Assassin's Creed video games are steeped in history, but how educational are they?

Assassin's Creed video games are steeped in history, but how educational are they?
From CBC - March 12, 2018

It's not quite time travel, but Ubisoft'srecreation of ancient Egypt inAssassin's Creed:Origins Discovery Tourcomes prettyclose.

You can almost feel the sand beneath your feetas you walk along the coast of the Nile Delta tothewalled city of Alexandria.A bright golden line guides you tothe city's entrance, where thenarrator's voice pipes in with an anecdote about how thecity's locationwas inspired by a verse from Homer's Odyssey:"There is, in front of Egypt, in the sea with many swells, an island called Pharos."

That led Alexander the Great to found this city at the western end of the Nile Delta, the narrator explains.

The environment reflects Assassin's Creed's fascination with history in previous titles, the video game franchise immersedplayers in Imperial China, the French Revolution and Renaissance Italy, to name a few.

Thatattention to detail caught the attention of teachers, which is why Ubisoft responded with Discovery Tour, aspecial,school-friendlyupdate to the Egypt version ofAssassin's Creed Originsthat strips away the mature content and violence and swaps in audio-guided tours and reference stations.

"We kept receiving testimonies from teachers that were saying ... 'I'd like to use it in the classroom, but it's not easy,'" said JeanGuesdon, the creative director behind Origins. "So they would record some videos at home, editing them to make sure the content was safe for school."

With Discovery Tour,teachers no longer have to find a workaround."They can use this tour, even bring their console into the classroom if they want to, without any danger,"Guesdonsaid.

It'sa clever move, saidone gamingexpert, but there are doubts about how effective anyvideo game especially a series saturated inbloody combat can be at teaching.

"It's good marketing, because it shows that video games can be educational," saidMiaConsalvo, a professor atConcordiaUniversity and the Canada Research Chair in Game Studies andDesign.

"There is still that sense among people that games are a problem," said Consalvo, referring to concerns about violence. For a game publisher, creating a teaching tool such as this has benefits"notjust from a sales perspective," but in helpinga broader audience view video games as "a part of culture."

Putting games to the test

Released in February, the special educational versionof Originsallows players to explore Cleopatra's Egypt freely or through an audio-guided tour, where they encounterpop-up lessons andmore than 700 reference pictures taken from museums and libraries.

It's the product of three and a half years of careful research, developmentand input from historians and Egyptologists.

Guesdon said that when he was younger, the closest thing to that level of immersion was a comic book.

"We [have] the opportunity to be fully immersed, in full control in a 3D world. And it really adds to the understanding of the time period," he said.

When Universit de Montralhistory didacticsprofessor Marc Andrthierheard about Ubisoft's latest venture, he asked developers if he could put it to the test.

A supplementary tool


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