the playing of history games that come up more often than anything else: How accurate should they be and can you actually learn history from them ? Luckily for us the questions kind of go hand in hand don’t they ? You see both of these questions and all the debates surrounding them stem from the same key fact. You can never be truly historically accurate in a game because, by its very nature as an interactive experience, in a game the player can change the outcome of history. To me this isn’t really a big problem because that concern comes from an older slightly narrow view of what it means to learn history.
Basically you can boil it down to the question is the point of history to learn dates, names, and facts, or to learn from history and to understand the struggles of people in the past so that we may better make decisions in our lives today. If you believe the value of history is in the former; than the value of historical games are questionable at best. But if you believe it to be the latter well then historical games may well be one of the best ways to learn history. Games like rome 2, total war, Victoria two or even Civil War two. Apparently were on the second generation of a lot of historical games… For all they strive for historical accuracy. They can never insure that the player’s actions will mirror actual events, but they can put the player in the shoes of somebody wrestling with the large scale problems of the day and ask the player to understand them and come to grips with them themselves.
This is the very heart of history, those moments, those pivotal points where someone stands at the precipice of a decision that could change their world and has to make a decision about it. And those games let us live that again and again. Better still they let us learn from our mistakes which to me is the very goal of learning history in the first place. these games force us to reflect on the decisions we make and weigh whether they were ultimately correct in a way that’s often difficult with just a book or a lecture. So yeah you can learn from history by giving it through a game but given that, how accurate should these games be ? Well that’s a much trickier question because i tend to find that many historical games focus their accuracy in the wrong places. I mean it’s important to make sure that everybody has the right colors on their shields and but the tanks are the correct ones for whatever you’re in, and it’s even more important to make sure that historical figures and situations are represented as honestly as possible, but all of that should simply come with the territory.