Reflections on 'Nuclear Ghandi' from Gaming and History Seminar
Tess Watterson reflects on last year's seminar on computer gaming and history.
Last year, Macquarie was host to an Markers of Authenticity seminar on the topic of Gaming and History. We live in a world where people are touched by history every single day, often in ways that go unnoticed and unstudied, and this sort of emerging discipline is about investigating this role that history plays in our experiences and in our everyday lives through a medium as innocuous as video games. Popular media, like video games, shapes our present through depictions of the past, and importantly can shape our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The seminar’s talks were all about the value of studying the intersection between history and gaming. The talks discussed the relationship between history and video gaming mechanisms, including one anecdotal example of ‘Nuclear Ghandi’ from a strategy game called Civilisation. In this game, a type of score rating system for character traits functioned in a loop, so Ghandi - who originally rated very low in aggression, could bottom out of the aggression scale, looping him to the highest score rating and give him a tendency to extensively use nuclear weaponry.
The speakers also explored the challenges faced when attempting to tell a specific historical narrative through a the format that values (at least the appearance of) player free will and autonomy. One of the speakers, Abbie Hartman, argued for the importance of teaching historical empathy through this sort of platform, even if this isn’t necessarily teaching traditional 'historical fact'. All of the speakers left me with a resounding optimism for the educational and entertainment possibilities of gaming technology in conveying a sense of historical empathy, and in really creating a world of the past with which people can engage and through which people can learn. It is this sort of work that really drives my own passion for studying history, and for creating meaningful ways to disseminate historical knowledge to the public.
Video clip right and picture above: A promotional video for the game Civilization VI, released in 2016, which features a playable Indian civilization with Ghandi as its leader. Civilization VI also features an "Australian civilization" led by Prime Minister John Curtin.
Post by Tess Watterson