Can you learn history from video games? Whether it is Sim City 2000 or Red Dead Redemption, video games provide environments in which the gamer encounters ideas of historical progress, historical settings, and classical characters. Sure, we game for fun, but does that prevent us from experiencing history in a unique way? On one hand, the history is selected and presented to us by game developers. On the other hand, we can take that presented history and modify it through our own control of the game. What does that say about our engagement with history?
This course will explore the questions of the historical representation of Japan in video games. By exploring how certain concepts of history emerge in video games, we will discover how integral an understanding of history is to enjoying the story and setting of a game. We will also see why and how certain historical concepts, like the ‘way of the warrior’, are connected to important issues of modern identity. Not simply entertainment, video games give us an imaginary world that helps support our real social world.
The games we will examine and play in this course include Ôkami, Harvest Moon, Way of the Warrior 3, and Total War: Shôgun 2. Each game will have associated readings and movie clips to examine the emergence of history in this participatory medium. This course is designed to meet two needs:
Technical brilliance in designing form will produce wonderful gaming environments, but a game without content cannot succeed.
- students interested in understanding the connection of fiction and history
- students interested in understanding how they can research and use history to create video games.
Course Requirements:Students will be evaluated based on a weekly “gaming journal” and a final paper. The final paper can be either academic or a well-thought game proposal explaining how and why you would use history to create your own game.