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Re-creation as Recreation


Civil War happened in 1861-1865 between the northern states and southern states of the United States. The north (anti-slavery) was called the Union and the south (pro-slavery) was the Confederates. Of course, you know the result. The Union won and slavery was abolished in the United States. War reenactments are when ordinary or military people participate in a mock/rehearsal war as a form of training, remembrance or celebration, often with the purpose of learning, understanding and raising awareness for certain social and historical issues. This article talks about the history of reenactments, how they started, and why they are popular.  Frankly, studying it makes me excited and I want to join in on the "period rush" (that cool happy feeling when you feel like you have time travelled). 


Reenactments have been popular in the US for a while, with Revolutionary War reenactments called "sham fights“. Later, it became popular around the 100th anniversary of the Civil War in 1961 with the most famous battle as Gettysburg (Lincoln's most famous speech is the Gettysburg Address). These full-out costumed events can involve hundreds to thousands or more people, carrying authentic or replica weapons, performing their historical roles. Unlike a show, the actors are all regular participants who love history and want to take part.  Key anniversaries start another reenactment fever, such as America's bicentennial and 50th anniversary or Gettysburg in 1913, aka the Grand Reunion etc. Plus, it doesn't just happen at location; people all across the US and even in Canada or Europe participate. I think Europe must have a cool culture of WWI and WWII ones.   


The main reasons for joining are numerous and all admirable:

1) Veterans: These real heroes participate to share with their family and friends about their conditions at the frontlines. Also, (tear-jerker) it is a chance for both sides to make up; veterans from both sides joined the Great Reunion and instead of fighting it out, they shook hands and hugged.  

2) Genealogy: Reenactors want to know how their ancestors lived or where they fought. One example was an Italian man that wanted to know how Italian immigrants participated in the war. 

3) History lovers: A chance to research deeply and often act in less well-known roles such as minorities and women. Their research could be based on a less well-known historical figure or based on a combination of real people. For example women, who served as part of the sanitation committee helping to ensure health and hygiene at the front lines (think: bathroom placement) 

4) Raising awareness: Certain events also raise awareness for MIA, POWs and also first generation minority regiments, such as descendants of the first African American troop or women's suffrage (right to vote).


Additionally, reenactments were also used for military training by military schools during the 20th century. One of the largest reenactment events is in Moorhead California where thousands join with spectators. Ideal location are devoid of modern buildings and enable actors to drift back into time.  To get into the action of the period rush, actors do extensive research and often buy period clothing and accessories from sutler (vendors) that provide replicas of artifacts. The events are filled with music, action, food, and lots of storytelling. 

Renaissance fairs take visitors back to a glorious period in European history; more precisely, most take you back to the era of Elizabeth I in England. At these fairs, actors in costumes and accents portray a wide range of typical villager roles. There is a vast array of activities, including performance art, craft fair, and sports, such as archery and jousting.  Most fairs feature a stage where actors play Shakespearean & anacreontic comedies, and there is usually a parade/concert and music with performers.  Renaissance fairs first started in the 1950s with a folk song performer called John Langstaff. Later in 1963, a Los Angeles teacher named Phyllis Patterson set up a Renaissance fair in her backyard as a class activity, attracting 8,000 people through radio fundraiser.


Usually, American Renaissance fairs were more for entertainment - not fully authentic and featured foods such as corn on the cob & chocolate bananas.  European fairs were more for historical education. Costumes at these events are important, as they reflected social status of the character. Why do you think only the Renaissance has these type of fairs? Why not the Dark Ages? We think it is because this period has been romanticized by literature and art. 

Computer simulation as a way to learn history? That's the plot of Bruce Coville's 1986 novel Operation Sherlock. Six teenagers have no history teacher—their parents are rogue scientists developing the first AI on an otherwise uninhabited island. They learn about the past by playing historical simulations on their computers. (sounds interesting? If you like to check out the book, click on the link. )

Now we are getting to the fun stuff! (right, boys?) So video games are now becoming a way for people to learn history. The article discusses how that works and how sometimes games fail to present an accurate or unbiased version of what really happened. 


Gaming giant Ubisoft has created a set of historical add-on for its popular video game Assassin's Creed called Discovery Tours, curated by historians and experts. They plan to roll this out to 52 schools in the UK in partnership with UKIE (UK's gaming trade association). As a student do you feel video games are a great way to learn and immerse yourself in history? (Most of you are probably nodding profusely.) Well, this is not a new concept and there are other considerations.  

One of the very first games designed for education was Oregon Trail about pioneers and western expansion in America during the 1800s. The video game was designed by Paul Dillenberger back in 1971 and featured scenarios and outcomes such as dysentery. Other common education oriented games include Typing with Mario, Carmen Sandiego (ex-pro thief woman dressed in red that steals famous cultural relics and artworks) and Pompeii Unity. Games not only teaches kids about history, but are probably one of the first sources for kids to learn about important topics. 

