Assassin’s Creed Discovery Mode Is a New Kind of Field Trip
posted by: Melissa | April 26, 2018, 07:31 PM   

As a history teacher, I fell in love with Assassin’s Creed early. The video game series has much in common with other video games, players take on an avatar, complete missions, level up their skills, etc. But, it goes much further as well. Players are dumped into historically accurate recreations of the past.


In the game, I was able to walk through the streets of Jerusalem during the Crusades, explore Rome during the Renaissance, and travel the backwoods of Colonial America. During these adventures, I came face to face with many of the historical figures that I was striving to teach my students about. Characterizations weren’t always perfect, but they were no worse (and often quite better) than what you would find in typical historical fiction. Furthermore, every time I encountered an historical landmark or figure, I could open up an encyclopedia-like entry and read about what we know about the person or place. Since the game features what is referred to as an “open world,” players are allowed to explore areas and subjects that interest them most in a way that engages them. In short, when a player plays an Assassin’s Creed game, they don’t just observe history, they experience it.


It should surprise no one that I was constantly on the lookout for ways to incorporate the game further into my classes, but there were always roadblocks. Teaching in a low-SES community, I worried that giving extra credit would punish students who didn’t have money for the game or the game system to run it on at home. I could, of course, allow students access to the PC version in class, but that would open me up to complaints from parents about the game’s violence and its often mature storylines, and I knew my administrators would question my choices in how I was using class time.


It turns out that I was not the only teacher who faced such struggles. Many educators were drawn to the game’s historically accurate, immersive world, but hesitated over the appropriateness of the actual game itself. After a decade on the market, the game’s makers have decided to help educators out.


In February, the game developers announced that the new game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Origins, would include a feature they call a “discovery tour.” Designed especially to allow players to learn about the game’s historical setting (ancient Egypt), the discovery tour mode of the game has no story, no combat, no undue gore, nor mature storylines. It’s being compared to an audio tour in a museum, except that the person can interact with and experience the world the museum is attempting to teach about in all of its minute details.


After the tour is over, players are exposed to the same open world that the game takes place in. They can go wherever they want and learn about whatever they want, through the eyes of an historical figure. If they want to explore an Egyptian temple and watch religious ceremonies, they can. If they want to crawl through a pyramid, they can. If they want to explore the Nile and its effect on farming, they can.


Assassin’s Creed is not the first video game to cater itself to the educational sphere. It follows in the footsteps of games like Minecraft and Oregon Trail, however with its open world concept and emphasis on exploration, it brings something new to the table.


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