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When I was growing up, my teachers would've balked at the very idea of me learning anything through video games. They were wrong, of course - dead wrong. Not only have countless studies since shown that gaming can improve our literacy, social skills, and mental wellbeing, they're also a brilliant source to learn about the world.
I'm not saying you should write a history essay on the last great battle between Link and Ganon, of course, but there are plenty of games out there that combine a lot of fact in the fiction. The Assassin's Creed franchise, of course, is one series of games that has always excelled at historical accuracy... most of the time, anyway.
While the Assassin's Creed games do have their fair share of ludicrous plot points and ancient alien civilizations, the open worlds and various historical periods are so lovingly built that you genuinely end up learning a thing or two about a thing or two. Recent games have gotten so good at reconstructing the past, in fact, that three academics have started a new series that aims to teach history through Assassin's Creed Origins' take on Ancient Egypt.
The first episode of Playing In The Past went live on Twitch last night, and I would recommend the two-hour broadcast to anyone. It's fascinating stuff, being taken through Ubisoft's gorgeous open world by three extremely clever, passionate people. Whether you're a parent desperately trying to homeschool their child or a grown-ass person who just wants to learn more about Egypt, it's a fantastic watch.
The lovely people behind this show are archaeology PhD student Gemma Renshaw, Dr. Kate Sheppard, an associate professor of History and Political Science at Missouri University of Science and Technology; and Dr. Chris Naunton, a writer, broadcaster, and Egyptologist.
"The project provides that opportunity for [a non-gaming] audience, and to add in some Egyptological/historical expertise - mine, Gemma's and Kate's - to the experience," Naunton told GamesRadar. "I like to think that we can show the Egyptological community that video games can provide an incredibly realistic and immersive experience of a reconstructed past, which can be done with credibility and accuracy! And I guess we hope to provide some of the solid history and archaeology for gamers who are familiar with the game and environment but maybe not the real-world evidence that's been used to create it."
Brilliantly, episode one of Playing In The Past was just the first in six-part series. Future episodes, which are set to arrive on a monthly basis, will see Renshaw, Sheppard, and Naunton tackle subjects like religion, Egyptian technology, and ancient crafting techniques. I'm already excited for episode two.
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