Towards a Theory of Good-History-through-Good-Gaming for Historians and Educators

What do you get when you bring together educators, historians, and new media specialists to discuss what constitutes best practice for history simulations & gaming?

Well, everything from turtles, termites and traffic jams to life, the universe, and everything! Kevin Kee (of Brock University’s Centre for Digital Humanities) and I have recently put that conversation up on the ‘Simulating History‘ project website for your consideration. Enjoy!

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Games that have been designed by academics, with little grounding in theories of good gaming, are typically of the boring drill-and-response type. As academics, we run the risk of ruining what makes a good game, if we do not consult with professional game designers. At the same time, gamers are good at figuring out what makes a game ‘fun’, but will not make games that are paedagogically sound if we do not engage with each other. “The answer is not to privilege one arena over the other but to find the synergy between pedagogy and engagement” (Van Eck 2006:18). Commercial game designers do not set out to be historians. But interestingly, many students trained in history or the humanities have ended up becoming game designers (Don Daglow, Keynote address Future Play 2006 conference)

We can detect therefore some areas of overlap between ‘good history’ and ‘good gaming’ in our survey of literature we believe to be the foundation for developing a theory of good-history-through-gaming. Recently, we brought together historians, educators, and gamers to try to find Van Eck’s ‘synergies’, and to discuss the literature that each considered to be seminal for their own work in games and history. We wanted to join together our previously separate lines of inquiry, to understand one another’s disciplinary perspectives for research into simulations and games, and to explore the intersections between these perspectives. The resulting (free-wheeling and free-associating) conversation took place over two days. Here, we have collated the different contributions to gather our thoughts under (more-or-less) coherent headings, but have left the editing to a minimum to allow individual voices to retain their idiosyncrasies and individual approaches to teaching, gaming, and the past….<more>