Alright! Back again with another blog post about a project that I had to complete for my Digital History class. For this project, I had to play two historical online games from a list. I chose to play and discuss Oregon Trail Deluxe and Surviving History: The Fever. Dr. Cowan had some questions for us about the games we decided to play, so I’ll be answering those.
The experience of “playing the past” definitely added a lot to my understanding of the topics. Specifically with the Surviving History game, there were a lot of facts that can be seen as fictionally accurate for the time period that they are portrayed in. I did, in fact, learn a good bit about the Scarlet Fever and the struggles that people faced in cities like Philadelphia. With the Oregon Trail game, it showed me just how easy it was to give up and lose everything when settlers were travelling the Oregon Trail.
I do think that some things could have been improved, though. For the Oregon Trail game, I know that it is not a recent game. The software that it is based on is from the 1970s. However, I believe that it could have been redone in a much better format. It is difficult to read everything that pops up on the screen, even for someone with perfect vision. I also understand the graphics and visuals are left unchanged to give the older vibe to the game, but it could use a huge update and much better graphics. If it were improved, I would have focused more on the storyline than the struggle to play and understand what was going on.
The advantages to playing historical video games as a means of learning history are vast. For one, I grew up in the very early 2000s, so a lot of my childhood was filled with video games on various different platforms. If I had all of these historical games available to me, I would have known part of my career path at a much younger age. On a very personal level, it is easier for me to learn on a digital platform than it would be for me to read all of this information in a textbook. It helps me to engage with the history and feel as though I am a true part of it.
I do agree that the medium of gaming could risk trivializing history, but I do not think that it is necessarily a big problem. Games are not going to have every single small fact that you could learn in a textbook, but it makes the learning more accessible. A large part of the world has access to a computer or a smart phone, so the ability to play these games online, for free, is much more preferable to buying a $100 textbook.