In the late 18th century, tensions between the British Empire and its colonies on the eastern coast of North America were reaching a critical point. From Georgia to Massachusetts talk of revolt hung heavy in the air, and the threat of war lingered on the horizon. The colonists were about to suffer the bloody birth of a nation, a nation that would eventually shape the course of human history. But this couldn’t be known by the people of the time, who went about their everyday lives much as anyone had through the ages -- one day at a time, their only goal to make their way through the world into which they were born.
Revolution is the Education Arcade's multi-player, American Revolution-themed role-playing game based on historical events in the town of colonial Williamsburg. Set in 1775, on the eve of violent revolt in the colony of Virginia, the game gives students an opportunity to experience the daily social, economic, and political lives of the town's inhabitants. By allowing role-play from one of seven social perspectives -- from an upper class lawyer, to a patriotic blacksmith, to an African American house slave -- Revolution places students in a situated learning context. Games respond to player choice. One's actions have real consequences that depend on one's politics, gender and class standing in colonial society:
- Does your allegiance lie with the soldiers of the British governor, or with the local militia?
- Can a retaliatory trade embargo against imperial taxation laws be justified if it also brings debilitating damage to the town economy?
- Are moral convictions enough to risk helping a runaway slave hide from his pursuers?
Revolution asks students to make these and other hard decisions. Eschewing a “master narrative” in which “great men do great things,” the game teaches students an “ordinary” experience of history that includes passionate rhetoric and heroic battle, but also economic frustration, political indifference, and the mundane of everyday life.
Developed as a multi-player 3D game, Revolution is designed to be played in a 45-minute classroom session in a networked environment. Each participant navigates the space of the town, interacts with other players and townspeople, and is given the opportunity to act in and react to various events that in one way or another represent the coming of the war. Revolution includes a strong narrative component, an important aspect to drawing the player into a world of actual historical events. But players also improvise their own stories, based on the resources available to them as well as the choices they make in real-time as the game unfolds. Because the game is networked, players collaborate, debate, and compete, all within a simulation that maintains historical suspension of disbelief with graphical and behavioral accuracy. Revolution combines the best elements of live classroom role-playing exercises and period drama films to provide a new kind of teaching resource for understanding American history.
Project Status: Development complete winter 2004; No further work on this project.