History and Videogames: Two Great Tastes

by 9dragons 

Reading Raincrystal's editorial got me to thinking about real history as it relates to our videogame experiences. Actual historical events being part of a videogame is an interesting subject. History is a cornucopia of fascinating and awe-inspiring tales. It would seem to be a perfect fit to place videogames together with true history. I think that this adds depth to a game. Giving the tale a vibrancy because it is somewhat more real. Making the game become more than just a simple toy. A toy in the sense that it is "for entertainment purposes only". Kids often times eschew learning about real history because they believe it is boring. They would rather play videogames because they are fun. Yet, they should learn that there is much to be gleaned from real history. And when mixed into a videogame, you have the foundation for some good, clean fun! Don't believe me? Try to follow along with me. I might be a bit scatter-brained.

First off, allow me to regale you with a story about my first contact with this "historically influenced videogaming". The impetus of my editorial, if you will. When I was a RPG young'un, I came across a game by the name of "Destiny of an Emperor", for the NES. The game was a historically influenced RPG. Yet at my tender age, I didn't know this history nor did I even care. Impetuous youth was my master, and I liked the game because it was fun. The story wasn't of particular interest to me. My goal was to play and have fun!

Flash forward to my middle teenage years. A friend of mine was a player of games from Koei. In particular, one named "Bandit Kings of Ancient China". (I got my internet name from that one) They are simulation type games. He got me started on playing these kind of games. You are the ruler of a prefecture, and you have to take over all of China. Then, along comes a game called "Romance of the Three Kingdoms III" into my life. A simulation in the same vein, but for my SNES. I fell in love with this game almost instantly. This game is based on the historical novel titled, oddly enough, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". It is about the upheaval in China after the fall of the Han dynasty, 189 AD. to 220 AD. The country was divided under three rulers. The kingdoms of Wu, Wei, and Shu were scrapping it out for the rule of China. Sounds like a nice basis for a game. After playing the game to death, I became very interested in the characters from the story. So much, that I actually tracked down the book that the game was based on. I read the entire novel, which was no small feat. Quite difficult at times to follow the Chinese names, since I am an American. The men in the book were all real, although the novel certainly has fictional qualities to it. I also discovered that "Destiny of an Emperor" was based on this novel as well. I tracked that game down and played it again. This time, the game had more meaning to me. Because I was "being" these characters. I was living the history. It was too cool to see items such as "The War Manual of Sun Tzu" in the game, and know that it is a real book! "The Art of War" is still in circulation TODAY! Many Japanese businessmen read this book to hone their ability as corporate sharks. I even got myself a copy of this book. I've read it at least once a year for 6 years!

As you can see, my personal experience with historically influenced videogames has been a positive one. I learned about men and events from a history of another country. Information that I had no previous desire to attain. I even went on a quest for knowledge. The game and story were that seductive to me. Because of videogames, I actually increased my knowledge. Sure, this "knowledge" displaced my knowledge of how to tie my shoes. But, that's why the Good Lord invented velcro shoes. Shout out to The big guy!

I see that Napoleon is starring in his own game on the GBA. He was a true military genius, and a captivating historical figure. Now YOU can go right where ol' Napoleon went wrong! History should be a basis for more games, particularly the RPG genre. Though these historical games are few and far between, let's not forget that many snippets from real life history are interwoven into our games. Many times these real life bits are enmeshed in the lexicon of a society. Writers of stories for games may draw upon real history for inspiration. Or may subconsciously incorporate these scraps into their narration. So, the next time you hear a story about a true historical occurrence, you might just get that feeling of deja vu. Maybe you've played a game where you were in a modified version of that situation. Or, maybe you lived through that situation in one of your previous lives... Mmmm, could be.. It can be amazing where you can learn things. You never know when some small piece of info will ensconce itself in your mind. And videogames can be a trojan horse for sneaking in that knowledge.

So game on! You just might learn a thing or two!

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