Podcast S2 EP9 When Video Games meet History and Real Life

S2 EP9 – When Video Games Meet History And Real Life

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Episode Transcription

LARA: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World with me, Laili, Ale and Meli. And in today’s episode we’re going to be talking about when video games meet history and real life. Which, come on, I think we have a lot to discuss in here and…

MELISA: Absolutely.

LARA: Yeah, we are like so, so eager to tackle this episode because it’s so good.

MELISA: This goes to show how nerds we are.

LARA: Yeah! It’s like… You have history, you have real life, then something happens in between and you have… boom!

ALEXIS: And you have a joystick in your hand.

LARA: Oh, my God, and you’re playing. So good. I believe we have played like a lot of these games throughout our lives. Ale, do you want to tackle the first game you encountered or the first game that shocked you and you were like, “Oh, my God, this is history, this is real life”?

ALEXIS: Well, before I became a video game nerd, I was a nerd in history. I used to love history.

MELISA: This episode is for you.

ALEXIS: I sucked at math, like… other subjects. I sucked at physical education, of course. But history, I loved it. So back in the PlayStation 3 era, Assassin’s Creed was incredible for me. I mean, since the very first one with the third crusade and the historical characters that you got to interact with. Should I… go?

LARA: Yeah.

ALEXIS: Okay. So in the first one you have the third crusade, right? Incredible. Ground-breaking. And did you guys know that that was supposed to be a Prince of Persia game?

LARA: I didn’t know that. Oh, my god. Amazing.

ALEXIS: I went off topic. Then with the second one, and three entries all through Italy. Then you…

LARA: And you have… I’m sorry, I have to step in here.

ALEXIS: Yes, you’re a fan, too.

LARA: Meeting Leonardo da Vinci like in game and being able to talk to Leonardo da Vinci, it’s like, oh, my god!

ALEXIS: In the third one you went to America and you even meet Benjamin Franklin. And then, with more recent video games, I mean, you could be a pirate, you could interact with people from… Cleopatra, in Origins.

LARA: Yeah! Oh, my god.

ALEXIS: In Odyssey, you are in a Greek war. It’s like… And the fact that it evolved so much that even universities took parts of what Ubisoft created, like…

MELISA: Yeah, the amount of research that is done for, like…

ALEXIS: You have guided tours in universities where you can even engage in activities that, in different times, you could engage as well, even bread-making, as they used to. So that’s the first one for me.

MELISA: Absolutely. And what happened with Notre Dame in Paris, that they used… Didn’t they use the Assassin’s Creed…?

LARA: Yes!

ALEXIS: Unity. Well, Unity is my favorite. I left it out on purpose because otherwise I’m not gonna shut up ever. But, I mean, they took what Ubisoft did for Notre Dame to recreate it after the fire, after the accident. And it was created several years before it happened, so you can see how well they did it.

MELISA: And we’re talking about a video game, it’s not like, you know…

ALEXIS: And a game that was in a setting so crucial as the French revolution.

LARA: Yeah. Oh, my god, it’s so powerful.

ALEXIS: That city was alive.

LARA: Yeah. So powerful and, yeah, if you…

ALEXIS: Meli, you?

MELISA: “Meli, you?” Well, I have to talk about Age of Empires.

LARA: Oh, my god, another huge one.

MELISA: I think… Yeah, probably everyone watching this, I would say that, like… My younger brother was, like, a fan. Even when I told him we were doing this episode, he was like, “Oh, my god.”

LARA: “This is my moment. This is my jam.”

MELISA: Exactly.

ALEXIS: “Can I be a guest, please?”

LARA: “Can I join you guys?”

MELISA: Whatever you like about it is like, of course, you know, you have to choose the different age, like if you’re in the Dark Age or in the Imperial Age. And you choose like a…

LARA: A civilization.

MELISA: A civilization, like you’re going through history and you have to manage all the different resources and that’s like more or less accurate. I’m not gonna say 100% accurate, because I did some research about it and, let’s say, you know, it took some liberties. It’s not like… It’s a game. The main purpose is like to be interesting.

