A repository for theory, research, and implementations of simulation games in history education. Look here for links to current research, historical video games, and practical and (some) theoretical work. Created and maintained by Jeremiah McCall (jmc.hst@gmail.com; @gamingthepast), teacher, historian, researcher, and author of Gaming the Past

  • See the home page for essays and news on historical games in education.
  • Browse the content pages for articles and links to historical games.
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Student-designed historical Twines posted 5/10/17

At the end of the day on 5/10/17, I will post (on my Philome.la Twine site) a selection of Twine interactive history texts, designed by my ninth-graders at Cincinnati Country Day School during the third quarter of this 2016-17 year. The designers’ names have been replaced by their initials. I am very pleased and excited to post these as excellent examples of historical Twines and hope they will inspire similar projects at other schools and more discussion about Twine as a history pedagogy. For now, I want to include a few caveats that I think are important to appreciating the examples.

  • These were selected from among the best projects. Best does not mean 100% historically accurate (whatever that means anyway) or always grammatically correct/stylisyically elegant. Please remember: these are 14 and 15 year olds
  • They were the product of a quarter-long research and design project (see the specs and rubric I used) that began with a short research essay on their historical figure and scenario
  • They were revised after an initial grading for a revision grade
  • I asked the students to do one more proofread before posting

Let me know if you have questions or comments, particularly if you’d like to try something like this in your own classes!

The List of 2017 Interactive Histories

Hatshepsut’s Rule

The Assassination of Caesar

Mary, Bloody Mary

The Siege of Paris, 845

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Meaningful Choices in Twine, History & Counterfactual History (PoH Notes, Part 2)

Path of Honors (here at my Twine site on philome.la) is an experimental interactive history that I am designing in bits and pieces. The plan is to model an aristocratic Roman as he played the game of politics and sought to win election to offices and gain prestige and dignity for himself and his family. PoH  is skeletal right now and will likely take years to finish. In the meantime I hope it will provoke conversation and suggest what historians could do with the interactive medium of choice-based texts. Lucas Coyne, a doctoral student in U.S. History at Loyola University in Chicago, sent me a list of terrific questions about Path of Honors (play here). Their depth and breadth encouraged me to write and post the answers as pieces on PlaythePast. For questions 1-3, see this essay. Here is question #4: I’ll answer more soon.

 

4) Lucas: In one article on [Path of Honors], you wrote: “The designer must provide situations where there is more than one viable choice and the historical choice cannot always be the only viable choice.” Then, how do you deal with entirely ahistorical outcomes? Should those be primarily avoided, or should there be some acceptance of counterfactuals based on our understanding of the underlying things going on? (I realize the structure of PoH limits this, but I’m interested in the general sense)

I‘ve spent a lot of time thinking about your question and coming up with different responses and false starts because asking what choices were available to a historical agent is at the heart of counterfactual history and the very issue of agency/free will in humans (the latter I have been teaching in a philosophy elective this season, which makes me less certain than normal about such things). Some other time, hopefully we can explore those issues. In the meantime, I’ll  focus on PoH and choice in PoH, since that’s what inspired my comment.

Read more…

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Path of Honors — Thoughts behind the design of an interactive history

February 27, 2017 3 comments

Path of Honors (here at my Twine site on philome.la) is an experimental interactive history that I am designing in bits and pieces. The plan is to model an aristocratic Roman as he played the game of politics and sought to win election to offices and gain prestige and dignity for himself and his family. PoH  is skeletal right now and will likely take years to finish. In the meantime I hope it will provoke conversation and suggest what historians could do with the interactive medium of choice-based texts.

Lucas Coyne, a doctoral student in U.S. History at Loyola University in Chicago, sent me a list of terrific questions tabout Path of Honors (play here). Their depth and breadth encouraged me to write and post the answers as pieces on PlaythePast. These are the first three: I’ll answer more in upcoming weeks.

1. Ideally, what is the audience for this project, particularly in its completed state?
Path of Honors is an attempt to do several things in the realm of developing an interactive historical text using Twine. The first was simply to get myself more acquainted with the specifics of the tool so that I could better Read more…

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Meaningful Choices(Twine Developer Diary)

February 12, 2017 Leave a comment

(this essay was originally published 10/18/16 on Playthepast.org)

This is the third in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history education and how students might be enabled to design their own researched, text-based historical simulation games using the interactive fiction design tool, Twine. The first post discussed the differences between Twine and Inform. Last week’s post was a Teacher’s Diary, recounting the set up of the Twine project in a high school senior history elective.

A little something different with this week’s post. I have placed the current, very incomplete and very rough start to Path of Honors, the Twine interactive history I am developing as my students create their own interactive histories for our Roman Republic Class. http://www.philome.la/gamingthepast/path-of-honors-experimental. If you do have a chance to try it and want to comment, go ahead and comment on this post
Read more…

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Creating Interactive Histories in History Class (Twine Teacher Log)

February 12, 2017 Leave a comment

(originally published 10/10/16 at Playthepast.org10/10/16 at Playthepast.org)

This is the second in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history education and how students might be enabled to design their own researched, text-based historical simulation games using the interactive fiction design tool, Twine. Last week’s post discussed the differences between Twine and Inform. 

 This week’s teacher diary walks through the steps I have taken so far to design and implement a long term Twine interactive history project.  The class is a  high school senior elective on the Roman Republic.

The first step was to get the students comfortable with the idea of a Twine interactive history text. I call it that because “interactive fiction” obscures an important point. Their Twine projects, while inherently counterfactual (either because the character is fictional or, with historical characters, one can choose different actions and, in doing so, presumably reach different outcomes) must be historically authentic. In other words, students must be able to document that the scenarios they have created and the details they have included are based on solid historical evidence.
Read more…

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Twine, Inform, and Designing Interactive History Texts

December 20, 2016 1 comment

(Originally published on Playthepast.org  10/3/16)
This is the first in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history and how students might be enabled to design their own researched text-based historical simulation games using the interactive fiction design tool, Twine.

Why Interactive History Texts and Why Twine?

Having students design historical simulation games has been an interest of mine as an educator for at least a decade, going back to the first elective history classes in designing pen and paper simulations games over a decade ago. As the tools to design digital games have steadily become more accessible to non-coders, I have paid attention, hoping to find software that would allow students to create digital historical simulations games. When I first encountered Inform 7, a powerful design tool that enables designers to create text-based games—often termed interactive fiction—it was clearly a legitimate solution to this problem of enabling history students to create digital historical simulation games. So, about eight years ago, after experimenting with students using Inform for design projects in my survey history classes for ninth and tenth graders, I wrote an essay advancing the use of Inform 7 for students to research and design their own text-based historical simulation games and developed some rough materials on Gaming the Past to aid in the creation of such games. Nor was I the only one who connected and the creation of interactive texts in general, to history and history education (See Shawn Graham’s Posts, Writing History with Interactive Fiction and Stranger in These Parts on PlaythePast for just a couple of examples). The essay still holds up, especially the assertion that having students research and design historical simulation games is an outstanding high order thinking assignment that exercises many critical skills of the historian, especially:
Read more…

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ISACS Presentation 11/4/16

November 4, 2016 Leave a comment

Presented a workshop, Crafting Simulated Worlds of Interactive Text: The Basics of Twine for History, English, and Language Teachers, for the Annual Conference of the Independent School Association of the Central States today. Here’s the pdf of the presentation.  isacs-twine

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