Thursday, January 25, 2007

Games and Geography

Kaisergauze was pleased. Mighty Germany had crushed the Paris Commune and followed it up with a quick sweep of France. Why? Because I could and all Germans know the French always have it coming. The nations in the Reich expanded as an African conquer/colonization operation got under way. But the true prize was Russia. A blitz seized Moscow and victory seemed assured. But then the dice went wrong. The Tsar and his men fought valiantly in the Urals while I engaged in battles that made Fredericksburg look like military genius. Elsewhere the Sudanese Mahdi Army smashed my Afrika Corp and the British launched raids against Teutonica. The war ended with defeat after defeat. Relief only came with the end of the day. It was time put War! Age of Imperialism away to go home.

TDAXP has a fun post about his recent experience playing Diplomacy. This post got me thinking on how games can teach geography.

Strabo said a good military commander can learn alot from geography. Catholicgauze, who rose all the way to the rank of Cadet in the United States Army, personally vouches for this. I impressed my Sargent right off the bat with map reading (being a geographer) but also with my tactical geographic thinking (and this came from gaming).

Playing Civil War Generals and Gettysburg! taught me even a worn regiment can hold a position against fresh troops if placed in protective terrain and entrenched BUT only for a limited time. Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far showed me how to make an enemy bleed by waging a defensive, house-to-house war. It also made me realize that an offensive attack over open ground was suicide. Finally, Operation Flashpoint re-enforced how holding high ground can be a great benefit.

But other games can teach geography too. When I went along the Oregon Trail I used the Oregon Trail games (especially Oregon Trail II) as reference. It was so exciting to see the Saint Marys Indian Mission, Chimney Rock, and Fort Laramie for real. Games like the Gabriel Knight series are so well researched that one actually feels like they have visited Bavaria or southern France. Rome: Total War can be used as a historical geography tool teaching gamers where cities, cultures, and resources were and how they all interacted to create an empire whose influence is alive and well today. Castle Risk taught me about the geopolitical situation in Imperial Europe. Then there is Last Express which gives a complete breakdown of the twentieth-century Europe at the end.

So play games and learn geography! What can be better than that?


Tony Cassidy said...

I remember a strategy nuclear war game on the Commodore 64, which was a favourite, I'm sure I read it was online. You took charge of Nato or the Warsaw Pact.

Then there was Operation Desert Storm on the MegaDrive.... how gaming sometimes repeats itself, but in reality.

Nice post.

Jonathan Haeber said...

HA HA. Yes... it's so true. My intern friends, who were all geographers once proposed we that we have a reunion. Guess what the chosen activity was? Risk! God, we are such nerds -- but in a good way, no?