ALEXIS: It’s a fictional past.

LARA: Yeah, but I think that’s the most amazing thing ever because you have real facts, real history mixed with fiction. And, of course, we are not talking about all the cheats that you can use on Age of Empires.

MELISA: I mean, if we’re talking about historical accuracy, and you’re like driving around in a car.

ALEXIS: Shelby Cobra invented the biggest cheat ever.

LARA: Exactly. But… I don’t know, I remember playing the Joan of Arc campaign and that being so impactful on me because I was like, I’m learning history through a video game. And yeah, I think that has like a…

ALEXIS: The William Wallace campaign, the second one…

MELISA: Yeah, because the William Wallace was like that, you know, how the story ends is like, of course, very different from the real world, but it’s part of, like, let’s imagine this scenario, which could actually happen. What could’ve happened if you stayed the leader of that? So I think that’s also really nice. When you have a historical setting and you start playing a little bit with history and a little fantasy.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely.

MELISA: And then you also have the Age of Mythology. Of course, that one has…

ALEXIS: Even more liberties.

LARA: Even more liberties, yeah.

MELISA: That one’s more about fantasy, I would say, where you have gods.

LARA: Yeah, but you’re talking about here systems of belief that were in that period of time.

MELISA: Yeah, in a way, you’re also learning about Ancient Greece.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s…

ALEXIS: Interestingly enough, on the first season, we had Kate Edwards as a guest.

LARA: Yeah, I remember.

ALEXIS: She worked in the culturalization of Age of Empires. By the way, if you’re watching this, Kate, we miss you.

LARA: Hi, Kate.


MELISA: And, if you haven’t watched that episode, you should.

LARA: Yeah, you should. It’s so good.

ALEXIS: She was consulted about the representation of maps because in some territories, in some countries, they don’t see them, they don’t see eye to eye in how maps looked in a certain time, you know? Like boundaries or things that actually happened. “This river wasn’t…” I don’t know, I’m gonna lie, I’m gonna say whatever. “It wasn’t Japanese, it was Korean.” So all of these things, all of those elements were taken into account in different markets.

LARA: Yeah, it’s amazing the level of detail, the level of accuracy sometimes a video game might have, right? For me, my historical favorite game, because I’m more of like, I like detective games, I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes.

ALEXIS: We went to the past too much.

LARA: And you went way, way into the past.

MELISA: We got lost in history.

LARA: So I’m going to bring you back a little bit to, sadly, our more present history, let’s say, with L.A. Noire. Because L.A. Noire shows a post World War II Los Angeles, and you are a detective. And it’s so well portrayed because I know all the cases and everything. Everything is fictional, absolutely, but driving those cars back in the day, oh my God, through those streets of LA. I’m talking and you can see the chills because it’s so good.

ALEXIS: You know that I’ve never played that game in my life?

LARA: Oh, my God, you have to. The radio! Everything is so well put together that it makes you feel like you are there in that part of history.

ALEXIS: It’s an open world game, right?

LARA: Yeah, it’s an open world from Rockstar and you can expect… Rockstar games just… it can blow your mind actually. So I keep talking about it and I keep getting the shivers.

ALEXIS: How does the game develop? What can you tell us about that?

LARA: It is a detective game. You can actually go around as an open world, you have to find the clues and everything. So, yeah, all of that part is actually the fictional part, right? But the most amazing time is like the setting of it all, you know? Because some games, as we’ve been speaking right now, some games have this fictional fantasy on a real life setting, which I think is amazing. And, for example, I’m also a huge fan of Fallout series. And I believe the Fallout series plays with some part of our history, right? What could have happened if the atomic bomb would have hit the United States of America? Right? So we have like this society working towards getting back together, we have the vaults, we have everything that’s happening. One of my favorite games is Fallout New Vegas. You are in Las Vegas. You are in the casinos, you are there, you are in the Mojave, you are there experiencing everything.

ALEXIS: But under different circumstances.

LARA: Yeah, under different… Yes, it’s just like…

ALEXIS: A parallel reality. Like Wolfenstein. Wolfenstein imagines the world if the Nazis had won the Second World War. So it’s like… But even that game, like in Germany, they cannot depict that.

