Teacher Develops Game To Make History Interesting

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Teacher Develops Game To Make History Interesting

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How do you make the Revolutionary War cool for high schoolers? Develop a game about the subject and then make your students play it.

History is often pretty dry stuff - I would know, since I majored in that subject the first time through college. It's particularly dull in high school, when there's not a lot of topic flexibility. So New Jersey teacher David Allocco decided to make the topic of the Revolutionary War a little more accessible by creating an original videogame that puts players in the middle of the conflict.

The game, Choosing Sides: The American Revolution in Bergen County , casts players as Hackensack resident John Van Dunk, and follows them as they guide him through the war. It sounds like this is an open-path adventure game, since Van Dunk talks to other people in Bergen County and has to decide whether or not he'll be a British Loyalist or an American Revolutionary. Along the way, players meet and interact with real historical figures.

Allocco's students would spend two days playing the game and were graded on a journal they maintained, explaining why they made their decisions. According to the teacher, he was surprised by how many of the teens decided to side with the British. However, the decision makes sense: Many Redcoats were based out of New York and often conducted raids into the nearby areas in New Jersey, and the students operated as loyalists out of a desire to simply survive.

Choosing Sides sounds like a great way to make history interesting for students, and it also doesn't sound like Allocco is finished making educational videogames. The man has stated that he wants to create more games that put students in "key moments" of American history.

Source: Paramus Patch via GamePolitics

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Don't fire till you see the green of their power buttons!

So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

If the facts were accurate, then I'm not that surprised most sided with the British. From one point of view the British just saved them from the colony from the rest of Europe and now a load of rich land owners were staging a coup before the UK could lick it's wounds.

That war was mostly BS. The British were sick of fighting over that crappy spit of land and they were broke and the king was unpopular as hell (a dig turned up chamber pots with his face in them). The rebel leaders were mostly in it for themselves and bar a few notable people the "founding fathers" were some truly disgusting people (some had high ideles the rest were just slave-owning bastards that wanted to keep their slaves and money).

There were no real big battles. The rebels sacked undefended villages and ran at the first sign of trouble and the most George Washington did was write snotty letters to the British commander (an early flame war).

In the end the British just gave up and went home. Possibly why it's not covered in history much. Massive failers were everyone dies the British love, but just GIVING UP? That's just not cricket!

History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

Poisoned Al:
If the facts were accurate, then I'm not that surprised most sided with the British. From one point of view the British just saved them from the colony from the rest of Europe and now a load of rich land owners were staging a coup before the UK could lick it's wounds.

That war was mostly BS. The British were sick of fighting over that crappy spit of land and they were broke and the king was unpopular as hell (a dig turned up chamber pots with his face in them). The rebel leaders were mostly in it for themselves and bar a few notable people the "founding fathers" were some truly disgusting people (some had high ideles the rest were just slave-owning bastards that wanted to keep their slaves and money).

There were no real big battles. The rebels sacked undefended villages and ran at the first sign of trouble and the most George Washington did was write snotty letters to the British commander (an early flame war).

In the end the British just gave up and went home. Possibly why it's not covered in history much. Massive failers were everyone dies the British love, but just GIVING UP? That's just not cricket!

well come on, do you honestly expect an american to believe he was founded by cowards n opportunists(not all, the founding fathers were pretty decent, but most of the rest of those guys were shit). then again, almost all nations are founded by opportunists.

History was one of my fave classes in Highschool and Cegep, but damn I would've loved to have had this as an assignment.

When I saw it, I was thinking "Isn't this what Total War did?" I mean, the History channel used it to recreate battles, like Marathon and Thermopylae, which was pretty cool. My Early Western Civ teacher shows some of the battles every other week or so for one of the class periods.

But yeah, it's pretty cool that he made it, and I'd rather like to have had it myself.

Anyone else want to play this game?

Can't be just me.

Meh,

History is only a problem because of all of the politicians trying to re-write it to be politically correct and address their own personal issues of white guilt.

When it comes to the Revolutionary War for example there is a lot of effort being made to try avoid villifying the British... even going so far as to lead to protests against the old "Schoolhouse Rock" version of it, and so on.

Portraying the leaders of said revolution as nice guys when they were a bunch of slave owners, mass murderers, and torturers... whose intention was nothing like the liberal interpetation of the constitution as it stands now, basically burns in the craw of many liberals who basically insist on trying to to take a giant dump all over it by being judgemental according to modern morality on a time period when it didn't exist.

I'd be interested in seeing how this teacher portrayed the time period, and the historical figures in question, especially if so many of the students wound up wanting to side with the British (I wonder if the actual reasons were as explained).

