203: Don't Knock the Aztecs

Todd Bryant

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May 22, 2009
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Don't Knock the Aztecs

Can Civ IV teach you about Central American history? Or World of Warcraft improve your German? If Dickinson College's course offerings are any indication, they can. Todd Bryant examines how he and his employer are integrating games into their college classrooms with encouraging results.

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Barry93

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I remeber playing Civ IV, my only problem with it is the battles, which is essentially just rolling dice. If only it could have battles similar to that of the total war games then it would've been an almost perfect game.
 

Thanatos34

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I do remember Age of Empires helping me out on several history tests. This could be the start of a very good trend.
 

NuclearJonJon

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May 24, 2009
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Isn't part of what makes games fun the unrealistic element? I sure hope that was a primary school history test...
 

NeedAUserName

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Civ IV is a great game, but the picture of the Aztec makes him look like he has a really old face, on a not quite as old body... (In other words, he just looks weird)
 

Mackinator

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Age of Empires 2 : the Conquerers has an Aztec Campaign doesn't it? Maybe thats why this all sounds familiar.
 

ReverseEngineered

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NuclearJonJon said:
Isn't part of what makes games fun the unrealistic element?
Some people might find that adds to the fun, but the leading theories of fun don't require unrealism. According to Raph Koster from "A Theory of Fun for Game Design", fun is merely the brain's reward for figuring out new puzzles. As long as there is a challenge, reward, and some puzzle which the brain is slowly but surely able to pick up, the player will experience fun. It's easier said than done, but that's the meat of it.
 

Megacherv

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Sep 24, 2008
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On this subject about games for teaching, I used LittleBigPlanet as a presentation for Biology a month or two ago (hosted online as LittleBigBiology). Got an A* and it counted as my research study grade.
 

Clemenstation

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One weird thing about Civ IV that never sat right with me was the inclusion of tribal villages, which were little more than random resource acquisition points. On one hand, a game that presumes to teach history is technically correct in rendering these 'non-cultures' as targets for assimilation and conversion into assets, since that's what often happened. On the other hand, the way tribal villages are represented reveals an inherent Westernized perspective on development and colonization. The player doesn't even have the choice to leave these villages alone (they are automatically negated and converted into resources once your sphere of influence reaches and encompasses them). Specifically European advancements and achievements are also given a rather weighty presence and value.

I hate politically-correct indignation as much as the next guy, but even 'learning' games like Civilization are wide open for these kind of critiques. The good news? At least they get people thinking and talking. Open dialog is better than glossing over colonial history.
 

Booze Zombie

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NuclearJonJon said:
Isn't part of what makes games fun the unrealistic element? I sure hope that was a primary school history test...
No, that would be the fun element of the game making the game fun.
 

Tiamat666

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Dec 4, 2007
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Todd Bryant said:
Don't Knock the Aztecs
...Cortes was able to conquer the Aztecs because of two factors that aren't present in the game. The first was disease. The second was Montezuma's belief that the appearance of Cortes was a sign that marked the beginning of the Aztec Empire's doom...
Actually, there was a third factor that I believe is more important than the two you mention. Namely, that the Aztecs had subjugated almost all of their neighbouring tribes and were ruling practically as an "evil empire", abusing the other populations for slaves and sacrifices. That made it easy for the spaniards to find allies among the natives which were very eager to fight back against the Aztec suppresion.
 

HomeAliveIn45

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Interesting article, especially considering that this is EXACTLY what I stopped studying for my Spanish final about 10 minutes ago.
 

Intoxicain

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How about Koei teaching us a hillarious version of the Romance of the three kingdoms, and in turn, a horrible knowledge of the fall of the Han dynasty?
 

beefpelican

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Clemenstation said:
...The player doesn't even have the choice to leave these villages alone (they are automatically negated and converted into resources once your sphere of influence reaches and encompasses them)...
You actually can leave them alone, but it means you can't exploit whatever resources they are built on top of (shades of United States history there) and they will start spawning barbarian units which burn your nearby farms, which did happen from time to time when people built settlements too close to Native American territory. It might make for a more interesting game if you could negotiate peace with the villages, but it does allow the player to understand a bit more of the early US perspective on the Native tribes: they are in the way and leaving them there prevents your nation from growing. Leaving a village alive provides no benefit to your nation, so the only reason to do so is the belief that the village has a right to exist. But I'm probably reading into it a bit too much there.
 

Clemenstation

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beefpelican said:
You actually can leave them alone, but it means you can't exploit whatever resources they are built on top of (shades of United States history there) and they will start spawning barbarian units which burn your nearby farms, which did happen from time to time when people built settlements too close to Native American territory. It might make for a more interesting game if you could negotiate peace with the villages, but it does allow the player to understand a bit more of the early US perspective on the Native tribes: they are in the way and leaving them there prevents your nation from growing. Leaving a village alive provides no benefit to your nation, so the only reason to do so is the belief that the village has a right to exist. But I'm probably reading into it a bit too much there.
Really? In Civ IV? I've played a bunch of Civ IV games, and the tribal villages have always just sat there passively until they got amalgamated.

It would be interesting to have the option of negotiating with them, I agree. Turn your civilization into a 'federation' or something like that. Then you could have mini-Quebecs or mini-Texases trying to to secede all the time.