Dr. Craig I. Hardiman (Associate Professor, Department of Classical Studies, University of Waterloo), "Video Games and the Classical Past: Problems, Potential and Pedagogy"
The use of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome as settings in video games has a long, and perhaps checkered, past. Archaeology especially has often been used as a means to find an object, solve a quest or solve a puzzle, and characters such as Lara Croft have long blurred the lines between treasure hunting and archaeology. Even while some games attempt a certain amount of archaeological and/or historical accuracy in architecture or surroundings, it is often within a game that presents fantastical or outlandish characters and circumstances, often with a mythological base. Some games, such as the Assassin’s Creed series by Ubisoft, have attempted to address some of these issues. Two of their games, Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017) and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018), dealing with (respectively) events at the end of Ptolemaic Egypt and the Peloponnesian War, have tried to craft an “accurate” vision of antiquity. So much so that they tout using the game as an educational tool for the classroom. Yet Ubisoft themselves discuss choices they had to make between accuracy and fun gameplay. One can encounter as many historical inaccuracies and anachronisms in these games as not. With an increased emphasis on “gaming” the classroom (using games as a pedagogical tool), can we fully trust the broad view of Ancient Greece and Rome to for-profit companies whose first duty is to the creation of fun gameplay? These issues and others will be explored, alongside games that (mis)represent a “classical past”.