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History In Video Games — a Closer Look 139

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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  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:16AM (#29843367)

    Even games that have accurate summarizations of history in their story rarely use it to much good effect beyond a sort of flavorful seasoning. It's not really playable history that makes you think about it, in the way good historical fiction helps you understand and imagine aspects of history. If anything, the use of history in educational games like Oregon Trail is the closest to that, and even there it's a little superficial. (The article does correctly point out that alternate history has been dealt with pretty well in games... but oddly, real history, not so much.)

    We do, for whatever reason, have that more with current events to some extent. In the mid-1980s, Chris Crawford [wikipedia.org] released the excellent Balance of Power, which attempted to use gameplay to interactively illustrate [erasmatazz.com] some aspects of the Cold War. More recently, there's been a flurry of interest in "newsgames" and "persuasive games" [amazon.com], using games as a sort of editorial-cartoon-style take on smallish current issues, like tainted spinach outbreaks [shockwave.com].

    But where's playable history in any real fashion? It doesn't have to be pedantically boring, designed by Professors of Roman History to illustrate some sort of minutiae of interest to their field. Even semi-accurate, dramatized history of the History Channel variety would be interesting if it were playable in some significant sense, not just "you're playing an RTS that has Roman legions as units". Or something as good as the alternate-history games, but with actual history. Lack of interest? Too hard to figure out how to make it work? I mean this as a serious question, fwiw, not as berating game designers. It seems there's a lot of popular interest in at least some kinds of history, as evidenced by things like the History Channel, and yet in games we've gotten only really superficial elements. It may just be inherently impossible / really really hard, but somehow it seems to me that it ought to be doable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @03:34AM (#29843439)

    The official statement of Godwin's Law is:

    As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

    Not reference, comparison. Source [eff.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:48AM (#29843671)
    First of all, the full title "Stalin's Dilemma" is so so so much more googleable. Second of all, it's not really THAT hard to provide the link, is it? Copypasta of your 'Stalin, a three turn economy simulator' has it on lucky.

    http://playthisthing.com/stalins-dilemma [playthisthing.com]
  • Kind of superficial (Score:3, Informative)

    by FornaxChemica ( 968594 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:58AM (#29843713) Homepage Journal

    The content is rather shallow for an article entitled "History in Video Games", it's just a few recent cases. History plays an important part in several old video games: the majority of wargames (Civilization, Ages of Empire, Centurion Defender of Rome, Nobunaga Ambition, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, North and South, Napoleon), which he did not even mention once, semi-educative games like the Carmen Sandiego series and even your occasional action game !

    I was reviewing SNK's Guerrilla War on NES last week on my website. The Japanese version, entitled Guevara, is clearly a depiction of the Cuban Revolution, all the key names and some locations have been retained; you play as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and the final boss is Batista.

    And a better example than Final Fantasy, among old RPGs, would have been The Battle of Olympus on NES set in Ancient Greece. Not to forget all the games from Japan who have references to their own history and myths, like Samurai Shodown.

  • Re:Hmph (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shrike82 ( 1471633 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:44AM (#29843891)

    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....

    I'm undoing a few moderations here but I'm afraid I just have to point out your horrific factual innacuracy. You slam Hollywood for saying American's captured the first complete Enigma machine, then you make up some nonsense that it was actually Poles? If you bothered to check your facts before criticising the facts of others you'd know it was the British, HMS Bulldog to be precise, that captured the Enigma machine in 1941.

    I can only hope that you were making some cryptic comment on the whole historical innacuracies situation, but even if that's the case; too subtle.

  • Re:Non issue (Score:3, Informative)

    by viralburn ( 606633 ) on Friday October 23, 2009 @09:51AM (#29845427)
    The problem with dan brown is that he categorically states that certain information is based on fact, which is generally not the case.

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend