Canadian Civilization?

Canadian HistoryCraig Duplessie, whom I met during a recent trip to New Brunswick, just sent me an article about a collaboration between Bitcasters, Telefilm Canada and Canada’s National History Society to present Canadian History in a more engaging way — through a video game.  They are utilizing the Civilization III engine to wrap the context around and will invite gamer/learners to play history.

Call HistoriCanada, the game will actually be bundled with future shipments of Civilization III or can be downloaded by players who already own the game.

Cocreator Thomas Axworthy bluntly addressed the issue, saying that “Canadian history is sometimes portrayed as dull as dishwater, and there’s a perception that history is only interesting if there are a lot of battles.” In an attempt to remedy this problem, Axworthy and his team used the Civ III engine to create a platform for gamers to reenact the formulation of Canada. However, the gamer isn’t locked down into proceeding on exactly the same course as Canada; instead, decisions will potentially alter the course of history and lead to hypothetical “alternate universe” versions of Canada.

This is one of the aspects of these types of video games that intrigues me as a former history teacher.  It would be interesting to facilitate a class where students are coming in, not necessarily more factually knowledgeable, but having experienced some of the types of decissions that lead to past and current societal and cultural conditions.  I could see a different kind of conversation happening when students are asked, “How would you have responded to this…?”

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Canadian Civilization?”

  1. A criticism I often hear of the history syllabus in the UK is that it is taught as a series of inevitabilities. Kids are taught: this happened, then this happened, so that happened. There is a move afoot among some of the more subversive, anarchic 🙂 teachers to challenge the kids to consider other outcomes.

    What if Chamberlain had not bought Hitler’s story? What if the Axis powers had won the war? (I’ve asked some adults this one myself, and the only answer I have ever been given is that we would be speaking German and goose-stepping down the streets of London – puh-lease!). What different outcomes might there have been to the American Civil War? What if the world became less dependent on oil? What if? What if?

    Imagine a history lesson like that!

  2. That is a great point Karyn. Right now, at least in my school district, kids do not have that ability to think outside of the box with these types of questions. The problem is that they are not taught how to at an early age. We tell them what we believe to be facts, they memorize the facts, and then we ask them to recall the facts on a test. Wouldn’t it be great to actually have them think of different outcomes!! This would actually force them to understand the importance of history and how it effects their lives.
    What would life be like if the Confederation won the Civil War in America?
    How would life be different globally if the A-Bomb would not have been invented?

  3. History students must practive critical thinking skills, this is true. “What if” questions can be useful at times. With regards to this game, I wonder how much Canadian History it will teach if students can take it in any direction they like. It seems like it would be a Civiliizations III game taking place with the map of Canada, perhaps starting with some historical figures. If students can venture any which way, then they are exploring the “what ifs” as determined by the programmers, not necessarily having anything to do with Canada’s history.
    I do love the idea, I am just thinking about all the variables involved. How much History will be learned? Perhaps if there were different modules, or missions, where students can study different time periods, events, people, etc. and explore the what ifs within certain parameters.

  4. I love my Civ 3 game. My sons don’t understand how I can play & replay this game with so many variations. They will stick to their multi-user fantasy & warfare games while I set the parameters to only win by scientific and peaceful advancement. I look forward to the inclusion of more Canadian information, but there are many more gaps to the Civ 3 game. My husband was upset that they removed the Mongols – his favorite group. I believed they should continue to offer you the choice to be either a male or female ruler. Each civilization suffers from some degree of stereotypical depiction. Chinese civilization varies greatly by location in history but the game doesn’t include enough information. More African nations would have helped round out this game. So many different variables to include.

    Side note about all the Sid Meier games: my sons understand the importance of things like granaries from playing Civilization. When we traveled north through MN towards Thunder Bay, ONtario, to visit family one summer, they suddenly realized they were viewing large grain elevators and started discussing their impact on the expansion of civilization in that part of the state. The boys were 6 and 8 years old at the time.

  5. Hi David,

    We must have been thinking the same thing – “WOW” – when we saw the site.

    I love the fact it was made using Mod tools. I have asked the question of educational use of Mod tools to several academics with limited replies, except for Dr. Jennifer Jenson, who actually knew what I was taking about.

    I just posted on this The Games Teachers Play. And thanks again for being one of my guides on the side.

  6. How about those Canucks, eh? 😉

    I could see a social studies or history class turned completely on it’s head from this game: “Oh? You really think that would have happened? Try it out and see if you can make it work … actually let’s get a few groups of you trying different strategies in the game tonight and come back tomorrow and tell us what happened. What strategies shall we try?”

    This makes me want to buy Civilization just so I can play and learn this game. Thanks for the link Dave!

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