Gaming and History

While I was getting my hair cut today I was chatting with my barber about his love of online gaming.  His latest obsession is a World War II tank-combat game (the exact name escapes me).  As I was listening to him talk about the game, I realized that its creators must have done some serious historical research (or hired a historian) in order for the game to provide an accurate portrayal of tank combat and the various kinds of tanks (American, French, Russia, German, Chinese) used in WW II.

I know that there are digital humanists out there who work at the intersection of history and gaming, but I don’t know much about their work, I only read a little about them on  Since I began to re-purpose our public history concentration at Messiah College (I hope we can unveil it soon) I have been interested in these connections.  One of the faculty members in the department has been urging me to include a course on gaming, offered by a computer scientist on campus, among the list of possible non-history electives in the program.

Anyone with any experience in this area?  I would love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Gaming and History

  1. I've heard that the Games Learning Society ( out of the University of Wisconsin has some people who've looked into the intersection of video games and history, though the GLS' intentions themselves are more directed towards using games in classrooms. I also came across the book “Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games” by Zach Whalen and Laurie Taylor when I was doing my own foray into this very topic.

    From a personal perspective, gaming offers some of the best opportunities for historical educators who want to spice up their curriculum, largely because most well-crafted games are so player-driven and sensory. I'd be really excited to hear your thoughts on this if you decide to look into it some more!


  2. I and some departmental colleagues will be attending a conference on “Reacting to the Past” – a game-based historical curriculum developed out of Barnard College. I tried to paste the link but am unable to for some reason – certainly a google search should turn it up easily. I don't believe they are computer-based games, but they could easily be in that format. I'd be happy to report back with impressions after we attend – let me know if that'd be helpful.

    Aaron Cowan
    Slippery Rock U.


  3. Ken McAllister (Ariz.) and Judd Ruggill (ASU) run the Learning Games Initiative, which studies games, gamers, game culture, etc. They are connected to a large network of humanities people who study computer games.


  4. You might try contacting Dr. Kevin White at SUNY Oswego. White served as a historical consultant for Assasin's Creed 3.

    I hope you post more about this very interesting and timely topic.


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