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#1 Edited by Vinnypop (28 posts) -

I am writing my undergraduate thesis, on historically based video games and using simulations as a tool to teach history. Im looking for some anecdotal evidence and comments. So I thought i'd ask my fellow Dudders a few questions. I wont use any names or specific quotes, unless you say I can in your comments.

1: Have you ever been inspired to read about a historical event or person because of your time spent in a game. (I.E. Battlefield One inspiring learn about World War One or Rome: Total War making you read up on Julius Ceaser.)

2: Did you ever pick up a game because of its historical setting?

3: What is your favorite time period to play games in? (the future/fantasy is a valid response)

4: Are you a historian, armature historian or member of the historical press?

Thank you in advance for your comments and I'll post my thesis when I'm done, if there is any interest. So anyone interested can rip my work apart.

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#2 Edited by Slag (7349 posts) -
  1. Yes. Quite a few of them. The one I remember most clearly was looking into the Yellow turban rebellion because of Dynasty warriors 2
  2. Yes. I am often drawn to titles because of that specifically. It's neat to me explore old Worlds. Probably my favorite old world is 1950's Los Angeles in L.A.Noire just due to the fidelity of the creation. I pretty much keep buying Assassin's Creed games because I want to see the worlds they show, even though I don't like the gameplay that much.
  3. I don't have one. Although I generally prefer places set in the past. Ancient Rome around the end of the republic or the Cretaceous Period I guess if forced to choose.
  4. No. What's an armature historian (is that a typo, i.e. supposed to be amateur)? no.

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#3 Posted by dr_monocle (343 posts) -

1. Most definitely! I've put tons of hours into Civilization IV, V, and VI and every so often they'll have leaders that I'm not too familiar with which often leads me to at least take a cursory glance at a bio. Also most of the Assassin's Creed games. Especially Unity. I like grounding myself in something if the setting is trying to be historically accurate.

2. I'll second L.A. Noire for the same reason as @slag. And, again, the Assassin's Creed games usually pull me in with the historical aspect.

3. Any kind of sci-fi/future setting. If you put space in a game I'll probably buy it.

4. Not an historian, but I did minor in history in college for what that's worth (not a lot).

Good luck!

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#4 Posted by Giantstalker (2293 posts) -

1: Yes, quite often. More than anything else, 2002's BF1942 got me interested in the actual history behind WW2 and into military history in general.

2: I think the period has a significant effect on my purchase, second only to actual game quality (which I also investigate before hand).

3: The recent past. Cold War stuff especially; the US in Vietnam, or the USSR in Afghanistan leap to mind here.

4: I have a B.A. in history, but I wouldn't call myself a historian. Maybe an armchair historian (if that's what you meant?)

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#5 Posted by Captain_Insano (2702 posts) -

1. I developed more of an interest in feudal Japan as a result of Shogun: Total War, though that also coincided with my having travelled to Japan as well.

2. Often I will pick up a game based on historical setting.

3. The Fall of the Roman Republic is my favourite historical period.

4. To a moderate extent. I am a high school History teacher with a Masters in History. I have had some historical articles published in a couple of historical journals and teaching journals. My articles have been on the late Roman Republic (generally focused around the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus) and also on historiography, mainly on narrative history, but I am also working on a piece related to video gaming and history. I am not a professional historian in the sense that I am not employed at a university and don't give lectures and am not paid for my 'history' work.

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#6 Edited by Cerberus3Dog (785 posts) -
  1. Yep in Total War: Rome - Rome, AC2 - Florence, Red Dead Redemption - early 20th century American frontier
  2. Yep the main reason I play AC games is because I want to explore historical worlds
  3. There are so few historical games, if I had to choose I'd go with 17th - 20th century US. Which is too broad a time period if we are talking history, there are just so few games. Really though my interest is piqued for games with any historical setting. I also like old fantasy. Anything regarding old traditions/cults/dieties/culture/folklore (Ex. I am more interested in Nioh because of its Japanese folklore/culture than its gameplay)
  4. Nope, I just read r/AskHistorians fairly regularly

Here is a fun fact I learned from my own interest in Total War: Rome. Augustus Caesar and Cleopatra lived closer to the present day (~ 2000 years) than they did to the building of the Great Pyramids (~ 2500 years)

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#7 Edited by Belegorm (1751 posts) -

1. No, however the reverse was often true: I would often try and recreate what I'd read about a person or country, in a historical game.

2. Yes, I chose games like Medieval 2: Total War, Shogun 2: Total War, EU3/4, CK2, and Age of Empires for their settings.

