With new technologies like artificial reality and microlearning being introduced as new learning techniques, let’s take a look at a video game franchise that uses history as a playground – Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed – Prelude
All of us have been there – It’s the middle of May, 30+ degrees outside and you’re sitting in an afternoon history lecture. You wonder if the teacher can get more boring than he/she already is, and your mind starts wandering around. If it were up to the teacher, you’d all be outside in a park somewhere, but the school rules dictate that you must remain in your classes at all times.
And so you start doodling as the teacher talks about the House of Medici, a family ruling Italy during the 15th century. When the teacher mentions Italians, you make an unneccesary attempt to humour your classmates and start pronouncing things with a thick Italian-o accent-o but no one laughs.
What if there was another way of learning about the House of Medici, and perhaps even Niccoló Machiavelli and his philosophy?
I dare say there is a way – and its name is Assassin’s Creed.
What is Assassin’s Creed?
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise produced by a video game giant Ubisoft, taking place in multiple timelines and multiple locations. Each title release focuses on a different time, in a different land, but one thing remains the same: the player follows the trails of an assassin. In Ubisoft’s most popular franchise, an assassin is a trained murderer that is a member of a brotherhood, fighting against Templars, a rival organisation.
Such a concept might sound like it gets boring, but Ubisoft made sure that the games don’t become stale, and so they intertwined reality and fiction. As you place each one of these assassin games, you directly or indirectly influence history itself. Be it either opening the gates of Bastille during the Great French Revolution or helping out young Karl Marx when he questions capitalism in London, you get to live through history.
Imagine that – instead of a boring list of deeds done by the Medici family you get to actually talk to them in-game. How amazing would that be for high school teenagers?
A Plethora of History
Ubisoft makes sure that the world around you is rebuilt to the smallest historical details – just check how the development team rendered landmarks in 18th century’s Paris.
But it was humans who built those buildings, and humans that existed throughout the history are Ubisoft’s specialty. As you play the game, there are moments when you just stop and realise that the NPC (non-player character) is an important historical character.
Needless to say, these moments appear throughout the franchise on a very regular basis. One time, you are a bodyguard for Karl Marx who is trying to indoctrinate British society with communism. Another time, you are helping out Leonardo da Vinci with his parachute prototype, and these are just minor examples of historical chararcter interaction.
And that is what’s amazing about the Assassin’s Creed franchise – it always surprises and makes you smile. Except when you find out that Charles Darwin was an had a knack for getting himself in trouble, and you have to save him every time he makes a public scene.
Fiction vs. Reality – the role of the teacher
With that in mind, let us not forget the teachers who would still be leading the classes. Imagine the perfect scenario – students are either shown or allowed to play a certain Assassin’s Creed game, and browse throughout the time period, discovering history. What would the role of a teacher be in these classes?
The teacher would always set the records straight, because we must not forget that Assassin’s Creed is fiction. It always claims that it was the brotherhood of assassins that set things in motion, and this penultimate idea of a group of individuals influencing history is the only work of fiction in the games.
The teacher’s would therefore lead the students through the story, acknowledging the presence of the Assassins but making sure to tell their pupils that real history happened otherwise.
But who knows, perhaps we’re being falsely led to believe that history happened as we are told, and we’re all lizard-men in human suits rebuilding this planet? We will never know.
Flaws to this Concept
Although this sounds like a wonderful idea, it has a clear flaw: Assassin’s Creed franchise is full of violence and blood.
However, this problem is being tackled by Ubisoft already – its newest release, Assassin’s Creed Origins, offers a violence-free version of the game where the player can experience ancient Egypt and learn about the history of this ancient time period. Could this mean that future Assassin’s Creed releases will have options like this one, too?
So that’s it – an explanation of what Ubisoft’s popular video game series could bring to the education table. If you have any ideas or thoughts on flaws or advantages of this concept, let us know in the comments below!
Eager to read more about video games, movies, and TV series? Check out other articles by Martin Hlousek here!