Gaming has not remained only a part of entertainment or activity for passing time. Though professional gamers have emerged who earn millions and some of the players have been playing games to earn daily bread, there is something more a gaming activity can do. Scientists have claimed that video games sharpen mind and help in enhancing problem-solving skills in the real world. Now, researchers have discovered a new benefit of gaming. The computer modeling techniques can be beneficial in historical research.
Computer simulations have imitated the real-world practices in detail. The use of wind tunnels has increased as computer fluid dynamics showed how it’s done. Social-network simulations have changed the way we handle traffic jams and control fake news from spreading. Moreover, games such as Grand Theft Auto series create the world in which players can experience alternate realities. Though this has a huge impact on humanities, its impact on the study of history has been identified much. Computer simulations imitate the war tactics and events extensively and help players understand the forces and alternative histories.
Mehmet Sükrü Kuran and colleagues at Abdullah Gul University in Turkey have designed an undergraduate history course in which students can understand their subject better with the help of historical computer games. They have incorporated different computer games into the history course to determine which game gives rise to discussion and lead to better understanding of students. The course gives information about three ages in history. The first is the Middle Ages, which studies the Sunni-Shia split in the Islamic world and the Great Schism in the Christian world. The second is the early modern age, which studies the Industrial Revolution. And the third is the modern age, which covers the two 20th-century world wars.
Kuran and colleagues did an experiment with various games such as the Total War series by the Creative Assembly, Sid Meier’s Civilization series by Firaxis games, and the Grand Strategy games including Europa Universalis IV, Crusader Kings II, and Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Interactive.
The course started with learning and discussion session. Then an introduction to the game was given. Students were assigned few goals to achieve in the game. Then, they were asked to write about their experiences in a 500-word blog post by comparing to other sources of information. Moreover, they were asked to write a 3,000-word essay based on the research of an era they chose to specialize in. After two years of experimentation, Kuran and colleagues decided that playing games were a better way to gain information and understand history than to learn from other sources.
“The games from Grand Strategy series provided the most comprehensive experience due to their level of detail, high historical accuracy, and versatility on modeling different cultures and nations,” informed Kuran and colleagues to MIT Technology Review.
The intricate interactions between technological, economic, religious, political, and cultural factors in the world have been taught to students through games. Students also determined how societies were different in different eras and how the modern and historical point of view of events vary. The change in perspective enhances understanding of historical key events. Moreover, it leads to a better recollection of events. “Most of the students report that learning history through a video game has a critical immersive component,” said the team.
There are innovative methods to learn. Studying history through video games is one of the most innovative approaches. This is just the beginning. This way will also help historians to see the past in more detail and determine possible alternative outcomes.