The prevalence of video games in our culture has gone from being a quarter-chewing pastime with friends at an arcade to the blue whale of subcultures with professional e-sports teams, ground-breaking technological development, and world-class story-telling that consistently out-performs Hollywood in both creativity and financials.
More and more, we’re beginning to see its potential for educational purposes as well. While video games have been teaching children to read and write, solve mathematical equations, and more since the 90s’, with the technological advancements of today, gaming companies have been able to take things a step further.
The wildly popular battle royal game “Fortnite” and its branch Fortnite Creative, have teamed up with Time Studios and created a way to experience history in ways you couldn’t by just learning about it from a textbook or watching a video. Their first project? The Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech, given in 1963 by the famous civil rights activist.
Players begin in a black void of nothingness with the exception of a Time Magazine cover in the distance, but you find that as you run toward the cover, it’s more of a portal than a piece of floating paper. As you run toward it, the voice of MLK is heard beginning his legendary speech and you soon find yourself in the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. There, on a big screen, you can see the man himself giving his speech.
Players can sit and watch the speech, but Fortnite developers included far more than that. If the player chooses to, he or she can take something of a civil rights tour around D.C. that features interactive games with historical facts. All the while, MLK’s speech can be heard in the background.
It’s a very creative way to educate both kids and adults on very important moments in history, especially that of civil rights activists like MLK. In today’s public schools, King’s message about civil rights has been largely perverted by political interests groups attempting to each kid’s critical race theory, which is the exact opposite of King’s teachings.
But while I like the creative aspect of it, and am excited to see gaming moving in this direction, there are parts of this interactive historical mini-game that can be cringe-worthy and even some that can be insulting.
Some of the interactive games are silly and others are just asking for trolls to ruin the moment. For instance, one mini-game has you jumping on “pillars of justice” in order to get to the top of the largest pillar. Another has you using an anti-gravity grenade to fly into the air to collect “orbs of power.” Another has you rolling a giant ball up a staircase with others, which is just asking for trolls to try to hit the ball off course, making you feel more like Sisyphus than a civil rights advocate. These mini-games do more to take away from the importance of the lessons than it does reinforce them.
What’s more, you’re given specific emotes you can use for the event, most of which are ridiculous. For instance, there’s an emote called “harmony” that allows your character to assume the “tree pose” yoga position. Another allows your character to do the “raise the roof” motion. It can make for awkward, if not hilariously dumb moments in the game.
While these are complaints, they’re relatively minor compared to the opportunities and potential this kind of interactive gameplay opens up. This mini-game will be the first time many kids hear MLK’s speech or hear Rosa Parks mentioned. Important moments like these are worth attention and hearing King’s speech in full would put racial equality in the perspective it was meant to be viewed in, instead of the way ideological extremists would like to teach it.
It would be great to see other important moments in history like this (save the weird mini-games within the mini-game) such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even the moon landing. In the meantime, learning about the civil rights movement, and where those who fought for real freedom and justice, are a great start.