The Use of Grand Strategy Games and Gaming Practices to Teach History in Higher Education

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Embargoed until 2022-05-01
Copyright: Loban, Rhett
The thesis evaluates the commercial Grand Strategy video game Europa Universalis IV (EUIV) as a tool for teaching history in higher education. Originating from tabletop wargaming, Grand Strategy games are digital platforms that depict history in dynamic and sophisticated ways, promoting both entertainment and informal learning. This balance between gameplay and learning is why EUIV has valuable pedagogical potential. By engaging players in game-based learning (GBL), EUIV provides meaningful content and practices players can draw on to expand their understandings of history. Educators might utilise EUIV to communicate the complexities of the past, helping students to engage with history in immersive ways. The thesis uses a mixed method approach. A Formal Analysis is used to evaluate EUIV’s most pedagogically valuable elements. Next, survey data (n331) collected from members of an EUIV online forum is thematically analysed. This informs a university case study (n18) examining EUIV’s utility in a formal learning setting by engaging participants in: 1) a historical roleplay simulation; and 2) modifying (“modding”) EUIV to create new content. A statistical test reveals a significant advantage of the modding exercise over the historical roleplay simulation. A number of key findings are presented: 1) the survey data reveals EUIV acted as a catalyst to ignite an interest in history for 95% (n316) of participants; 2) analyses of the survey and case study data show spontaneous gameplay facilitated participants’ discovery of marginalised histories; 3) participants visualised history and learnt geographical details through maps and interfaces; 4) some participants believed EUIV was too abstracted to teach specific details of history, but others considered it effective at explaining broader historical themes; 5) the survey data indicates 45% (n149) of participants modified EUIV and most gained historical knowledge; and 6) the modding case study participants creatively expressed their perspectives on history and learnt new knowledge. The thesis concludes players’ interests in gaming and history can be capitalised on in a formal adult education setting to promote reflective and meaningful understandings of history. Grand Strategy games thus afford a variety of opportunities to learn, analyse and express historical knowledge through active engagement in GBL.
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Loban, Rhett
Costello, Brigid
Murphie, Andrew
Apperley, Thomas
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PhD Doctorate
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