Online games to teach history



Online games can be used in teaching history. Most of us who read the above statement may seem strange to us, but for others it can be a motivator to continue reading on this topic and investigate which games can be used for this purpose. Others will surely have experience with a game that seems appropriate to illustrate some historical process. I’m sure “Age of Empire” can come to many people’s minds. I’m sure most of you may be curious about it. It also caught my attention.




I tell you that I found this phrase in some of my Internet searches related to mathematical models in history. I happen to be reading Peter Turchin’s book on Dynamics of History [1] where mathematical models similar to models in physics are built to describe the evolution of clans, cities, kingdoms and empires among other social organizations, and try to answer Why do some empires fall and others don’t? With the reading, I began to look for some other documents with these ideas, which seem to me very interesting. I found a free access article on the subject “History-Themed Games in History Education: Experiences on a Blended World History Course” [2] on the site that I have already used on many occasions because it is a free access article site.



For me it was surprising to find this type of study in a site dedicated mainly to mathematics and physics, but the article is in the Computing and Society section.



Although I am familiar with the fact that computers have served to replace many experiments and that computational dynamics is being used extensively in many different fields of science and engineering, its use in the social sciences is still not common and not so widely accepted. by the humanities community. For these reasons, I was doubly surprised by the article evaluating the use of online games as an activity in undergraduate history courses. If there are online games, there must be algorithms that emulate social behavior. So I started reading it.



For four years, Kuran and his collaborators incorporated a variety of online games into their history course to determine which game best stimulated discussions of historical issues and furthered understanding of the topics.



The activities in the courses consisted of actively participating in different games and achieving predefined objectives, then writing their experiences in all the topics of the course and finally writing an essay on a specific topic. The topics and games dealt with dealt with the Middle Ages, the Modern Age with an emphasis on the Industrial Revolution and themes of the 20th century, mainly the two world wars. In these topics, the conclusion was that the “Grand Strategy” series provided the best experiences due to its detailed level and historical accuracy, as well as its versatility to model different cultures and nations.



The inclusion of these games in the activities allowed a better understanding of the geography, economic and political aspects of trade routes, as well as supply chains.



Most importantly, from the perspective of the article, these games teach and engage in the complex interactions between economics, religion, technology, politics, and culture.



By using these games, the student community learns how differences in the past affect the future of societies. In this way, they can understand the importance of key events in the development of history. One of the aspects that stands out the most is that certain events marked as precipitators of great confrontations, in light of the games, are no longer, since any event with similar characteristics could be equally triggering.



The example of this idea is the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 as a trigger for the First World War.



The activity of the game with conference-type sessions and other discussions allows each student to immerse himself in the context and explore some different situations that develop a critical component of the social, economic and political environment, while promoting comprehensive learning. By experiencing, in the flesh during the game, each student internalizes the historical situation as a participating entity instead of having an attitude of passive reading or listening.



Of course the game activities demand more time in the student community, but they can be equivalent to the additional readings that we did in the past.



I believe that computers and the Internet open up paths for us that were unsuspected a few decades ago. The teaching staff of the various levels, today we have the opportunity to explore activities that allow a different immersion of those who participate in our courses and perceive the environment participatively, for example, online games or experiments. Of course it requires more work, but I am convinced that the results are worth it.



I invite the teaching staff to take some extra time to explore, play and enjoy the world of the Internet and the student community to encourage the teaching community to also enjoy online games.



[1] P. Turchin Historiacl dynamics, (Princeton Studies in Complexity, Princeton NJ 2003)



[2] M.Ş. Kuran, AE Tozoğlu, and C. Tavernari