Does the country’s past have a place in the gaming world?

In the upcoming computer role-playing game Meriwether, gamers will have an opportunity to relive Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the United States.

It’s just another in a growing line of video games — from The Oregon Trail to Assassin’s Creed 3 — that have commemorated America’s memorable, violent past.

 Canada’s history, by comparison, has been ignored by video game companies.

So the Calgary Journal asked a number of developers and history researchers which parts of Canadian history they would like to see made into a game.

Gamers will have the opportunity to relive Lewis and Clark’s explorations in upcoming game Meriwether.

Photo illustration by Kyle PuraJerremie Clyde
University of Calgary librarian specializing in history studies

Clyde, who has his own game studies research program, said any good computer game requires obstacles to overcome.

That’s why he thinks “initial homesteading and prairie settlement” in Canada would make a great subject for a game developer.

He said challenges in the game could include:

  • Finding food
  • Growing food
  • Learning about and adapting to the weather

“Such a game would allow players the freedom to make decisions that could possibly end in horrible, possibly life-ending consequences, because conflict always helps,” Clyde said.

Michael Magee
PhD in learning and video games, researcher of educational technology

A real-time simulation game involving the expansion and growing of the West is at the top of Magee’s list for a Canadian history game.

“It would be interesting because it would be the evolution of a brand new country that didn’t exist before,” he said.

He added that simulations that reflect the economic growth associated with building a country would also be an interesting topic.

“Understanding the decisions you make and the sacrifices you make to build the West is something I think people would be interested in.”

In addition, “from a commercial success point of view,” Magee believes that “anything involving a real-time simulation” of the major conflicts in Canada’s history, especially military ones, would sell well.

Ben Isitt
Specializes in Canadian history, currently doing legal history research in Victoria

Isitt’s idea for a game involves the “immigrant experience.”

Within the game, players would follow a “family of peasants or farmers” as they travel from a place such as China or Russia to Canada.

Isitt feels this would be an effective story choice because of the many hurdles — from the economy to discouraging immigration — that would challenge the player.

In addition, the families would have to “establish themselves in ethnic ghettos located in cities like Vancouver or Montreal.”

“It would be interesting because there is movement, an element of adventure, and there are challenges,” Isitt said.

“Challenges aren’t just happening in one place. It is about getting from point A to point B, which is a common theme in a lot of adventure games.”

Byron Noriega
CEO at local game development studio Brink 3D

Canada’s Ice Age is one of the events Noriega thinks would make for a good game plot.

In an email, Noriega said he would tell the story from the “point of view of a primitive man” during the historical era, with a place like Drumheller serving as the location.

“This game should be a third-person style of game since it will allow the user to be placed in a perspective where he can experience and interact with primitive animals and locations,” Noriega said.

“Due to the lack of technology available at the time, it will challenge the player to find a way to survive with primitive tools.”

Another event that Noriega suggested as a potential idea was a strategy game based around the War of 1812.

“There are video games about the American Revolution, but there has never been a game about the war between the United States and Canada,” Noriega said.

“The appeal of this game is the very large strategic area to fight over.”

He said there would also be three factions to choose from:

  • the French/Americans
  • the British
  • First Nations tribes

Bruno Steppuhn
CEO of Zensoft Studios, a local interactive software developer

Steppuhn said he would like to see a game that incorporates Canadian history without the use of violence or first-person shooters that are so popular today.

“Canadian history wise, there are plenty of instances that could be used in something like a trivia game or a neat little adventure game,” he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be about action or a lot of the main stigmas that are attached to video games nowadays.”

The signing of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms presented in the form of a trivia-style game is another idea Steppuhn thinks could work.

kpura@cjournal.ca

What moment in Canadian history would you like to see as a video game?