Kevin Schut suggests that games like Civilization might be useful in teaching history with the understanding of its hegemonic framing that involves misogynistic, chivalrous and violent masculinity, solipsism with capitalistic solipsism and technocratic tendencies – but I would argue that Civilization is far too ethnocentric and essentialist to be useful as an educational aid. I would also argue that it is difficult to avoid the hegemonic framing – as seen in World of Warcraft (WoW) and Second Life (SL) where it has been seen that users have more agency, but end up reinforcing and even contributing to their own marginalization.
Experts in virtual spaces such as Sherry Turkle believe that the role/s that identity play/s in worlds like multi-user dimensions or domains (MUDs), MUD object oriented (MOOs), and other virtual spaces such as Second Life (SL) are complicated. Turkle asserts that the “anonymity of MUDs . . . provides ample room for individuals to express unexplored parts of themselves” (xii). These spaces have great potential for dynamic identity exploration, and self-expression without the risks of condemnation, rejection or isolation that could result in real life.
Michael Rymaszewski et al. plainly state that SL is a place for living out fantasies, to be someone else or to work out who you are (301).
In this way many people can play the game with an avatar of a different skin colour, or represent a different gender or class to experiment in a virtual life in a way that is not possible in reality. I think putting these three key ideas together – software could be developed that has the freedom of Second Life with an open-source history-content focus, like Civilization but with input from different regions of the world, from different genders, classes and races. Within this framework students could create time traveller avatars to visit different time periods, learn about the history of different regions. There could be a contemporary period included where student could ‘virtual travel’ to different parts the world and have their text automatically translated to have a peek into a day in the life of someone of a different race, class or gender in a different geographical location. References
Rymaszewski, Michael, et al. Second Life: The Official Guide. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2007. Print.
Schut, Kevin. “Strategic Simulations and Our Past: The Bias of Computer Games in the Presentation of History.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean McMahon Humez. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2011. 437-442. Print.
Turkle, Sherry. “All MOOs are Educational—the Experience of ‘Walking through the Self.’” Foreword. High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs. Ed. Cythia Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1998. ix-xix. Print.