One sticking point that started to get going when I attended school decades ago was about how our founding fathers ran around and killed off all of the whigs they could find after their victory. There were people being dipped in boiling tar, covered in feathers, and hung up and down the roads as a lesson and part of the "celebration" and for years after the victory. This is contreversial when you looked at how left wingers want to interpet the consitution, civil liberties, and other things. This was long before 9/11, but when I was a kid we did have a few issues with spies and such, and discussions about whether things like "Treason" or "Sedition" which are both crimes actually had any meaning in light of the constitution. To those whose morality is based on the counter culture of the 60s where both thigns were common, the idea is anathema, but in reality our freedom of speech was always meant to be limited by other laws. Basically you had the right to freedom of speech, free assembly, and other things as long as it didn't fall under the grounds of existing crimes like treason or sedition. Saying you dislike a politician is one thing, campaigning against the US on a more fundemental level is another. The whigs certainly didn't get to go running around publically protesting that the US should apologize to the british and re-join the crowd and make demonstrations to that effect (as an example). An interesting point in view of current situations around "the war on terror" and issues like torture, free assembly, and similar things when the Revolutionary War and it's aftermath provides a counter-example of how the US is supposed to deal with domestic threats.

I'm doubtlessly not articulating this well, but the bottom line is that history has increasingly been a problem in school due to disagreements on how it should be thought. Too many history "experts" with degrees that are really more political science majors wanting to re-write the past for what they see as the greater good... or those who had been convinced by them.

I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Doesn't help that I'm a nutjob survivalist who makes and eats his own hardtack because I like it.

JaceArveduin:
When I saw it, I was thinking "Isn't this what Total War did?" I mean, the History channel used it to recreate battles, like Marathon and Thermopylae, which was pretty cool. My Early Western Civ teacher shows some of the battles every other week or so for one of the class periods.

But yeah, it's pretty cool that he made it, and I'd rather like to have had it myself.

This one sounds more like a text based adventure game, rather than a war sim, even if it does involve war. Total War is more about logistics and strategy, and it feels like this game works more towards the humanistic part of conflict.

Formica Archonis:
So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

Yeah, I'll still kick around the forums. I got a new job at Inside Social Games, so you can find me there on Monday. Thanks for the kind words!

We'll see if this works or not...

JaceArveduin:
When I saw it, I was thinking "Isn't this what Total War did?"

This was my exact thought when I read the title. In high school I knew a couple of guys that I would meet up with solely to discuss our latest conquests, favorite cultures, etc in R:TW and MII:TW.

i did immediately think birth of america 1 and 2 but this sounds more personal journey than those

I kind of want that game now.

I'd be interested in how this game was made and how much work went into this game.
Also, I'd fucking love to have most of my classes in video game format. Statistics would be much more interesting if I was dealing with the statistics of how effective my attacks were against my enemies, instead of dealing with some study I don't give a fuck about using stats I don't care about.

Any class + Starcraft = LEARNING

Waaghpowa:
History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

I completely agree with this XD

Although to be fair, back in school when you don't get to chose what history you study it can be a bit shit.

Teachers are always thinking that they have to make dry subjects interesting for students, but it's completely the wrong view.

If they view the subject as dry, then naturally that's what's going to get communicated to them. They need to have passion for the subject. Then it's not so much a matter of making the subject interesting as it is just a matter of showing students how interesting the subject already is.

Having said that, I think this is a wonderful idea.

Of course some of them chose British. Who wouldn't want to look this dapper?

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I have a brilliant history teacher anyway and it's probably my favourite subject, but this still sounds pretty interesting. Bit of fun to play!

uzo:
I have two words for you all.

Oregon Trail.

Hell, I'm not even American and I still love that game and the history of the whole Manifest Destiny, westward-ho kinda thing. It sounds incredibly adventurous and, despite the dangers and the hardship, it is the kind of thing I would attempt were I alive at such a time.

Imagine it - travelling a looooong road, through barely known lands, past treacherous rivers and perilous mountain passes. At the end, the opportunity to stake a claim in a new world; to provide for your family and your descendants. To, essentially, establish a new country.

Don't forget murdering all the Natives and stealing their land. :)

Torrasque:
Any class + Starcraft = LEARNING

You sir, have made my day.
Physics: what's the trajectory of a 50kg object at 200mph? LETS SEE WITH THE SIEGE TANK

Necron_warrior:

Torrasque:
Any class + Starcraft = LEARNING

You sir, have made my day.
Physics: what's the trajectory of a 50kg object at 200mph? LETS SEE WITH THE SIEGE TANK

That sounds like a Mass Effect 2 question to me.
To the ignorant:

vansau:

Formica Archonis:
So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

Yeah, I'll still kick around the forums. I got a new job at Inside Social Games, so you can find me there on Monday. Thanks for the kind words!

You're leaving? :(

I remember back when you first joined... in fact, if memory serves, I gave you a welcome to the Escapist speech ^_^

It's been great having you around, good luck in your future exploits!

vansau:

Formica Archonis:
So.... End of the road, huh, Vansau? Your stuff's been good reading. Will we be seeing you somewhere else around the net?

Yeah, I'll still kick around the forums. I got a new job at Inside Social Games, so you can find me there on Monday. Thanks for the kind words!

Hang on - you're leaving? ... Why? Always enjoyed your news posts, it'll be sad to see you go. :(
I wish you luck (and fun, of course) for your new job. Who's filling your spot at the Escapist?

The danger lies in small historical inaccuracies in otherwise intensely historically-accurate games. For example, see the griefing on the Paradox Interactive forums' threads on historical issues for Europa Univeralis 3, or any of their other games.

