Saturday, January 12, 2008

As Education, It Might Beat Movies At Least

Matthew Phillips at Newsweek:

In the $10 billion videogame industry, war has always been marketable. But one war in particular has captured the imaginations of gamers: World War II. More than 100 titles are dedicated to the struggle between the Axis and the Allies, at least 70 of which have been made in the past five years. Medal of Honor: Airborne, the latest installment in Electronic Arts' WWII franchise, focuses on the close-range infantry combat of Operation Market Garden, part of the Allies' 11-month campaign across Europe to Berlin. It was "to a significant extent a rifleman's war," says historian Niall Ferguson. Soldiers "had to do a lot of ditch-to-ditch, house-to-house fighting—the perfect setting for first-person shooter games." Operation Market Garden features in at least 12 videogames, including four of the 14 Medal of Honor titles, and will be the focus of Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, due out early this year on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. "More than any other conflict, World War II is an example of good conquering evil," says Col. John Antal, a retired Army specialist and consultant to the Brothers games. For many kids, the games may now be primary source material on the war.

Now we need a good game critic/historian to tell us just how accurate these games are -- not just to the first-person experience and moral sensibility, but to the details! There's no reason that these kids can't know the maps of Europe and Asia, and the history of what happened there, as well as buffs know the battles of the Civil War or kids from generation knew the world maps of Zelda or Metroid. Get some learn on when you get your game on!

Also -- why not a World War II game where you fight from all sides? Be a Russian soldier forced to retreat to Moscow or Leningrad, then a French general who defeats the Germans in a battle but watches the rest of the line crumble, then a North African soldier invading Italy. Games where perspectives suddenly shift, where you win battles but lose the war -- this might actually introduce some historical complexity into students' thoughts about the world.

No comments: