“The 1066 Game gets you right in amongst the battles, allowing you to directly control every barrage of arrows, cavalry charge and defensive stand taken by your armies. Mini-games add to the tension of issuing commands, and a distinctive portrayal of medieval warfare is delivered by the striking visual and dramatic animation.” –So says one of the game’s sites.
If you don’t know the history of the Battle of Hastings, watch this or this.
1066 purports to be a historical portrayal of the battle, but I’m confused how powerful the taunting tactic is in this game. I lost twice because my men kept being berated by insults such as “OOZING PUS WOUND” or “ILL-BORN FEN RAT!” My archers really couldn’t really defend against such a foul-mouthed offense.
Did it make me think about military strategy back then? Sure. Did it make me finally look up what the Battle of Hastings was? Yep. But, was the game fun to play? Not really, because it’s bit cumbersome and inconsistently balanced. I would attempt to move some of my men, and then the computer I was playing would fire off some arrows, some insults, and then even move some men–all while I couldn’t do anything. Bloody frustrating, that is. Cool animations though.
The Jamestown Online Adventure gives a “choose your own adventure” style of learning about how colonization works. According to its own descriptor page, “[i]n 1606, some 105 adventurers set off from England to try and establish the first permanent English colony in the New World. They settled in what is now the state of Virginia and called their colony first James Fort, and then James Towne, in honor of James I, the King of England. The early years of the colony were nearly a total disaster.”
I like how you learn about geography, how the land was being carved up, and where it would might be best to try to live along the coast–or not. No matter what choices you choose, you get a report telling you how you would’ve fared, and then explanations about how it really was under the headings “now we know.” I wish the window/viewer for the game was bigger so that the text was easier to read, especially for the report when the text gets heavy and historical. (Hopefully we could prevent the tl;dr tendency.)
Jamestown is finite compared to 1066, so if I had to choose between the two I would choose the sodding archers and the enemy’s archaic put-downs. Both taught me a bit more about history though, so both score points in my book for that.
2 Replies to “Two games: 1066 & Jamestown”
I’m going to make an obvious comment/ask an obvious question here: What do we all think about “historical” video games? We’ve discussed often this course about authority in digital history, and I think those kinds of discussions obviously apply to video games like these. The two games reviewed by Drew seem to do a good job engaging with “accurate” history, and certainly succeeded in increasing Drew’s interest in learning more about the Battle of Hastings. But what about their flaws? And what about other games (maybe Call of Duty?) that portray historical events in problematic ways? Are the narratives portrayed in those video games valuable for their explanation of American war memory, or are they simply dangerous to public understandings of these historical events? Who should have authority/how should we understand authority on these kinds of historical video games? Do we think it matters?
I am interested in the culture produced by the users who play these games. How do players interact, learn, and define aspects of the game in their community? Are these games that foster interaction or are they specifically individual experiences? Historical games that provide provide a social experience both in game play and in discussion seem like the best type to have the potential to give the public a better understanding of history. Perhaps historical gaming can serve as what Gee called a “precursor domain” that has definitions and skills which can be transferred to a greater involvement and enthusiasm for other realms of historical discussion down the line.