Academics hope history in video games spurs interest

Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:03am EST
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By John Gaudiosi

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Portraying Leonardo da Vinci or World War II in a video game is challenging game developers to mix fun with facts while academics hope this growing genre will get players more interested in history.

Gary Keith Brubaker, a lecturer in game study at The Guildhall at SMU in Texas, said historical games always have to try to balance accuracy and fun.

"Just as movies about the past adapt the story to medium, so do games. However as limited as this history is, it can be a gateway for further exploration and interest for players," said Brubaker.

Although no data examines historical games as a genre, Michael Pachter, videogame analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, estimates games incorporating history into their stories have made up about 10 percent of overall sales over the past year.

The American Library Association (ALA) has realized this link, offering people the chance to play games and learn more about the real stories behind them. It has earmarked November 14 as National Gaming Day at U.S. libraries.

"We have found that by adding board and video game formats to library collections we are providing users with tools to build strong literacy practices while sharpening technical and critical thinking skills," said American Library Association (ALA) President Dr. Camila Alire.

Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed II" is a typical example.

Set in Italy during the Renaissance, the game introduces hero Ezio Auditore. As players progress through the game, they interact closely with a young Leonardo da Vinci who provides Ezio with various gadgets and contraptions, including a flying machine, to aid his quest.   Continued...

<p>Visitors play the game "Karma" based on the Second World War at an exhibition stand at the Games Convention Online 2009 fair in the eastern German city of Leipzig in this July 31, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>