Nevertheless, it is hard for games to get the historical stuff just right and be politically correct, accounting for minorities, gender equality, and LGBTQ. The reality is that 75% of game developers are male and 73% are White. That means that games are told through a specific viewpoint. Often games can have stereotypes because game developers might have learned about historical subjects only through movies/films, such as the case of Ghost of Tsushima (2020) about Japanese samurai and the Bushido code. Many large developers are risk adverse and do not want to go into depth to get the history right, so historical accuracy is often up to indie-developers.

However despite its downsides, games are becoming more and more popular as a form of education, even for museums and schools, especially after Covid. So the question is, how do we teach students to be on the lookout for biases and inaccuracies in games. Games are a way to extend their imagination and skill - not an absolute portrayal of history. 


If you have no idea what we are talking about, definitely click on the link above to watch the video about video games and historical content.  Historical games are a popular genre and some games "wear their accuracy like a badge of honor". The podcast examines this topic mainly through the video game Kingdom Come Deliverance - a very realistic game that received backlash and criticism for not having any people of color. (Oh, come on!) It is set in Bohemia 1403, an inland city that didn't have maritime trade. The game developers claim they have expert references and promotes the idea of historical authenticity versus 100% historical accuracy. Historical authenticity is when the game immerses the player in a realistic but not 100% accurate world. (ie no Starbucks cups) The reasoning is that if it was 100% accurate, the game would be boring or not work at all, such as half of the people dying from disease before the battle even began. 

The podcast also talks about how games are adjusting their accuracy to fit today's society. For inclusive game play, girls can take part in historical games even though it was not historically true. For example, female soldiers in Call of Duty (based on WWII) and female students in the Greek school in Education in Alexandria. Also, for the sake of education and younger viewers, some games also covered up ancient nude Greek statues with seashells. These minor adjustments do not hurt history but makes the game for appropriate for today's audience.  Personally, I am really impressed by the graphics of these historical games and believe it is an exciting way for kids to get a sense of history. Learn historical facts? Not so much, but help kids imagine life in an ancient city, definitely. A game is still a game. It lacks the emotions and rich context of history that no source can really provide.  


The classic game got an upgrade in 2021 with Gameloft and most critics are happy with the improvements. The Oregon Trail inspired a whole generation of gamers when it was first adopted into American public schools through Apple II back in the 1980s. Over the years, it has been negatively criticized as promoting imperialism, ignoring environment issues and most of all not painting the right historical picture in regard to Native American.  (Highly recommend everyone watch the BrainPop video about Trail of Tears).  The new version has significant upgrades that made it educational and fun. Available on Nintendo Switch it is edutainment for a new generation of gamers interested in the Wild West. 

First, the game improved on its character features, by including features and skills. Additionally, the roadmap is also more dynamic featuring historical landmarks, geographic terrain, and campsites. You have greater control over your destiny, so advancing in the game is not based on just luck. Additionally, Native Americans appear as NPCs and also you can play in their shoes. Although it is still a game, it does include educational content about historical events, figures, and natural elements that adds to gamers' understanding of the historical period in time. Overall, compared to other kill or rob games, it offers a more educated experience by giving players a glimpse into the American West during the 1800s, including gorgeous graphics, scenic background, and appropriate music. 

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To ensure the game was sensitive to Native American issues, it hired three Indigenous studies scholars who advised the development team, aimed to “bring a new level of respectful representation to the game.” Do you feel more games should do that? And games that do not, are they promoting a false perspective of history?

Settlers of Catan (the original name) is a boardgame about settlers in an imaginary island called Catan where they compete to settle or colonize as many locations as possible. It was invented in 1955 by German Klaus Teuber and has been published in more than 40 languages selling more than 32 million copies.  Critics comment that the game promotes colonialism and that is why the named changed to Catan to be more politically correct. 


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The article features a list of the most offensive and disturbing board games ever created. Really! I was shocked by how they could have even been published. The titles are ridiculous and reflect how games in the past represented different racist sentiments.  From What Shall I Be "Career Girls" (gender discrimination) to Life as a Black Man (racial discrimination), they echo outdated social perspectives that have been abandoned today. Some of the most despicable ones include Black and White (players get to choose if they are Black or White) and Darkies in the Melon Patch (1910) and the worst is probably Juden Raus (Jews Out) designed in 1938 where players go around and collect Jews and expel them (to concentration camps!). Imagine how far our game conscience has come!

Historical Accuracy Review of Popular Games 

Hello Scholars! We have researched all the following games (played them, haha, not) and here are our notes about each one and their historical accuracy.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ = recommended for the classroom.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ = some historical accuracies but not enough for the classroom.

⭐⭐⭐= explore if you are interested in history and want to get a sense of the era.

⭐⭐ = looks historical but nothing about history at all.

⭐= stereotypical historical roles that probably offend some people. Definitely do not play if you want to ace history exams. 