3. The Middle Ages (feudal Japan is also interesting, as well as classical Greece/Rome, and the Renaissance to me).

4. Nope, however I was always interested in what history classes I did take in college.

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#8 Posted by whitegreyblack (1510 posts) -

1. Not specifically.

2. Definitely - I like games in medieval/feudal times, the pioneer/wild west era, ancient times (Romans, Vikings, et al.) and anything from the privateer/pirate era.

3. I cannot resist a pirate or western themed action/adventure game... I cannot! But actually, I gravitate more to future/sci-fi settings more than anything else from history (although I really just buy and try everything).

4. No.

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#9 Posted by mekon (426 posts) -


1. Yes, I knew little about the specifics of the American Civil War (wasn't taught it in school, was taught about UK history generally) so I wanted to read about Gettysburg after playing the Sid Meier game for a bit.

2. I tend to pick (or accumulate) a variety of games, rather than focusing on a particular time period. I've never looked into the Total War series or Age of Empires though, which perhaps seem to cover the areas you're asking about most directly. The games I pick tend to have more fantasy, so for example Return to Castle Wolfenstein (including fighting the Super Soldiers) would appeal more than the first CoD game, which annoyed me during the training mission for having a drill instructor who kept shouting at me. I just quit playing at that point. Don't get me wrong I love Full Metal Jacket, but that's the problem because it seemed like they borrowed that character from the film for the game without embellishing it in any way (at least I think it was the first CoD, even if the film is Vietnam).

3. It took a bit of thought, but I think I've settled my mind that I'm not keen on WW1 or WW2 in games so much. As far as RTS games are concerned I've owned Company of Heroes for quite a while (thank you Gabe Newell with your Steam bundles), but I never think "I should play that game" whereas I played a decent amount of Supreme Commander. If I were to answer about a game that has a fantasy setting in a past time period, it would have to be American McGee's Alice for the Victorian setting which I played obsessively (the trippy graphics helped), I'm enjoying the newer one too. I haven't got around to playing Assassin's Creed yet, but it looks like that might scratch an itch which I'll have to research to see which are better to play. I'm also intrigued by the Bioshock series but never managed to finish the first one, my workload picked up and I don't want to start the others without finishing the first. Space flight and science fiction games are also my thing, but I have a bad history of finishing games set in sci fi such as Mass Effect, there's a lot of story in that one and I need to focus on a character. Sorry if this isn't much of an answer, but it is a sort of to-do list.

4. No, remembering facts isn't something I do well. In terms of games I do have quite a lot of media such as original CDs for old games such as Startopia, Quake, etc. All the kind of stuff that would have been good to put in the Video Game museum that Jeff was talking about if I still had the original cases and pamphlets to go with them. The vast majority is probably on GOG or a similar site now. There are one or two that I wonder about such as The Devil Inside, which was basically a 3rd person Resident Evil clone, with live action TV following the protagonist around the mansion full of zombies.

I'd be interested to read your thesis, I hope you can get some more answers.

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#10 Posted by avantegardener (1878 posts) -

Assassins Creed, Battlefield 1 and CIV have me constantly researching the fact from the fiction.

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#11 Posted by ArtisanBreads (8074 posts) -

1) Yeah many games inspired me to look into history. The Total War series through, Age of Empires (including specific historical characters they included), World War II shooters, and more.

2) Yes. I think Nioh and Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun are two recent examples. Although Nioh gets fantastical, it has some great historically inspired design and nice environments. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun fits right in with my interest in Feudal Japan. These are just two examples and include different elements you can consider fantastical but I think they show how many examples you can find out there if you like history.

3) I really would not I have a preference in setting at all that way. I'm open to anything.

4) I am a big fan of history and do reading and study but I am not a historian.

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#12 Posted by TheHT (14303 posts) -
  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. Future (sci-fi).
  4. No.

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#13 Posted by Justin258 (14373 posts) -

When I was a kid, I looked up ENIAC becuase of Omega Boost. Does that count, though? That's computer history, not necessarily aomething you'd hear about in a class.

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#14 Posted by Strangestories (341 posts) -

1: Yes. When I was younger I got really interested in characters from Age of Mythology. Not necessarily historically accurate whatsoever but I started looking into histories of Greece and Egypt.

2: Medieval 2: Total War and Shogun 2: Total War for obvious reasons. Nioh because the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate is really interesting.

3: Far future where humans have developed to the point where inter-species conflict isn't much of a thing (I.e. Star Trek)

4: I'm in graduate school for Public History. I majored in history with a minor in anthropology. I've written on the historiography of American imperialism, American colonialism in the Philippines, how Progressive Era/Victorian ideologies contributed to the Cold War, and my senior thesis was on British war orphans during World War II. Life seems to be taking me more along the road of anthropology because I have a job this summer at an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem. Cold War culture is soooo interesting though so I'm a little bummed.

