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History In Video Games — a Closer Look 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the begins-and-ends-in-the-1940s dept.
scruffybr writes "Whether it's World War 2, the American Wild West or ancient Greece, history has long provided a rich source of video game narrative. Historical fact has been painstakingly preserved in some games, yet distorted beyond all recognition in others. Whereas one game may be praised for its depiction of history, others have been lambasted for opening fresh wounds or glorifying tragic events of our near past. Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?"
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History In Video Games — a Closer Look

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  • Where is the news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mseeger (40923) on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:52AM (#29843315)
    The same thing has happened in the movies. Often historical events were only used as distorted background. And movies are as games made for entertainment purposes. So what counts is entertainment value not historical accuracy.

    CU, Martin
  • Non issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamapizza (1312801) on Friday October 23, 2009 @02:54AM (#29843325)
    It's a bloody video game. They have no obligation to you to be historically accurate, it's just a "standard" that we've set amongst ourselves probably out of boredom. Go cry about something else please. If you want accuracy (arguable), then read a history book.
  • Re:Non issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:17AM (#29843371)

    You could say that about novels, too, yet people complain about Dan Brown's historical inaccuracies to no end.

  • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:22AM (#29843393)

    Actually, this tends to be a problem only in WWII FPS games. Any WWII turn based strategy game I can think of will let you be Nazi Germany and kick some ass if you want to. Germany had all sorts of crazy projects for tanks and planes during the war, and these are often included as usable units in later campaigns.

    Such is the mystique of those "secret" Nazi weapons (a plot used in many movies) that even games picked up on it. Iron Storm for Sega Saturn featured a battle between Germany and Japan over India as the final stage of the "victorious" campaign. If you were playing as Japan, the AI Germans would have an extremely powerful UFO unit that would decimate other airplanes with frickin' lasers and had a decent cannon attack against ground units. The game otherwise featured on realistic units, but the designers just wanted to stick that in there...

    Unfortunately, if get to that stage as the Germans yourself, you don't get any UFO...

    Anyway, I prefer to to have the choice to play any side... not just the "good guys".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:30AM (#29843423)

    +1 FAIL
    For failing to realise that Godwin's law is about references to Hitler/Nazis. The "automatically lose the argument" rule is a non-standard extension.

  • Winner history (Score:0, Insightful)

    by superFoieGras (1423701) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:37AM (#29843453)
    History used to be made by the winners. Now it's made by the winners who hated history back in high school...
  • by zwei2stein (782480) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:39AM (#29843459) Homepage

    People tend to actually take these things as fairly accurate depictions of what it really was like. Its just another one for nation of dum'.

    Hell, even evening news are made with 'It does not have to be real, just entertaining' motto.

    (And I shudder what future archaeologists with do with our pop culture as source material ... any history geek will tell you how average Joes understanding of history nowadays was pretty fucked up Shakespeare & co.).

    I'd consider entertainment value quite awesome, but then you end up with people who have no idea about past, or are comfortable about fact that 'history' can be 'adjusted' to fit better whatever you agenda is. And that is worrying, even if it is just for entertainment.

  • Hmph (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arimus (198136) on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:49AM (#29843487)

    Of course thanks to the genius of Holywood we all know the Enigma machine was really stolen by a bunch of Americans (U-571) and not by Poles....

    Movies have been playing silly buggers with history since the first movies, video games are no different. Both are forms of escapism from reality.

    Why's this a) a suprise and b) taken so long for some to figure out?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:55AM (#29843509)

    The idea that history is "factual" rather than a rolling series of arguments is both interesting and amusing.

    I wonder, with what vehemence, slashdotters would react if historians of science and technology ceased reporting on the human practice of science, and began advising on code design?

    "Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it."

    Mainstream media rarely depicts the historian's conception of history as currently practiced. At best it is Whig history (telling history to create moral lessons for today). At worst it is a fantasy purporting to a relationship with reality. Do you really expect games to speak into the complex construction of self-identity? The formation of power within classes leading to social conflict? The institutional factors behind the limits of political decision making within and between states? Or the emergence of sub-altern narratives (the utterly voiceless repressed) through careful emergence of non-standard documentary traditions?

    At best your demand is Grognard: that the belt-buckles are accurate and that Division X was not in Location Y. If you truely want to look at games serving history, look up Stalin, a three turn economy simulator designed to test Stalin / Trotsky / Bukharinite debates about preventable deaths.

  • Re:Non issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@gm a i l.com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:06AM (#29843537)

    It's a bloody video game. They have no obligation to you to be historically accurate,

    Of course not. It's just that most players can't tell the difference [tvtropes.org] between the realistic parts and the fiction.

  • Re:Hmph (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:26AM (#29843603)

    One thing I have learnt as I get older is to chill out about things and not take life so seriously.

    Even though I'm British and proud of what we (and all the Allied forces) did during WW2, I actually thought U-571 was just a fun, "turn your brain off" movie that was good entertainment. It's not as though the film opened or close with the lines "This film accurately depicts real events during WW2" after all.

    And if people are concerned that kids go see these movies and think that's what really happened, then maybe history teachers need to do a better job and maybe parents should be showing their kids how to take reference books out the library or how to search for factual information on the Internet.

  • Nonsense (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:26AM (#29843605)
    "Games have utilized historical narrative extensively, but to what extent does the platform take liberties with, and perhaps misuse it?"

    As someone who has studied history extensively for my degree and has somehow managed to use that for my career without being an academic, I take serious issue with the phrasing and implications here. Historical narrative is little more than an eloquent game of connect the dots. It takes liberties by necessity. Its misuse is only a matter of perspective. If you ever find yourself learning history in a meaningful way while playing a game, stop breathing. Read a fiction novel and don't post this mindless drivel.

    In related news: Nearly everything you hear is influenced by the whims of popular narrative. Sometimes what you hear is "bad".
  • by indiechild (541156) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:27AM (#29844311)

    Are you kidding? Neo-nazis would love 99% of war games I would imagine. Most of the time, the Nazis are hardly even being mentioned, let alone painted in a bad light. It's usually the Germans who are depicted in WWII games, not the Nazis. And everybody loves playing the Germans.

  • Re:Non issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:35AM (#29845241) Homepage Journal

    It's more than that. It is my opinion that Brown specifically leverages people's misconceptions, prejudices, and even bigotry to make stories that will feed right into their beliefs, and which the more gullible will take as being based on historical fact, all the while claiming, truthfully, that it's all just for fun. He knows this happens. I believe he wants this to happen. Yet, there is plenty of plausible deniability to fall back on. On one hand, he can't help it if some of his audience are uncritical idiots who believe his stories are based on history, but he also has to know, and apparently is willing to accept that this will happen.

    There's no small amount of people fictionalizing history in a way which undoubtedly sows confusion and misunderstanding (Oliver Stone comes to mind), all the while claiming "it's only made up" while simultaneously being aware that many, many people will assume it's based on fact.

    And of course, there's no small amount of people who are simply distorting history to suit their own agendas.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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