History is often taken for granted. As a dual major (secondary education and history) I have spent the past three years and then some studying a lot of history, and for those of you who have also taken that path you know what I’m talking about. Often history, being taken for granted, will be portrayed in a modern day era incorrectly. I could list a million examples of this, but a recent one that should illustrate this is the movie The Last Samurai. It was a fun movie, that’s for sure. Lot’s of action, with an emphasis on Japanese Samurai tradition, and a wonderful cast of actors. However, historically, The Last Samurai was nowhere near accurate in it’s portrayal of a Japan that was on the brink of western modernization. Nor did it accurately display the samurai class. Despite the way we have been conditioned, the samurai were rarely the near God like figures that could slice through entire armies that held to such high traditions that they were respected by nearly all. Like most warrior castes, they certainly had their darker sides and more realistic attributes. Regardless, the point still remains that history in many mediums is inaccurately portrayed in today’s culture. Video games though, sometimes get it right. It’s odd isn’t it? Where movies, television shows, and sometimes even honest to goodness documentaries often fail a video game can succeed. Naturally historical subjects and video games make good bedfellows. Human history is a story plagued with wars, revolutions, coups, and many other land mark events that can be successfully turned into realistic and accurate video games. A lot of the best selling games in the not so distant past on today’s market read like a list of key events of the last one hundred years. World War II, Vietnam, Korea, the first Iraqi War, are just the ones that immediately leap to my mind.
Of course more ancient history has also found itself a niche in the market. Fighting wars as a Roman General, or a Hun Barbarian certainly has its appeal, and the PC market in particular is flooded with games of that nature. Overall, the state of historical gaming in today’s market seems very healthy. So, I got to thinking, given my chosen major and future profession (graduate school does await): what events in history, that have been largely ignored by developers thus far would make interesting video games. Some of these events I’m about to list you may have not even heard of. Don’t worry, unless youÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Ã‚Â¢re a history major that’s pretty much normal. If you do know about them, and only have a vague idea then that’s cool too, because I’ll give a very brief explanation about what’s going down
1. The 30 Years War
Ending in the mid 17th century, this was (given the geography and world economy) a “true” world war. While most of us think that the only world wars in history are the destructive wars in the last century, back in an age of imperialism and less modern weapons that weren’t all together unheard of. When I say this was a world war, I mean that whether or not a country was involved, most hubs of economic and cultural importance were affected in one form or another. However, the reason I think the 30 years war would make a great video game deals with the players involved and the possibilities on hand. A war that basically saw the Spanish (and Austrian allies) come out the big losers and the French along with the Swedes and several German states the big winners has within it a lot of potential. Imagine all of Europe (and various bodies of water) as you’re battlefields. Then imagine massive armies that represent two very different things. The Spanish and company held on to more traditionalist views, while the French and allies moved towards modernization. Then imagine playing a game that tells a story that spans thirty years of violent and bloody warfare between those armies, and you get to control whichever you want. Want to take on the famous Spanish Armada? Or try to pierce through France? And of course when you consider there is 30 years of history hear you could really have large amount of scenarios that the player could delve into.
Ok so the title there is a bit vague. Instead of picking a certain event, I wanted to purposely keep this category a bit broader. Events such as the failed colony attempts at Roanoke Island (the “Lost” ColonyÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦mostly due to disease, the harsh winter, and Indian attacks) down in North Carolina or the first successful colonies at Jamestown and other notable places could make very interesting video games. I could see them thriving in a game setting like a SimCity, except nowhere near as modern. You as the player could oversee your colony and then would have to deal with the kinds of problems that would have presented themselves to people who lived during that time. Will your colony survive and eventually become a successful enterprise? That would depend on decisions you make concerning Native American policies, agriculture, and other aspects of colonial life. The best part of a game like that is that it would combine action like elements (fights between colonists and hostile tribes, etc) and more delicate operations into one. I think a colonization based game would also be best suited if it gave the player a broad choice of what kind of colony they would want to control, where they would want to be, and what time period they wanted to be in. Therefore it would cater to numerous tastes as to what kind of situations the player would be placed in.
Keep an open mind here as I describe this scenario. YouÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Ã‚Â¢re a doctor in Philadelphia in the fall of 1918. Hitting you right now is the worst pandemic the world has ever seen since the Black Death: “Spanish” Influenza.* Killing over half a million people in the United States, and over 20 million world wide it is your job to try and keep people alive in a time period where technology in the medical field was no where near what it is today. I think it would be extremely interesting to play a doctor or someone else with the objective being to stop the spread of a killer like Spanish influenza. Once again a game like this could take on a SimCity feel to it, or it could even become a Shenmue like game, where you explorer the city, completing certain historically accurate missions (of which there could be many based on this example ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Ã‚Â¬” Philadelphia was the hardest hit US city during the Spanish Flu pandemic with nearly 13,000 deaths.). But that’s just one example. We could turn back the clock and have a game based on Europe’s big killer the Black Death (bubonic plague). When it comes to diseases that have decimated populations, history is simply chock full of them, and anyone of them could be incorporated into a video game based on whatever time period you could think of.
*The so-called Spanish Influenza most likely did not originate in Spain. The future history teacher in me feels the need to point out that the widely held view of historians, doctors, and other professionals is that the Spanish Flu actually originated in the United States during the latter years of World War I. The reason the flu was attributed to Spain was due to the fact that Spain was a neutral country during the war and as a result its news wasn’t managed like countries involved in the war who wanted to keep a strong home morale high. Therefore the first reported cases of the Spanish Flu were; obviously, in Spain.
So, those are just three of the ones I came up with. Hopefully next week I can get a nice mailbag together of events that could be made into great games. If not, I’m sure I’ll manage. Regardless next week we take a turn for a decidedly less school-related topic. So until then I suppose I’ll just keep you all guessing till next week when the next edition of From a Gamer’s Basement hits Inside Pulse.