The Oregon Trail (original + new version)

Originally created by a history teacher Paul Dillenberger as a basic flash-card and dice game, two of his code-savvy students developed the game The Oregon Trail – its success rebounded across classrooms with excited students lining up to play it. The game, a simulation of a 19th century family's westward trek to Oregon, is famous for its many tragedies - oxen dying, wagons catching fire, loved ones drowning in the Green River, and hunters shooting 1,200 pounds of food but only carrying 100 pounds back to the wagon, as well as situations in which the player would had to trade with native Americans. Winning is based on sheer dumb luck in many cases. The new Oregon Trail release by Gameloft in 2020 has made some very significant upgrades in the character selection, having indigenous people as NPCs and historical information scattered throughout the trek.

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Original Version - Rating for Historical Accuracy:⭐⭐⭐ 

New Version - Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Seven Cities of Gold

This game is set in the Age of Exploration! The player is put into the shoes of Christopher Columbus, organizing and managing his expedition to the Americas. Composed of managing your crew, sailing the seas and purchasing supplies, eventually reaching land, players encounter local settlers. This is where the game gets, “uncanny” or politically incorrect. The mini-game ensues in which the player is given a score based on how many settlers they can eliminate. Definitely, promoting imperialism, racial discrimination here. 

Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐ (only because there is Columbus)

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Call of Duty

The Call of Duty franchise follows the player, a lone commando in grandeur-rich combat of guns and explosions galore. Spanning WW2, Iraq, the Cold War, game giant Ubisoft takes historical conflict and makes it bigger, louder, more ‘explode-y’ at the cost of realism and historical accuracy. While dates, places, and weapon and character designs are mostly authentic, no one should be using this to learn historical narrative, as it does not include historical information and is not really how soldiers or special forces fight in wars.  Not sure if any veterans would approve of this game, at all. 

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Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐ (real events, unrealistic experience)

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The Ghost of Tsushima

The incredulous feats that the players character overcomes are wildly inaccurate, but for the sake of game-narrative I would refrain from criticizing it – the game features many infuriating boss fights that may seem almost impossible to win after all. Just like in ‘Call of Duty’, the game gets the terrain design and general history (dates, major historical events) correct. However, it also features mythical beasts from Japanese folklore, like gigantic snakes and unsightly humanoids. Conclusion: an effective springboard for those wanting to immerse themselves in the history of Tsushima island, however, contains supernatural narratives that give no insights into the Bushido code or the society of Japan. 

Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐ (based on Japanese films but not historical at all)

Sid Meier's Pirates!

The game follows a dashing captain whose family was humiliated by the Marquis – the main antagonist of the game. Years later the player finds themselves in control of a ship, with ample opportunity for swashbuckling, wooing maidens, and finding buried treasure. While it perfectly captures popular perception of the gentleman-pirate, it ignores all the miseries of sailing the seas – an excellent, but repetitive euphemism (putting a pleasant spin on things). It ignores the barbarity of pirates, the sanitary conditions onboard, the food - basically everything unpleasant. This is once again a case of video games glorifying certain roles for the purpose of romanticism and money of course. 

Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐ 

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Age of Empires

Players are given different game modes. One could either speed through hundreds of years of history in one game, enjoying the designated benefits of each faction, or play through as a single faction. The latter is complete with a documentary shot-on-sight by the crew and historically accurate art, units, and architecture. “The team behind the game says this is in celebration of history but also works to give players context around what they’re doing. It’s easy to see how this could add to gameplay: skirmishes are fun, but knowing why you want to win a battle can really add to the drama of it all.” Overall, the game is a good springboard for those wishing to immerse themselves in a historical setting. But does it actually teach any history?

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Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐

Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed is a popular video game series that features real-life historical events, locations, and figures. While some details, such as architecture and clothing, are accurate, other aspects, such as the behavior of characters and portrayal of historical events, are not. This suggests that the game's developers prioritize gameplay and story over historical accuracy, which can result in the inclusion of inaccuracies in the game. Additionally, the game features fictional characters and organizations, such as the Assassins and Templars, that are not based on historical fact. The game takes creative liberties with historical events and figures to fit the game's narrative, making it a work of historical fiction rather than a historical documentary.


However, the game's inaccuracies can be seen as intentional, as the game's storyline portrays the Templars, who are often depicted as the victors, as having the power to change history to their advantage. This idea has been mentioned in the game since the first Assassin's Creed title, where the lore portrays the books as being made with Templars' supervision to brainwash the public. Therefore, the inaccuracies in the game's historical setting can be interpreted as a representation of how history can be manipulated by those in power. Despite its historical inaccuracies, Assassin's Creed provides an immersive and engaging experience set in real historical settings, making it a popular and enjoyable game for many players.

Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐⭐

Railroad Tycoon

The original version allowed the player to start companies in several settings: the U.S. West and Midwest or the Northeast, England, and (on a smaller scale, including southern England) Europe. The player manages the business as described above and may also handle individual train movement and build additional industries. The game also has other railroad companies attempting to put the player out of business with stock dealings and "Rate Wars".

The player starts with $1,000,000, half as equity, half as loan. The player can get more cash by selling $500,000 bonds at various interest rates (which depend on the current economic condition in the game).


To ease recognition and make management easier, the trains, stations, towns, and other landscape features are not completely accurate in scale to their surroundings, but they now appear much more realistically across the game world countryside.

Rating for Historical Accuracy: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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