Show and Tell: Gaming the Past

With the topic of historical video games in mind, I happened to come across a pretty cool text called Gaming the Past: Using Video Games to Teach Secondary History by Jeremiah McCall. In his text, McCall—a high school history teacher in Cincinnati—attempts to lay out a “game plan” of sorts when it comes to using video games as historical teaching aids. While I didn’t read the text in its entirety (the Kindle edition was thirty bucks) I was able to find a free preview of the first thirty pages on the publishers website.

McCall’s rationale and methodology are pretty cool—and from my perspective—seem pretty intuitive. McCall argues that the traditional, non-interactive method of teaching history breeds a sort of “intellectual passivity” in students (9). Rather than sticking with what he believes is an outmoded method of educating 21st century students, McCall proposes that history classrooms use “historical simulation” games. Now the games that McCall cites weren’t initially designed with educational use in mind; rather McCall proposes an educational repurposing of preexisting titles. One of McCall’s more prominent examples is Civilization and how it can teach students the realities of various forms of governments and their “real world” consequences. That’s not to say that McCall thinks Civilization could replace a well-taught high school civics course—he just believes that interaction begets cognition. For McCall, video games are simply another tool in an educator’s tool belt.

As a flipped through the first thirty pages of McCall’s text, I was struck by how perfectly it seemed it fit in with the general theme of this course. Throughout this semester—time and time again—we’ve discussed how useful digital resources can be when it comes to education. It’s great to see—to paraphrase one review—that McCall has created a “handbook” elucidating how an educator can implement these practices. While only in its infancy now, it  really seems like it’s only a matter of time before video games become a staple of classrooms across the country—and that’s pretty exciting.

One Reply to “Show and Tell: Gaming the Past”

  1. Thank you very much for the positive review — definitely hits on what I’m hoping to get across. I do hope we are just starting and that the next few years will see this pedagogical tool make its way into standard teaching training programs and classrooms. Though Gaming the Past gives the full run of theory, game selection, classroom management, and assessment, there are some other places where you can get smaller bits. Teachinghistory.org is printing my six part blog series overview on using sim games (first entry http://teachinghistory.org/nhec-blog/25117) and you can also check out gamingthepast.net.
    Best,
    Jeremiah McCall

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