For those who aren’t familiar with the gaming world, Sid Meier is the man behind the widely popular history-driven PC game; Civilisation in which the gamer’s goal is ‘to build an empire which will withstand the test of time‘.*
Meier, as quoted in Uricchio’s ‘21: Simulation, History, and Computer Games‘ article, states that “we’re not trying to duplicate history. We’re trying to provide you with the tools, the elements of history and let you see how it would work if you took over”. Therefore, it made perfect sense for me to create an archaeogaming assignment in which the students will observe a Let’s Play series (via Youtube) and write a reflective essay which includes the following points:
i) critically review the gamer’s approach to developing a civilisation, and
ii) critically reflect how suitable the game is as an educational tool and whether you learned about the ins and outs of developing a civilisation via observing the game.
The reason for observing rather than playing the game is because many of the students are not gamers and 14 weeks is too short a time for me to give them a crash course in gaming whilst teaching them world history. Moreover, I am still fairly new to gaming so who am I to teach other non-gamers how to game … yes, the imposter syndrome lives on.
The main reason why I chose Civilisation is because a learning objective for World Civilisation 1 (to 1500 CE) is to understand the development of a civilisation, and I cannot comprehend how the traditional learning/teaching method of me spoon-feeding them facts such as ‘Egypt was united in 3100 BCE by Narmer as demonstrated by the Narmer Palette….’ would help the students understand how a civilisation emerged and why a civilisation evolved as it did. Therefore, when my former students introduced Civilisation to me [consequently leading me into this archaeogaming rabbit hole I’m too fascinated by to climb out of], I began researching on how to create an assignment which will allow the students and I to use this archaeogame as an educational tool.
Nonetheless, to my personal dismay, I have yet had the chance to use the game in class mainly because majority of the students are not gamers and/or the students are not aware of the educational benefits of such games. And seeing as I only have 14 weeks to teach them the syllabus, it seems overly daunting for me to also teach them how to game let alone explore the pedagogical and reception studies-aspects of the game. I am not implying that they are incapable of exploring and absorbing the variety of knowledge this assignment has to offer however, my hesitation stems from a clear understanding (based on personal experience) of the learning environment all of them have come from – spoon-feeding and an emphasis on memorising facts rather than developing their critical thinking, analytical and imaginative skills.
Hence, after much thought and discussion with this term’s students, I decided to scrap the assignment but maintain Meier’s notion of providing the students “with the tools, the elements of history” so that they may experience for themselves how a civilisation is developed and managed. Thus, the birth of yet another role play assignment entitled ‘Reimagining Graeco-Roman Egypt‘ which I will further explain in the next post.
Until I am able to figure out a more conducive way of using Meier’s Civilisation in my teaching environment, I will continue to use other ‘Power of Play‘ assignments.
*If you are interested in learning more about the game, watch the tutorial guide below (it is rather long but besides picking on my students’ brains, this was a good introduction for a newbie like me).