Playing History: Video Games and the Humanities

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 |

As we get closer to the camp I thought I would test the waters and see if any of the THATCampers are interested in pulling together a games in the humanities session.

At CHNM Dave and I are in the early stages of planning and developing a collaborative directory for freely available history games and interactives. In my experience, finding serious/educational games on the web is a haphazard and disorganized business. There is no systematic way to search across the content. There are currently thousands of free educational games available online in individual content silos. Broadcasting entities like PBS, BBC, and the History Channel, and subsidiary programs like NOVA, each develop a variety of games associated with their programming, but these are often buried in the very complex sitemaps of their large websites. Similarly, independent educational game developers like Persuasive Games, provide access only to their own offerings. These individual repositories limit the ability of teachers looking for game content related to a specific topic. For history teachers faced with ever increasing burdens on their time it takes far too long to research each of these sites individually. Further, without any means for user feedback, the widely varying quality of these games ensures that web searches return a random mismatch of high and low quality games divorced from their potential classroom use.

Beyond this, if we get funding, we plan to have some historians and history teachers review a subset of these games, with the historians focusing on the historicity of the games and pointing to primary sources that teachers might present to students to read with or against the games argument and the teachers focusing on how the game could fit into the classroom setting.

This brings me to one of the things I would like to pick other campers brains about. What kinds of criteria should these types of games be reviewed against? There are models for reviewing commercial games (Things like this review in game informer), models for reviewing historical works (Like scholarly book reviews), and designed based research offers ideas for assessing curricular activities. This leads to a very practical question for us, what sort of rubric/guidelines and interface do we provide for reviewing games in our project. I do, however, think it is of broader concern as well. What kinds of value do games bring to humanities teaching and scholarship and on what criteria do we evaluate the success of a given game and interactive in the humanities?

Beyond direct responses to my issues anyone interested in games and the humanities please post comments with your thoughts and ideas for discussions/sessions at THATCamp.

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4 Responses to “Playing History: Video Games and the Humanities”

  1. Laura Mandell Says:

    This is fascinating, Trevor — I’d like to be involved. I posted something about games today as well.

  2. Lisa Spiro Says:

    Wow, this sounds like a great project! Not only am I interested in historical gaming, but also in the process you all are using to build a collaborative directory of games, since I’m working on a similar project to build a wiki focused on software that supports research.

  3. Will Riley Says:

    I definitely want to attend your session on historical gaming, so much so that I subconsciously adapted the title of your blog post for my blog post, Playing Historian. Besides reviewing the historicity of games, I’m especially interested in how gaming relies on and simulates historical thinking. Games as simulations let us re-experience and re-interpret the past. Since we can replay them, they give us a strong reasons to remember particular events in greater detail.

  4. Liste non exhaustive des thématiques abordées lors des THATCamp | ThatCamp Paris 2010 Says:

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