You don't want your students accidentally thinking that the dukes of Bourgogne ever became kings, for example.

How is history boring? Out side of english its probaly the only class where you get to hear stories.

Interesting idea, but the real question is: Can this game also manage to make history relevant?

vansau:
Choosing Sides sounds like a great way to make history interesting for students, and it also doesn't sound like Allocco is finished making educational videogames. The man has stated that he wants to create more games that put students in "key moments" of American history.

It's a neat way to get kids thinking about the issues... but two days is a lot of time to spend on such a small part of the material.

Now, I think it's good what he's done, sure. It makes a nice lead-in to a unit on the American Revolution... but we shouldn't confuse something like this with "teaching," in the same way we shouldn't confuse flavor with nutrition.

I think what this should show people is that, while beneficial, it's simply not the most efficient use of time. This isn't something that is sustainable for long-range instruction, as long as we're still expected to deliver the same horrifically bloated curriculum. We would need 500 days a year to cover it all at this pace.

I foresee a lot of people pointing to this as an example of how teachers should "change their methods." I see it being used more to criticize teachers than to look at the total situation. But teachers aren't the ones making the bad decisions right now. Some things to keep in mind:

1. Teachers are often paralyzed by the weight of the "standard course of study." Why should 5th graders know what a dodecagon is? Why do 6th graders need to learn the nitrogen cycle? They shouldn't, but we have to teach it, and that's time we lose reinforcing more relevant and useful stuff. We're forced to teach "a mile wide, but an inch deep."

2. The standard course of study is set by the test, despite the assurance that it's the other way around. And we don't write the tests. We don't even get asked. Multiple choice? Worst way to measure learning... but it's quick and easy to grade, as well as cheaper, so that's what is pushed on us.

3. Areas like history are still, by and large, not tested. Thankfully, that gives them a little more flexibility (for now) to innovate. That should be the lesson: when you give teachers control over what and how they teach, they do great stuff.

4. It would be just as wrong to force this method on every classroom, too. Our problem in education right now is that as soon as a higher-up notices something that works for one person in one classroom, they immediately begin over-applying it to everyone -- the belief seems to be that there are a million ways to learn, but only one way to teach (somehow).

Back to the topic, I hope (but doubt) that the public will take the correct message from all of these game-teaching articles and experiments floating around. It's about trusting the teachers, not about shoving the "next big thing" down their throats, no matter how fun it looks.

zombie711:
How is history boring? Out side of english its probaly the only class where you get to hear stories.

Depends on the teacher. I've had teachers who made it exciting, and then I had ones who made it dull as hell.

King A invaded country B in year C and lost, losing territory D to country E.
King A invaded country F in year G and won, adding F to the H empire.
King A died in year I and was replaced with his son, King J.
King J lost territory F and K to a rebellion in year L.
And so on and so on and so on.

Like my grade 10 history teacher, a damn fool who made us color maps all day. Seriously. Color in the Byzantine Empire as it was in this year. Color in the Ottoman Empire as it was in this year. For TWO HOURS. As far as spoken word went, he managed such exciting gems as explaining the entire life of Julius Caesar in one sentence describing when he became Emperor and when he died, and yet expected a two page essay out of us for the test. I damnear failed that class.

Poisoned Al:
If the facts were accurate, then I'm not that surprised most sided with the British. From one point of view the British just saved them from the colony from the rest of Europe and now a load of rich land owners were staging a coup before the UK could lick it's wounds.

That war was mostly BS. The British were sick of fighting over that crappy spit of land and they were broke and the king was unpopular as hell (a dig turned up chamber pots with his face in them). The rebel leaders were mostly in it for themselves and bar a few notable people the "founding fathers" were some truly disgusting people (some had high ideles the rest were just slave-owning bastards that wanted to keep their slaves and money).

There were no real big battles. The rebels sacked undefended villages and ran at the first sign of trouble and the most George Washington did was write snotty letters to the British commander (an early flame war).

In the end the British just gave up and went home. Possibly why it's not covered in history much. Massive failers were everyone dies the British love, but just GIVING UP? That's just not cricket!

C'mon, there were some decent battles. Like the siege of Gibraltar, and some decent naval battles. The fact that none of us Yankees were present is another story...

Also, seriously, Washington did a lot. Like get half the colonial army to quit day 1 when he ordered flogging for punishment, appointment of officers rather than elections from the ranks, and the blacks to leave. Also, getting all his hopeless cronies appointed to important positions instead of competent commanders. That takes work, man.

Spoiled kids. When I was young, all we had was Oregon Trail, and we were just fine!

DVS BSTrD:
Don't fire till you see the green of their power buttons!

Finally, my XBox's RROD has a use!

Waaghpowa:
History needed to be more interesting than it is now? Boy do I sound like a nerd...

I don't think it needs to be made any more interesting either.

I don't know about America but in Finland 90% of the students love history.
I don't know if it's about the fact that USA is such a big country and has been involved in most things happening and therefor they only talk about the stuff they've been doing. But here our History since grade 3 (age 10) is about the world and only small portions about our own country so history here is REALLY wide.

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