We study history to learn about how the societies of the past functioned.
As we gain knowledge of ages past, we can apply that understanding to our current lives to make predictions about outcomes in politics, our economy, and how our lives may improve or become worse.
Except all of us aren’t interested in learning history. This is where videos games can help. No, video games aren’t a substitute for reading a nonfiction book, but video games can make us more interested in history by enticing us with interesting stories.
Here are video games that accurately depict real history. As you play each of these games, look for aspects of history that stand out to you. From there, you can go and start looking for books and documentaries that speak to what interests you!
Try these games and see what aspects of history you find interesting and grow your passion with books, documentaries, and museums.
Age Of Empires Series
The Age of Empires series is a historical real time strategy series that combines richly drawn campaigns inspired by history, and depictions of technology, buildings, and units from civilizations throughout several eras.
In the four major releases of the series, players take control of several civilizations from across ancient and modern eras, including the Greeks, Egyptians, most major European and Asian empires, African nations, and those empires that formed across North and South America.
Beyond the campaigns, players will also enjoy playing custom maps and scenarios, and online matchmaking. During each game, players have to gather resources, expand their village into a city, and engage in large scale battles.
The Oregon Trail video game is a thing of legends. If you grew up in school during the 1990s or early 2000s and had access to a computer, you probably played one of the Oregon Trail video games.
The game puts players in charge of loading up a wagon with supplies and people before heading out across the midwest in the hopes of creating a new life.
The real Oregon Trail is a place fraught with conflict between the Native Peoples of the area and frontiersman, difficult weather, disease, and many dangers around every corner.
The great migration across the Oregon Trail happened over several decades, with many journals and stories helping historians to piece together what life was like.
If you want to learn more about the Oregon Trail, play the game, then go sift through real history and see what you find!
The Total War series is a 4X grand strategy game that puts you in control of one of several empires from history, including the Shogun, Rome, and Troy, and even fantasy empires, including those from the Warhammer series.
Although the Warhammer series features incredible lore and is worth some study, the real people and locations inspired by history are worthy of most of your attention.
In the Total War games, you play on a game map based on real locations. You take control of an empire that you need to grow through the collections of resources, construction of buildings, and trade routes and policy development.
Depending on the game mode, you either take on other empires in a death-match style game, following a campaign that has you replaying real situations from history, and so much more.
While Age of Empires is a much faster pace style of game, Total War slows things down in favor of more long-term planning and a grand style of game.
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy game with mechanics similar to Age of Empires, except the series covers several battles during World War II.
In the game, players gather resources, including munitions and fuel, to create defenses and new units. Players must then move into battle against their opponent to control checkpoints to gain more control over the map.
Interestingly, the game also uses a cover mechanic, similar to real life. Walls and trenches can give your army an advantage of cover. You can also call in airstrikes, supply drops, and other special abilities to help you in battle. In later games, weather plays a role in your army’s movement and can weaken your forces.
While the game has been criticized for its historical accuracy and portrayal of some elements of World War II, this is all the more reason to go and seek out more information in real history books.
Deus Ex is a curveball for this article. The Deus Ex series is set in the future where human cybernetics has become commonplace. The series attempts to envision how society would work, how the inequalities between people would grow, and what crimes might be committed.
While not real history, a game like Deus Ex encourages us to ask questions about morality and philosophy regarding what makes us human, how technology can act against us, and whether cybernetic augmentation should be a right or a privilege for the few.
There is a lot of other media out there (check out these books) that can provide more insights into these questions through the investigation of what researchers are currently working on and how the reality of Deus Ex could come to pass. While not history, one day, similar events could occur in society that mirrors those found in Deus Ex.
With improvements in storytelling and immersion through gameplay, graphics, and AI, game developers can now tell more stories from the real world and make an entire generation of gamers more interested in learning about the real history depicted in these games.