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The new Assassin’s Creed game takes place in Ancient Egypt. Beside the usual gameplay, where you have to follow a story, collect items and explore the world, you can experience the game totally free from that as a kind of observer in order to learn something about Ancient Egypt. Is this concept ready for the classroom?

More than 20% of the world population plays video games . This in itself is an incredible number when remembering the first games I played in the 80ies. During pre-school, we “dealt” with computer games and in secondary school we boasted about it. Today, playing video games is as mainstream as watching TV. In the last couple years it seems, that computer games are even ready for the classroom.

The question remains, in which ways one can incoporate video games for teaching. It is long known, that playing video games teaches the use of metacognitive functions and reflexes. Besides that, how can they help us? How can we for example assess a class about video games? It is know that players spend more time playing historical video games than watching historical films. Playing something also anchors better in your memory than simple reading or watching.

Games like “Call of Duty: WWII” represent the front lines of historical memory in the digital age, and dismissing them as simple entertainment does not displace their influence.
R. Whitaker, Washington Post

I think that we need to define two different ways of using video games in the classroom. The first would be using gaming technologies and techniques for teaching. This is also known as Gamification and already widely used. Of course, there is also the field of educational games, that actually teach you something about the past and in this realm, the new Assissins Creed: Orgins tries to fit.

The main game is about a secret assassins organisation which history and adventures you explore in the Assassins Creed games. The latest addition to that family is called Assassins Creed: Origins and is placed in Ancient Egypt. In addition to the main game, you are able to download a additional game mode (DLC) in which you do not have to follow the story of the main game, than rather are able to explore Ancient Egypt in the way of guided tours. The tours differ in length, but are usually between a couple minutes up to half an hour long and you can learn about different aspects of Ancient Egyptian live.

In my personal opinion, this does not equal proper teaching, but it can definitely spark some interest to learn more. I think to offer DLCs like that can improve the motivation to learn about the past starting in school. It also has a lot of room for improvement, but to see that a major AAA-game offers their world for education is a step in the right direction.

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About the author

My name is Sebastian. I am a research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Cologne, Germany, Discipline for Archaeoinformatics. My special interest lies in reconstructing ancient architecture and thinking about ways to present archaeological knowledge to other researchers and the public in an informative and appealing way. I teach 3D documentation of material culture as well as 3D modelling and archaeological reconstruction and work on several projects as part of my job.

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