I came, I played, I learned

Rome Total War screenshot

The boys of form 6 storm the school canteen

“In this mornings lesson we will be studying the Battle of Cannae, fought between the Romans and Carthaginians in 216 BC. Please load your copy of Rome:Total History and open saved game number 42. While it is loading can anyone tell me who the Carthaginians were?”

One reason why I feel that the game industry comes under attack so often for excessive violence is that there are few, if any, games that use violence to convey a message. Most are merely entertainment and are viewed by many as gratuitously violent and as such worthless. The Serious Games Summit (March 7-8, 2005) at GDC is one way that members of the industry are attempting to change this, by promoting the use of computer & video game technology for simulations, training, education, and other practical applications. Personally I hope that in addition to serious games we start to develop more games that seek to be meaningful – ones whose primary purpose is to convey a message – be it political, social or economic, rather than just entertainment.

Game technology engages those who use it in a way that reading or discussion can’t. The best way to answer the question “Please Sir, what would have happened at Cannea if Hannibal had….” is to load Rome: Total History and allow the class to find out for themselves. Even games whose primary purpose is entertainment can still contain much that is educational. The real Rome: Total War (as opposed to my fictional Total History version) can teach anyone playing it a lot about Rome, its history and military conflicts. The Creative Assembly developed title is an excellent game that is both entertaining and exceptionally well executed – but it is also educational. Players learn about military tactics, Roman history and even the Seven Wonders of the World as they strive to construct an empire and put Rome’s enemies to the sword.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 18, 2007 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Loved RTW. I agree. Unfortunately that would fall under the realm of military history and sadly, military history is a subject that most universities now leave alone, as dead as Sanskrit.

    A little research shows that none other than Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers author) left a million dollars which goes untouched to the U of Wisc History department for the specific goal of retaining a military history seat.

  2. Posted February 18, 2007 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Yes the current game as it stands is focused on military action but I certainly gained an interest in Geography as a result of playing military board games. Also I would envision such game engines being modified to allow more focus on other areas. For example the new Medieval 2: TW engine has merchants as an active unit. Maybe you could take on the role of a merchant and run a business within the growing empire.

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