LARA: No, I think nowadays they can. But when the first game came…

ALEXIS: In the first one, right?

LARA: Yeah. So there were some laws that were against showing some figures and showing some symbols and stuff that it was…

ALEXIS: The swastika.

LARA: They were banned. They were banned because you could not talk about it. But nowadays I think the laws are being a little bit more open, a little bit towards clarity, towards the history.

ALEXIS: Yeah, making peace with what happened and move forward.

LARA: Absolutely, absolutely. Historically, I believe we have always looked at movies and literature to see a glimpse of the past, right? Video games which exploded into the scene in the 70s, as we’ve spoken in the previous episodes, have received far less attention from teachers and academics. However, recently, as gaming has grown into a multibillion dollar industry, some historians have begun to see the value of video games as legitimate sources for historical engagement. And this is what I would love to bring to the table, because I know sometimes we talk a little bit about our history through a video game, real-time history, like for example with Far Cry 6. But we also can go to the Oriental side with Ghost of Tsushima. And I think it’s so amazing because you can create a character, you can create a story that might not be real, but just the fact that you are establishing it on a setting that actually happened on time…

MELISA: And you get to live it in a way, because of course, you know, if you read the history and you already watched the movie, and you get to understand a little bit more of how it was. But in the video game, you get to actually, you know…

ALEXIS: Interact.

MELISA: Yeah, and there’s people from different cultures speaking different… I don’t know, it’s just like, you get to understand it a lot better. And because these recent games, they are so well done, like the amount of research they have to create them. And then, you know, you’re looking for that accuracy more so that you get that immersive experience in that historical setting.

LARA: Yeah, oh my God.

ALEXIS: I don’t know if few guys knew this, I just found out recently and I’m not gonna tell the news properly because I don’t really remember which school, but in Poland, I believe, they’re gonna take the game This War of Mine…

LARA: Oh, my God, what a great game.

ALEXIS: They’re gonna take the game and make… I don’t know if they’re gonna teach the… I heard that they are gonna add the game to the school’s curriculums. I’m probably butchering the news, but you get the idea of the importance of that game. They’re gonna introduce that into the school’s curriculums so that kids can learn from the game. And it’s a survival game among a war setting. So video games are very, very important when it comes to actually understanding how history works.

MELISA: Yeah, like education and…

LARA: Yeah, I mean, sometimes we see things happening in history and nowadays life, sadly, but I believe with video games and the possibility of being, like, being able to play it and being able to put yourself in those shoes… I think, for example, Call of Duty portraying World War II. I know World War II was so big, the same as World War I, so it’s just like those huge wars that happened and destroyed us all because they were awful, making a game to learn from our mistakes, to see, like, to empathize, you know? To be like, yes…

ALEXIS: Not be just a bullet shower of a game, in a setting that actually happened, but making it more real.

MELISA: Exactly. In a way that you kind of… I mean, that’s also why we love history. It’s just like, you know…

ALEXIS: When you get to experience it through a joystick…

MELISA: See a bigger picture of like how we, like, you know, everything that happened, how it has an explanation.

LARA: Yes. I would love to hear your opinion between these topics, because we’re talking about reality, history and fiction. So what do you think about that? Do you think… Sadly, of course, we are talking about video games that happened on a real life setting that, yeah, they destroy you absolutely, because I can tell that you might end up crying in some sort of video game, just like, “No!”

ALEXIS: Yeah, that happens.

LARA: Yeah, but what do you think about this reality meets history meets a video game thing that’s happening? Because I believe every game… I’m giving my opinion now, just like, I believe every game has a real life setting, because somehow you can find something relatable in one way or another to a situation that you might have seen or something that’s happening to you or just like… I believe that’s the greatest thing about video games.

