[Linkpost] Teaching Paradox, Europa Univeralis IV, Part I: State of Play

by adamShimi2 min read2nd May 20215 comments

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HistoryGaming (videogames/tabletop)GovernmentWorld Modeling
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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.

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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.

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The article also references/discusses Seeing Like a State, which has been somewhat popular in rationalist circles after the SSC book review.

Yes, that's one reason I felt that this particular post might resonate with people here.

The link at the start of the post (the one here, not the one at the far end) has for its text the URL of the thing it's pointing to, but its actual link target is ... this post itself.

(At least, so it is for me right now on my browser; I haven't checked whether some peculiarity of my setup is at fault, and of course it may get fixed later.)

My bad, I thought that just putting the link at the beginning of the post would make a linkpost, but that's not how it works. Also, apparently if you make a link without linked url, it goes back to the post containing the link (as you mentioned).

This should now be fixed.

Yup, seems OK now.