Serious Gaming

I want to thank you guys again for recommending Total War. In addition to being entertaining, I've learned so much about things that I have read about repeatedly, but never really understood--stuff like ranks and marching and high ground. I just took out France. I'm playing as England and (for obvious reasons) can't wait till I unlock the Moors. I'm about to knock out the Milanese out the box next.


I don't want to go back on this Obama piece again, but I think this is why when I hear people denigrate video games, it pisses me off. Something like Total War has greatly enhanced my understanding of the Civil War. I re-watched Glory the other day, and it changed how I looked at the battle scenes.  It's little stuff, like actually seeing someone marching at the quick-step or double time, as opposed to reading it. There's no other way to convey it without experiencing it. 

Which leads me to something else--politics almost certainly prevent it, and it would have to be done right, but I would love to see some knowledgeable people tackling the black experience through gaming. I know The Scramble For Africa is shameful to a lot of us, as is the slave trade, and much of the Diaspora experience. 

But I don't know if I'm getting shallower as I get older, but I've come to reject the tragic interpretation of the black experience, to feel that there is something magical and epic about the whole thing. I think about that scene in in Drew Faust's incredible This Republic Of Suffering, where black soldiers, having lost Andre Callioux, take to reconjuring his spirit, in order to inspire them to go out and fight. What is magical if not Harriet Tubman and the mythology of the Underground Railroad? There's a part in WoW where Sylvanus literally tells your party that they must "free the slaves." Now she means that literally in terms of the game, but when I heard that, of course I heard something else.

I know this won't happen anytime soon--no gaming company would risk it. But there's a lot of juice out there. I'd love to see a Total War type game, that seriously took on the Civil War, for instance. With slavery included. But one reason why it won't happen because "serious people" believe games to be idle time. Any game that engaged the black experience would be immediately accused of trivializing it.

The Moors will have to do.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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