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Playing games with history

How historical gaming can make a difference

Communicating educational material to a broad audience can be an intimidating and confusing assignment. Communication strategies are critical to the public fostering a positive engagement with historical materials. Using games is a newer communication strategy emerging from a more digitized modern-day lifestyle. Gaming, both analogue and digital, provides a fun way to communicate information to younger markets.

In the classroom, school children who regularly engaged in gamified learning materials were assessed by their teachers and found to present higher levels of classroom engagement. As a result, they scored better than their peers who were not taught alongside gamified content. Heritage institutions are a space for learning and igniting passions for history and culture. The classroom is a relevant inspiration. But how can Heritage organizations educate through gaming to attract visitors?

· Augmented Reality: AR apps and websites encourage interactivity between visitors and exhibitions. Visitors can interact with artefacts in an
exciting and risk-free way; by containing the experience to the users’ phone; Exeter Cathedrals’ Vista AR’ is a fantastic example. The cathedral’s AR feature generates animated models of cathedral art and manuscripts for visitors to place throughout the space, increasing visitors and ensuring better engagement with the historical artefacts within the cathedral.

· Virtual Reality: The popularized virtual reality enters the stage as an immersive and focused way to submerge the viewer’s senses in an educational environment within a headset, Transforming the viewer’s experience entirely. The power to immerse visitors in history is an invaluable resource for heritage and education institutions. The Newt Roman villa in Somerset utilizes VR to place visitors in a true-to-the-time historical re-enactment of a household in 351AD; visitors meet the staff and family of one of the largest roman villas unearthed in the UK, playing games and observing the daily life within the villa.

· Online Gaming: Computer games are the most common form of video gaming worldwide and are a fantastic way to absorb information. Recently, ‘archaeogaming’ has shown the importance of accurate
historical information in game design. Participants found games such as
assassin’s creed odyssey to be so effective at teaching players about the
layout of ancient Greece that game designers released a non-combat tour of the historic cities in 2019. Researchers found that these games opened a meaningful dialogue surrounding histories and heritage sites as gamers didn’t feel intimidated about potentially not understanding the material.

· Interactive Role-play: before the digital age, heritage sites used role-playing and theatrical games known as living histories as creative engagement with the past incorporating heritage, design, and gameplay, re-enacting the site’s active periods. The experience’s authenticity results in higher engagement and enjoyment among visitors by playing around with known history and imaginative interpretations. For example, sites such as Little Woodham in Hampshire conduct living histories based on the start of the English civil war. Participants walk through the site interacting with actors and discussing their lives and routines; participants can observe a period accurate coal forge and local tradespeople participating in a 17th-century craft day revitalizing previously lost practices.

Want to learn more about how gaming can enhance how heritage sites improve visitor experiences and learning? We’d love to chat; get in touch!


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