There’s a post on Assassin’s Creed and history over at Play the Past and they look at the balance between historical accuracy and gameplay. Well, to say they look at gameplay is a bit of a stretch, more there are some thoughts on how historically accurate the game ought to be (if at all).
At first, I just thought it be a neat article to read and share but after reading I’m thinking of something else: do games even have more of a responsibility to be historically accurate given that most people accept that movies aren’t?
The reason I wonder this is that it kind of seems that people expect games to be more accurate because games are longer and more engaging than movies. Or that because games exist in an environment that one can explore there needs to be more attention to the past.
Indeed, it seems that there is still a desire for games to be more accurate than movies for those very reasons:
Through mediums in digital history, we can bring history to an audience that demands the transference through entertaining means. In the case of Assassin’s Creed and other historically based video games, the audience is indirect, but there nonetheless. If the audience is going to assume that they’re experience is with legitimate history then let’s strive to make sure it is.
Whatever the motivation is for people expecting games to be more accurate, I think that games, like movies, should take creative liberties with the past.
People have looked in detail about the accuracy of characters and history in the Assassin’s Creed series and they all conclude that it’s a mixed bag. Which is fine, because people will then discuss history.
The inaccuracies in historical games produces interest in history itself!
Historians are always going on about how to relate to people and get them discussing history, well the conversations around Assassin’s Creed show how to do this. Historians should use these historical inaccurate games as a launching point to clear up the confusion and augment the player’s knowledge. That being said, I also think that if you’re a game designer setting a game in the past then you ought to try to make it fit the period and location.
Deviations from historical accuracy should be choices based on narrative or game mechanics.
The debate around historical accuracy in games will go on much like the debate of historical accuracy in films. This issue is one of those fun ones that will never be resolved.
I leave you with the conclusion from the article that inspired me to write this piece I’ve ramble on about:
While it is true that players can just run through the game, ignoring the historical references and environment, a lot of interest into the history of this period has been created by the game. Unlike many educational games which force content, Assassin’s Creed has integrated the content into the game play. This is the biggest lesson we can take from this series. If the educational objectives are blended with the game play, the player will be more likely to actively engage in them and less likely to ignore them in favor of the mechanics alone.