I particularly wanted to discuss Paradox’s games, as compared to other historically rooted games, because I think Paradox’s oeuvre is a particularly rich vein to mine. I have already heard from multiple college-level instructors that they have students coming into their classes specifically to learn the history behind these games, which in turn means that these games are serving to shape those student’s understanding of history before they even enter the classroom. Moreover, and we’ll get deeper into this as we go along, the very presentation of Paradox’s games, which use their efforts at historical accuracy as a key selling point, encourages players to think about them as exercises in history rather than just games.
But more than that, more than most historically set games, Paradox games are interesting because they are built with what I think is a detectable theory of history. Unlike other games which blunder through historical eras thoughtlessly, Paradox games, intentionally or not (in the event, I think it is clear from speaking with a couple of their developers, there is quite a lot that is intentional) have something to say about history. As we’ll see, some of that I’ll agree with and some of it I will disagree with, but the great value of Paradox’s games is that there is an ample theory of history to agree or disagree with.
So we are going to approach this question from two related frames, first, what should the student of history be thinking about when playing Paradox’s games; what unspoken assumptions should they be aware of, or even forewarned about? And what of those assumptions are grounded in real arguments among historians (or, put another way, where does Paradox have its feet firmly in the scholarship in crafting its games)? And second, what ought teachers of history know about these games and take into account if they find themselves teaching students for whom Paradox is the historical ‘mother tongue’ and actual history only a second language?
A linkpost to the great blog A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry is long overdue. The author, a historian, examines pop culture through the lens of history, as well as some more direct historical topics from time to time. It's great, fascinating, and quite different from the other blogs and websites I usually follow.
This specific link is to a series that started this week, looking at a franchise of historical games and how they portray history. The first post focuses on questions of legibility and how perspective frame our understanding history. Exactly the kind of good stuff people around here should enjoy.