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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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Finding Older Historical Games from

September 30, 2016 Leave a comment

originally posted on, April 2016

For a history educator, trying to find suitable simulation games to use in class can be a significant obstacle to using the medium. I have made some lists of potentially viable historical games in Gaming the Past (2011) and my website Hard as it is for me to believe, both are five years old now and new games continue to be available.

Often times, however, the newest games are not the best choices for an educator wishing to use historical games. The newest games need more powerful computers to run them and tend to be significantly more expensive than older games.

Just a few years ago there was little chance to use games from ten or fifteen years ago, games that were no longer actively produced, in the classroom. (Good Old Games) has changed all this. Over the past few years, has revived all manner of games that were designed in the past 20 years or so. They take old game code and update it so that the games will run on new versions of Windows (and some Macs). Prices tend to be very reasonable and the games are available by digital download.

Since the processing power needed by older games for graphics etc. is generally less than that needed by today’s games, GOG games are an extremely good option for educators using hardware that is not cutting-edge. Don’t be fooled by the lower quality graphics. Generally speaking, students will not be disappointed by the graphics an effective game, comparing it what is available in the top current titles. My experience suggests rather that the game will be compared to other modes of instruction/learning in the classroom and fare well for that (though of course, I believe my caveat still holds that not all students will find historical games an appealing route to learning about the past)

I’ve been meaning to post this for some time. Maybe someday I’ll be able to comment about some of the games here. In the meantime, the list itself might be useful. Here is a reasonably current list. GOG adds new titles frequently.

American Conquest + Fight Back

Anno 1404; Anno 1503; Anno 1602; Anno 1701

Caesar 3

Capitalism II

Capitalism Plus

Castles 1+2

Celtic Kings: Rage of War

“Children of the Nile, Complete”

“Colonization, Sid Meier?s”

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord

Conquest of the New World

Cossacks Anthology

Crusader Kings Complete

Darkest Hour: a Hearts of Iron Game

Democracy 3

Europa Universalis 2

Europa Universalis III

Europa Universalis Rome Gold

Expeditions Conquistador

Grand Ages Medieval

Great Battles Collector?s Edition

Guild 2 The Renaissance

Hearts of Iron 2 Complete

Hearts of Iron 3

Imperial Glory


Imperialism II

Lords of the Realm: Royal Edition

“Men of War, Men of War: Red Tide”

Panzer General II

“Patrician 1, 2, 3”

Pharaoh and Cleopatra

“Port Royale, Port Royale 2”


SimCity 2000

Simcity 4

Stronghold Crusader HD

Stronghold Crusader II

Stronghold HD

SuperPower 2

The Guild Gold Edition

Tropico 3 Gold Edition

Tropico 4

Tropico Reloaded

Ultimate General Gettysburg

Zeus and Poseidon


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New article out

J.McCall (2016) “Teaching History With Digital Historical Games: An Introduction to the Field and Best Practices.” Simulation and Gaming (the abstract is at

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Teacher Design Notes: Using Civilization IV to Learn about Agrarian Societies

May 30, 2014 1 comment

(Originally posted on   5/21/14

Before I begin, a short preface. I have made it something of a personal mission, both as a researcher and writer on historical simulation games and as a classroom teacher, to crack the Civilization IV code. In other words, to find ways to make its educational value commensurate with the significant amount of time and effort it takes for my students to learn to play and become really familiar with the game. Over the years I have made progress here and there building on what I have learned in each implementation. This coming year, I plan to take a big step forward in using Civ in my 9th grade ancient world history class. In the hopes that my process of reasoning, planning, and implementing may prove useful, or at least interesting. I am going to “work out loud”, so to speak, posting blog entries of the work I’m doing reconceptualizing the use of Civ 4 in my classroom. It may well be that some readers will find me to be stating what is obvious to them or confirming ideas and practices they have already adopted in their own classes. I am hopeful, though, that enough readers will find something of interest. Don’t hesitate to let me know whether you find this useful or mundane.

For some time now I have been struck by the parallels between the world systems that Civilization IV presents and the world systems of agrarian civilizations presented by Big Historian David Christian in his excellent, Maps of Time. And it occurs to me that, so long as one believes comparative work and big-picture trends are important components of an ancient world history course, Civilization IV might well be an outstanding tool for examining those trends. So that’s what I’m going to do with Civilization IV in my next course in Ancient World History, use it explicitly to illustrate the core features of agrarian societies and the major trends in ancient world history. I have certainly done bits of this in the past, like using Civ to illustrate Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel hypothesis, but I have never systematically approached the year-long play and investigation of Civ in this way.
Read more…

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IPad and History Games

I’ve stayed pretty quiet about IPads. It’s clearly becoming increasingly important that people who are making a decision whether to go with an IPad or with a Windows/Mac option for games and learning in history or any field know this important detail. At this point, going with IPad effectively shuts one out of playing most (80-90% ?) of the commercial history games and all of the free Flash-based games (which are essentially 99% of web games)  (please correct me  if IPad now runs flash programs (not just the movies)).

I was doing a bit of foraging today for some friends on the IPad and came up with a few games that are excellent options for gaming in the history class and are all on IPad (they do require purchase). I wanted to share these for those who need IPad assistance. Please feel free to post more — there are thousands of apps to browse through, and a lot of dross around the gems.

One of the really promising areas is historical board games that have been ported to IPad.
Catan — I love board Catan with my kids and the computer version is not bad.
Agricola – 17th century peasant agriculture but fun, and applicable to any subsistence society. In some ways it is perfect for IPad: you don’t have to mess with all the fiddly bits of the board game, and there is a fair amount of management/upkeep that the Pad does for you.
Other games
Civilization Revolution – not nearly as good as Civ IV , much simpler model, but definitely workable
Sid Meier’s Pirates
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New article on Ed-Tech and Games by Mercedes Bell

Mercedes Bell, Reevaluating Ed-Tech Tools and Learning Games, at

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New articles on simulation games and history

Posted two recent articles of mine.

From November 2012 The History Teacher: Navigating the Problem Space: The Medium of Simulation Games in the Teaching of History

From spring 2012 Journal of Digital Humanities: Historical Simulations as Problem Spaces: Criticism and Classroom Use

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