MELISA: Absolutely. It is incorporated in a way. Of course there are games that are, you know, that history is a big part of the game and there are others which is, you know, just some aspects of real life are taken in the game. But I really, I just really, really enjoy it when they’re using just so, you know, accurate like history fights and setting and characters and you get to, you know, interact. It’s just great for all ages. I mean, sometimes it can be educational for kids, but also, you know, it’s things that we know, but it’s very different when you’re playing a game than just…

ALEXIS: Yeah, I mean, if you’re watching this episode back to back with the previous one that we did without a guest actually, we’ve come a long way from what video games truly show, right? From Pac-Man to, I don’t know, the Last of Us II. It’s decades of content and of what’s happening. But also, on that note, we’ve come so far that video games are not just to sit, play, entertain yourself and then move on. You can learn from them. You can experience things that happen to you or that you wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for a video… through a video game as well, that that’s so valid and that’s so valuable for people nowadays to have that chance that I don’t think that many people had in the past.

LARA: Yeah. Yeah, and I have to say, massive shout out to all these games that we have been talking about because they have nailed some historical facts to the point. And I also want to bring this to the table because I know, with culturalization specifically, you can go super well or super wrong. So that’s also a little bit of the research that you have to do if you’re making a game set on something that is a fact.

MELISA: Yeah. Get it right.

LARA: Absolutely. Because it could be a massive crash, and you don’t want that.

ALEXIS: It can be either a historical thing as we’ve seen in Assassin’s Creed or whatever, Civilization, that might no longer exist. But even like, I don’t know, in games that are set in a certain city or country nowadays. Right?

LARA: Yeah. I mean, for example, the game that I recently played being Far Cry 6.

ALEXIS: I was thinking about Far Cry 6, yeah.

LARA: We have some people from Ubisoft saying that we are talking here about Cuba, right?

ALEXIS: Yeah, it’s a representation of Cuba.

LARA: Yeah. So it’s just like, we have all the history, all this background, but we have fictional characters. So it’s just like the feeling of sitting into a card and turning on the radio and just hearing the Latin American radio that you hear at home, at least, for me.

ALEXIS: I’ve had Vicentico on the radio in Far Cry 6 playing. And I was like, what? That is.. That’s priceless.

LARA: Yeah. I mean, and it’s priceless… I imagine the experience is, right? Because we are from Latin America, right? But imagine someone that doesn’t even know where we are located in the world, right? That experience of being like, oh, my God.

ALEXIS: I am really in a different place right now.

LARA: I am really in a different… Because the thing with Far Cry 6 and Cuba is like they have nailed the island that is frozen in time. It’s devastating. It’s so sad.

ALEXIS: It seems like it’s in the 50s.

LARA: Yeah, but it’s a fact. It is true. And we’ve talked with Eduardo Vaisman. Huge shout out. And, yeah, he has…

ALEXIS: We love you.

LARA: Yeah. It was amazing having the opportunity to actually meet him, and he telling us, yes, we have taken some inspirations from all of these historical facts in Latin America in general, because we are not only talking about Cuba, we are talking about Latin American history in general.

ALEXIS: Dictatorships in Latin America… And also they respected a lot… If, I don’t know, a character was, I don’t know, with a certain identity, you know? They looked for a talent with that same background to actually portray the individual that was in the video game.

LARA: That is so amazing.

ALEXIS: So that, the amount of detail and care that it was brought to that game. I mean, if you haven’t played Far Cry 6, if you haven’t played any Far Cry, start with the 6.

LARA: It’s the best one.

ALEXIS: All of them are good, but the 6 is like the best one yet.

LARA: Yeah, absolutely.

ALEXIS: As of yet.

LARA: I couldn’t agree with you more. But yeah, somehow, we managed to nail this history throughout video games in a not so boring way… I hope. I… Have you…?

MELISA: If you are into history, then…

ALEXIS: If you are into history and into video games, I think that, if you haven’t played any of the games that we talked or if you haven’t played even one, they are all worth a shot. I mean, for Age of Empires, you don’t need any PC, any toaster can run Age of Empires.

LARA: Yeah, and having the opportunity to learn something while playing, I think it’s the most valuable thing ever. So yeah, thank you for joining us today. Don’t forget that you can find our Discord server down below. And please leave a comment, we will be reading. Thank you so much for joining us.

ALEXIS: See you next time.

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