Historical accuracy in video games is one of the most hotly debated topics within the video game community. Whether or not a game’s mechanics should be influenced by the era in which it is set has been a problem that plagues game designers and players alike, as there are so many factors to consider when analyzing this issue. This article will touch on a number of them and present both sides of the scale.

The Issue Of Lifestyle

The first issue that many designers come to when considering the historical accuracy of a game is how the people in that time period lived. This is most obvious in the many medieval games that have come out in recent years, such as Throne: Kingdom at War, Age of Empires, and Assassin’s Creed.  Set in a classic medieval setting, historical accuracy is needed to ensure that the player feels immersed in the game world. They want to be transported, taken away. The historical accuracy of the world, though, need only be convincing, as fiction – breaking beyond the limits of history – can help with narrative and further immersion.

Looking at the facts behind certain historical periods, you will see that many people lived as peasants. Should the player be forced to play the lowest class of person, even though many of these people wouldn’t be great heroes of old? Some players argue that yes, this kind of story beginning would be great as it allows the player to work their way up to becoming a knight, noble or hero. However, many players would likely not want to invest the time being a nobody of that degree, even if they could make it to heroic levels given time.

The other challenge to consider within any historical setting for a game is the difficulty that setting would provide. Many illnesses weren’t conquered until much later in life, so should a medieval setting allow a player to succumb to the plague if they don’t take adequate care of themselves? Should developers penalize the players who don’t follow a healthy, rounded diet in a survival game? Sure, a historically accurate representation of the golden age of pirates would be brilliant fun, but it’s unlikely players want to keep an eye out for the signs of scurvy.

The Struggle Of Changing History

Many developers point out that there is a huge difficulty in claiming that your game is historically accurate; it is very easy to accidentally change the course of history. If you make a game centered around the second world war and claim it to be totally historically accurate, the moment you shoot down a plane that wasn’t shot down for real, you’ve changed history, or at least the timeline in your game. A game that is perfectly historically accurate would mean that the player cannot, in theory, make any decision, as a decision that wasn’t made historically would remove the accuracy of your game.

The Verdict

So, is historical accuracy important within video games? Yes, definitely, but not to the point that it totally alters the creative design of the game. Ultimately, games are made to be fun and to show the creativity and imagination of the designers and developers. Some players love hardcore historical accuracy to the point of added difficulty, whereas others prefer to explore the past without being caught up in it, being the hero of a timeline. Historical accuracy in historical games is important most when it comes to representing real events, important moments that have defined the course of human history. After all, video games do have the ability to teach people about a lot. But video games must be fun, and that fun should always aim to come first.


  1. If a game was historically accurate, I think it would feel like reliving events that you would already know the outcome of, which just isn’t that interesting. I think creativity and imagination is indeed important since it actually gives purpose to the audience. Even a game that’s more in the realm of “alternate history” would probably be captivating.

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