Non-Fiction in Video Games


There is no shortage of video games created specifically for the purpose of educating students. There a countless free games that children can access that help to refine skills in things like math, immerse a student into a historical setting, or teach resource management.

But what about the games that are created purely for entertainment purposes? Are there real things that we can learn from those? As I have said before, I am not a gamer. I am a lover of stories, so any list I provide in this realm is probably going to be lacking in some way. This is where you, dear friend, come in. Please, always feel free to add to our discussion.

When I first thought about games for entertainment in an educational setting, there were a few that came to mind automatically — games that boast their historical setting (I couldn’t help this, I was a history teacher, after all). Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield One, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance are all games that I thought of almost automatically (don’t worry, there will be an honorable mention of Civ V).

First let’s take a look into Assassin’s Creed. While having obvious fantastical and science fiction overtones, there are elements throughout the game that can be used to ignite a curiosity for history. Assassin’s Creed is known for its employment of academic historians in the creation of their games, so there is a degree of authenticity that one could find throughout the franchise. But most of the time, it is just that — “a degree.” Like a lot of games, the actual game is just set to the backdrop of a historical setting, so that the game can still fulfill its sole purpose, to entertain (and make money). Recently, Assassin’s Creed has released a patch that created a “Discovery Mode” that have been called “history lessons” by people who have played. I have not checked the claims against those of actual historians, so I can only guess as to the accuracy. One thing I have noticed though, is that the games do provide players with some real background knowledge about the world at that time. Even though they might not be exactly historically accurate, they can still spark a mind to want to find out more.  Battlefield: One is another game that is set to a historical backdrop. While playing through some of the actual events and areas, the historical realism of the game has been called “cosmetic” by some.

While teachers might not be able to teach a full history lesson with the games, if they had less than motivated students in a history class that was discussing the same topics, the teacher could easily make relevant connections and comparisons to these games, and help make a discussion relevant to students familiar with the games.  

Then we have games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance. I have been holding off to play this game when I actually have the time to sink into it, but I have done a little bit of research on it.

While games like Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield One might sacrifice authenticity for gameplay in  a big way, Kingdom Come: Deliverance does not. In some videos breakdowns and reviews that I watched and read, the consensus is that the game is pretty accurate. From the apparel to the weapons, locations and architecture; KC:D went to great lengths to ensure that it was as accurate as possible. Some of the only things changed were the scales of the buildings and distances between towns.  

A “simulation” like this can do a lot to teach people certain things about the setting the game exists in. While not built for education, there can definitely be some real things “learned” from it. At the very least, it would make a great illustration in the right lesson.

I didn’t want to wrap up this discussion without including Civ V, which is one of my favorite games. Anyone who has ever played this game and experienced George Washington going up against Gandhi knows that the historical accuracy of this game is limited at best. However, the “great leaders” of each civilization do have a fair bit of accuracy surrounding them in their descriptions. Even their unique abilities, units, and buildings are in some way based off of the leader, or the ideals that they or their civilizations represent — that is until you get to the nuclear Gandhi option. That probably isn’t too accurate.

With any of these games, the ability to use them in an educational way would honestly depend on the creativity of the teacher. Incorporating key aspects and similarities between the content and the game being discussed is a definite possibility with each, or perhaps these games could be the connection between the disinterested student and what is being learned in class.

As I said, always feel free to inform me of things that I have missed so that I can add them to my list of things to check out and research.

Thank you for stopping by today.

Until next time, my friend.


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