Video games in our schools aren’t a new thing. Back in the early nineties, students were learning to do math with the help of virtual race cars and using reading comprehension to catch a school-themed supervillain.
The Civilization franchise isn’t new to classrooms, either. Civilization III and IV, released in 2001 and 2005, respectively, have both been used by history teachers as a way to illustrate topics about imperialism, expansion, arms races, and geography. Civ IV came complete with modes to guide the game as close to historical realism as could be managed, featuring real-world plagues and disasters to influence the growth and death of a player’s civilization.
With Civilization V, Take-Two Interactive, the game’s publisher, is taking an active role in how we can engage students in learning world history. A modified edition of the game called CivilizationEDU, developed with ed-tech company GlassLab Games, will be available for high school classes starting next September. Analytics will be added to the game so teachers can set goals and track progress for students. Tutorial videos and lesson plans for teachers will also be included, so they can easily integrate the game into their usual curricula.
GlassLab Games has an education-focused resume. They make their own educational games, and also have partnered with major game companies like EA to craft classroom-aimed versions of popular games. Use Your Brainz is a version of Plants vs Zombies, for instance, and they are also behind SimCity EDU.
“For the past 25 years, we’ve found that one of the fun secrets of Civilization is learning while you play,” said the creator of the Civilization series, Sid Meier. That secret’s been out for a long time, and if there really is educational value in seeing if you can get Gandhi to become a berserk warlord (a well-known and loved game feature, originally a glitch), then these should be a fun addition to the toolbox of history teachers everywhere.