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#15 Posted by ColossalGhost (216 posts) -

1. Yes, Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV made me interested in general European history and more specifically, the history of the Roman Empire and the various forms it took over time. Also, being able to interact with a map of Europe at different points in time made me understand the history in a way that I hadn't before.

2. I wanted to play Assassin's Creed II because it was set in historical Italy

3. Historical settings. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Assassin's Creed II and IV.

4. I am a fan of history.

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#16 Posted by jrodrz (221 posts) -


1) Yes, playing Assassin's Creed, Civilization and Age of Empires games have made me curious enough to look up for more information on historical events and characters.

2) Yes: Battlefield 1, L.A. Noire, Assassin's Creed 2, Wolfenstein The New Order, Sherlock Holmes games and Fallout games all made me really interested because of the time and setting they took place.

3) Futuristic (Syndicate, Deus Ex), dystopian (Mirror's Edge) and ancient times that don't usually get explored in videogames (Assassin's Creed have capitalized on this for me, as well as games set during the Cold War (MGS 3) or the age of knights (Age of Empires)).

4) No

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#17 Posted by clagnaught (1259 posts) -
  1. Not really. Playing Civilization V has piqued my interest about a historical figure, especially with things like the initial loading screen for those leaders. But I haven't read a book about Catherine the Great or anything. I guess that is actually two questions. More for what you are asking, yes games have made me interested in a historical setting, but I never did additional research or bought a book about that time period.
  2. Yes. One of the things that grabbed me about Valkyria Chronicles was how it had ties to WWI and WWII. There are obvious differences between those events, the weaponry, the anime, etc. but the resistance aspect ringed true. Plenty of other games I enjoy happen to take place in historical settings, like Metal Gear Solid 3 and Civ V (again). The history aspect feels more like an interesting byproduct. For example, I would have played MGS3 whether or not it took place during the Cold War or in the past.
  3. Overall, probably more towards real life settings, followed by sci-fi. Most of my favorite games are grounded around the present day. They may have a fantasy twist (like Life is Strange) or have some sort of advanced technology (Virtue's Last Reward), but there aren't that many games in my shortlist that swing too hard in the Skyrim or Mass Effect direction.
  4. Nope. History is cool though.
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#18 Posted by Rejizzle (704 posts) -

1. Yes. Due to my love of the Total War and Civilization franchises and subsequent interest in their topics, high school history was a breeze!

2.Not really. Although, a somewhat unique setting is more likely to pique my interest. Assassin's Creed being set in the third (it was third right? It's been a while) Crusade made it seem cool to me.

3. Probably Science Fiction. More due to ubiquity across genres than anything else. If more games were set during European Colonialism it would probably be that. I can only think of Empire: Total War, and Assassin's Creed 3 being decent examples of this setting. Then again, both those games were kind of the low points of their respective series, so maybe not...

4. Got me a history minor in university. So no.

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#19 Edited by Calmgamer (324 posts) -

1. Yes. WW2 Call of Duty games led me to read several nonfiction and fiction books on the subject (Band of Brothers/ Winds of War, War and Remembrance).

2. Yes. I bought Red Dead Redemption specifically because I had just finished Lonesome Dove and it's prequels and sequels - and I was hooked on the idea of the Old West and wanted more. Ended up a top 5 game for me.

3. Future and/or Fantasy.

4. No - but I do watch a lot of historical documentaries and try to read several historical nonfiction books each year. Historical fiction is my favorite literary genre.

*I would love to see more video games where you come out of the experience more knowledgeable about the time/settings they are set in. The best historical novels accomplish this - and in some cases period tv/movies as well. Games could do better.

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#20 Posted by slyspider (1752 posts) -

1. Yes, Feudal Japan especially

2. Yes, Crusader Kings 2 is still one of my favorite games

3. Fantasy or Asian

4. No, but I'm a sociology researcher so I do work a lot with history

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#21 Posted by Hunter456285 (15 posts) -

1. Yes. My general and first interests in History were initiated by Age of Empires 2 and Call of Duty 1 and 2.

2: Yes. EU4, HOI4 and CK2 all interested me and were picked for their historical setting.

3: WW2

4: Sort of. I have a history degree, a qualification in cultural heritage management (related to history although not a historical qualification per say) and am a high school history teacher.

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#22 Edited by Sinusoidal (3326 posts) -

I don't know if it's any help, but

  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. Fantasy/Future.
  4. No.

I don't have anything against history. I took one non-western history course in university as an elective and quite enjoyed it. Got an A. It's just never been a big draw to me.

