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History as a Video Game

Like a lot of my colleagues here at EdWeek, I get carpet-bombed with all manner of educational video-game products sent by mail and e-mail, most of which purport to boost students' skills in math and science through the power of technology. It's rarer to come across a game that seeks to build students' historical knowledge through the kind of interactive, 3-D features that dominate the video-game market today. But a new video game called Conspiracy Code attempts to do just that.

The game challenges students to stop an organization called "The Conspiracy" from "erasing the past to shape the future." Game-players, acting through two protagonists, attempt to overcome the historical revisionists through a series of clues, each of which presents a history lesson, according to this column in the Orlando Sentinel.

The game is already being used in the Florida Virtual School with 10th grade students. Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, who took the game on a trial run, cites a couple concerns about it, such as the way it presents material in "itemized" fashion, rather than in more of a narrative manner, but he also sees a lot to like. Conspiracy Code seems to require, or at least strongly encourage a lot of interaction between students and teachers, judging from the trailer. Students and teachers can interact through an "intuitive Web-based interface," as well as through e-mail, instant message, phone calls, and other means.

A question for history teachers after you've seen the trailer (you can also download a demo): Do you think the game has the potential to improve students' grasp of history? In particular, could it help you reach those who are tuning out the subject?

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