Note to self: Jayme, remember that in your Digital History class in your first year of your PhD, your assignment was to play Oregon Trail. Also, remember, you didn’t buy enough food at the beginning of the journey and as a result, you are directly responsible for the deaths of your husband and cousin. You were better at this when you were in elementary school, Kurland.
Growing up, my sister and I were not allowed to play video games, aside from “Typing Tutor” or educational games at school like “Oregon Trail.” Once in a blue moon, we would get to play Super Mario Bros at our babysitter’s house, but we didn’t own any gaming systems. Since then, I have never really had much interest in gaming. When I have tried games like Mario Kart as an adult, I fail miserably and end up running into walls, all while getting kind of dizzy watching the simulated game realm.
I found the article “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach about the Past” really thought provoking.
Krijn H.J. Boom et al write that
“In contrast to factual learning, video games allow players to experience the past by interacting with it as they go, deepening their understanding through reflection and experimentation…Video games inherently allow players access to all these abilities and act, as it were, as a learning conduit.Krijn H.J. Boom et al, “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach about the Past,” in Communicating the Past in the Digital Age edited by Sebastian Hageneur (Ubiquity Press, 2020), 31
It seems like the authors are almost encouraging public historians to engage with the public through the use of games, yet, they also warn about the downsides therein. I had never considered the power of video games which portray the historical past, like Call of Duty, could potentially make the player think they understand WWII given the game’s premise. After sharing key case studies, the authors sum up that:
“In order to make more use of video games as an educational platform, both in formal and informal settings, it is important to better understand the educational impact video games have on players, and to find opportunities in which interaction between the players and the past can be discussed or mediated in order for the latter to be more critically assessed.”Krijn H.J. Boom et al, “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach about the Past,” in Communicating the Past in the Digital Age edited by Sebastian Hageneur (Ubiquity Press, 2020), 41.
I love the idea of using a technology which is already widely in use and enjoyed, like video games, for teaching history. Why shouldn’t we connect with people on their terms using their preferred methods, instead of expecting them to come to us? But beyond games related to war and warfare, how can other historical events or time periods be adapted to the game format? I also loved learning about RoMeincraft, since I have watched my nieces play Minecraft for years, but had never stopped to think about the historical potential beyond the user’s ability to build worlds.
This week, we learned how to use the app “Twine,” an open-sourced tool for interactive, non-linear storytelling—think chose your own adventure…kind of. Authors Krijn H.J. Boom et al weigh in on Twine’s platform:
“Opposed to traditional linear scholarly writing, Twine can be valuable for interpreting fragments of the past to recreate or envision diverse possible scenarios.”Krijn H.J. Boom et al, “Using Video Games as a Platform to Teach about the Past,” in Communicating the Past in the Digital Age edited by Sebastian Hageneur (Ubiquity Press, 2020), 36.
I found Twine to be a rather easy platform to learn. Our group (Janet, Caroline, and I) were initially daunted by the task of creating such a project. The research areas we have worked on didn’t seem like appropriate projects to turn into a “choose your own adventure” experience. But once we got to brainstorming, we decided to present a “Culinary Tour of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair” because many household staples in the present were introduced at this event. I think the only thing missing was the ability to actually EAT the food we introduce. So without much further ado, please enjoy playing our game.