Influence of Perceptions: How video games shape our understanding of history | StaffNet

Influence of perceptions: Dr Nicky Nielsen, an Egyptology academic in the School of Arts, Languages ​​and Culture, recently joined YouTuber and Twitch streamer ‘lionheartx10’ as part of the publicity surrounding the gaming giant’s launch SEGA’s Total War: Pharoah.

It is an industry with an estimated 2.5 billion players worldwide with games played on consoles, mobile devices, and VR headsets. How can video games be a tool that offers educational benefits to this global audience?

Influence of Perceptions

Dr Nicky Nielsen, an Egyptology academic in the School of Arts, Languages, ​​and Culture, recently joined YouTuber and Twitch streamer ‘lionheartx10’ as part of the publicity surrounding the gaming giant’s launch of SAW. Total War: Pharaoh.

Following the livestream event, Dr. Nielsen provided insight into how video game representations of history can enhance public knowledge in an engaging and educational way.

Dr. Nielsen said: “First, anything that can help visualize the ancient world is of great benefit. The ability to interact with, and in some ways immerse in, historical landscapes, events, and characters provides a way of understanding that is very difficult to replicate only in a written format.

“As an Egyptologist, games like Assassins Creed: Origin includes a study tour in Greco-Roman Egypt where the player could freely go to historical sites and find information written about Egyptologists without having to commit to missions or games. It’s certainly a useful way to include historical information and balance the creative liberties taken in the game itself.”

The open-world format of such games gives the gamer the opportunity to play the game in a different way from others, interpreting different elements while playing. How to maintain historical accuracy when creating a game to be played in the modern day continues to be a challenge for historians.

Dr. Nielsen added: “History tends to be both messy and complicated, while games and other creative media require a cleaner structure and plot. This means that, in some cases, historical events are simplified or re-ordered to make sense in the fictionalized environment. A good example of this is the inclusion of The Queen’s Staircase – a significant historical landmark in Nassau – in the game Assassins Creed: Black Flag. The game is set at the beginning of the 18th century but the staircase was not built until 1773-74. However, because it is such a key landmark in the area, the game developers decided to include it despite it not being historically accurate – they also commented on this discrepancy in a very meta way in the game.

“I suspect that ancient Egypt has the same limitations as other historical periods, namely that games need to have a clear plot and structure – and real life often does not work as easily as this. I think an understanding that historical fiction is one thing and historical fact another is helpful. Blurring the line between the two, even if well-intentioned, can often backfire in that it leaves people unable to distinguish the two

This multibillion-dollar industry of billion-dollar players has a significant ability to influence historical understanding while addressing the need for a clear structure in the game that may begin to question some of these accuracies. In general, video games can be a useful tool for understanding history, but it is a challenge to sometimes tell the difference between the real and virtual world.


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