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#23 Posted by BeachThunder (14576 posts) -
  1. I've just started playing Ryse and it's made me look up a bunch of Wikipedia articles about Ancient Rome.
  2. Not specifically
  3. The future!
  4. Nope, but I've been told that I live too much in the past...
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#24 Edited by Bane (707 posts) -
  1. Yes. The Silent Hunter series sparked an interest in submarine warfare in general, but the WWII era more specifically. My interest leaned more towards the machines themselves: technical specifications, and how to perform the various tasks required to operate the submarine. At one point I could plot a torpedo firing solution manually. I couldn't do it now though, it's been too long. I did a fair share of reading about historical events and people as well, even though that wasn't my primary interest.
  2. At first I answered no, but after I thought about it more I'm not sure. I helped Kickstart Kingdom Come: Deliverance because it promised true-to-life medieval combat. I bought Elite: Dangerous to fly starships. Did the game mechanics bring about an interest in the historical context, or is it the other way around? I'm honestly not sure.
  3. My favorite game series are The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, and Mass Effect. I'd have to say medieval fantasy and the starfaring future.
  4. No.
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#25 Edited by Xymox (2363 posts) -

1. Absolutely. Games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron inspired me to read about the different countries I played, and the time period of those games.

2. Not exclusively or specifically only because of its historical setting.

3. Middle ages, Fantasy, Future... anything goes

4. Not really, no.

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#26 Edited by Vinnypop (28 posts) -

Thank you guys for the responses and yes even a, "no" is helpful! I'll make a blog post for my thesis after the next round of peer review and editing bear in mind its pushing 20 pages, double spaced. (im still undergrad) I'll link it here when that happens. Any more responses are still welcome and thanks again to those who have posted so far!

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#27 Edited by ajamafalous (13397 posts) -

1. Honestly, probably too many times to count.
2. Not only because of its historical setting. I've had games where I definitely found the setting to be one of its strongest features for me (Assassin's Creed II, for example), but I didn't initially buy it because of that.
3. Fantasy
4. I find history very interesting, but I'm not affiliated with history in any capacity.

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#28 Posted by notnert427 (1476 posts) -

1. Yes. I read up on a good deal of WWI history due to Battlefield 1. (Some really interesting stuff there, BTW.)

2. Yes. My interest in games in the Assassin's Creed series is almost entirely based on their setting. I was interested in and enjoyed the recreations of Renaissance Italy, the colonial U.S., and piracy-era Caribbean of II, II, and IV, respectively. By this same token, I had little to no interest in Unity because I felt like they failed to capture the harshness/violence of the French Revolution in addition to not utilizing a female protagonist that they arguably should have in order to be faithful to the history. The same goes for my nonexistent interest in Syndicate, as Victorian London has been beaten into the ground in popular culture. I would preorder the hell out of a feudal Japan ninja v. samurai AC game, but apparently no one at Ubisoft can see the obvious potential there. Also, I bought L.A. Noire based on its setting, which it mostly capitalized on, despite a game that was somewhat disappointing overall. Red Dead Redemption is one that I didn't buy because of its setting, but it certainly didn't hurt, and it bears mentioning as it is perhaps one of the most spot-on recreations in a game ever.

3. Hmm....I mostly just concern myself with if the depiction is realistic or creative enough. I'll cite the Forza Horizon games as having some well-executed environments despite taking some liberties. As an aside, I really enjoyed the alternate history of Wolfenstein: The New Order. I thought that was done well and was extremely interesting. Also, I have to give a shoutout to Halo: CE for creating some of the coolest "fantasy" environments ever. The Souls games generally excel at this as well. If I had to pick just one setting, I'd say I have a bit of a soft spot for Italy, in any time period.

4. No. I wouldn't even call myself an amateur historian. However, I do like and appreciate history, and it's something I fully expect to gain even more of an interest in as I grow older.

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#29 Posted by OpusOfTheMagnum (185 posts) -

1) Battlefield 1 encouraged me to look into the history of the guns and weapons of the era. There are certainly other examples I can't come up with just this second.

2) Yes, a few.

3) 20th century to present.

4) Nope!

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#30 Edited by Dragon_Puncher (566 posts) -

1. Probably more the other way around. I like playing games to see how they portray specific historical events.

2. It's definitely a big selling point. Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings are big favorites for example. Civilization 1 was probably what sparked my original interest in history as a young kid.

3. I find that every time period can be fascinating in its own right. The periods I keep coming back to are the Age of Enlightenment and the industrialization though. Times where shit was constantly thrown at the wall and society moved forward at insane speeds.

4. I have Masters in History and make my living writing, editing and finding stories for a historical magazine. Don't know if that makes me a historian, but I work with history everyday.