Video games – a digital tourism?

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“Dude, Venice looks exactly like Assassin’s Creed 2!”. This is what a friend who returned from a trip to Italy told me. The fact that she visited the place makes her a tourist. Does “playing it” makes me a tourist? I’m convinced that you already know a lot about video games. Like…, do you know that in the last 20-30 years, the variety of genres became much larger?

Today we’ll be talking about Role-Playing Games (RPGs), First Person Shooters (FPSs), Turn-Based Strategy Games (TBSG), Action-Adventure Games (AAA), Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and the list goes on.

In 2018, the global gaming industry produces $135 billion. Just a little more than half the GDP of a smaller country like Romania in 2017 ($211.8 billion). In other words, the gaming industry is profitable.

I don’t know about your parents, but mine were never fond of video games. The truth is that I grew up with titles like Captain Claw, Tarzan, Hercules, Spider-Man, Counter-Strike, World of Warcraft, Need for Speed, etc.

They liked that I was socializing and becoming more competitive (in online games) or I was developing my attention and reaction speed. Are we actually fooling anyone?

I was spending so much time connected back then that these benefits were not moving them at all. And they were right! I couldn’t get educational value from anywhere.

After I growing a bit older, I realized that there were a lot more types of video games then I knew. New franchises were flooding my “computer”.

In the past few years, technological progress was hand in hand with the artists’ and developers’ talent. Games have reached a stage that allows for the true recreation of geographical spaces, historical periods and the characteristic atmosphere of the time and space.

Going back to Assassin’s Creed 2

This game features modeled Italian cities from the 14th century like Florence, Venice, Forli, and San Gimignano. Last spring I visited Nisa, a city from France, by bus, and I crossed for the first time the North of Italy.

By looking at the hills and villages with churches built in a romantic fashion, I remembered how I was riding on a horse through the same villages. This how I knew I could trust her when she told me about Venice.

AC2 and Italy are not the only ones we can experience. We are talking about a franchise that also explores: The Carrabians during the age of pirates, Constantinople  (Istanbul) from the 15th century, the Holy Land during the crusades, Paris in 1789, London in 19th century, the Independence War and many more.

Grand Theft Auto series (GTA)

There are many titles, for everyone’s taste, that place you at different times and locations. Even the Grand Theft Auto series (GTA), that we usually play for fun in its purest form.

Within it, you’ll find an exact replica of Los Angeles (named Los Santos in GTA V) and New York City (called Liberty City in GTA IV). The Watch Dogs series carries you around Chicago and San Francisco, both based on real cities.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

This game was launched almost two years ago on the PS4. It allows you to walk around Manhattan from the perspective of one of our childhood. I’m not saying you couldn’t do that in older titles, but the current technology represents the American metropolis in a more realistic way.

Battlefield and Call of Duty series

More known for their online component rather than the narrative one. It puts in the shoes of soldiers from all over the globe and at different times.

I will never forget Call of Duty: World at War. The moment you put the soviet flag on the German Reichstag building in Berlin. Obviously, this game is featuring World War II.

I will also never forget the time when Battlefield 1 puts you in the body of pigeon message carrier, sent by British soldiers to fl towards the base. He has a message that contains the coordinates of the commander tied to his feet. Looking up, you see the sky, and down, the sound of World War I. Far Cry series, even though it is based on fictional locations, it respects the climate, traditions and the place’s atmosphere.

You’ll see, between other things, South-West Asian isles, the Himalaya mountain, even a world based on Montana state from the USA. Tomb Raider and Uncharted are two other franchises that carry you around dozens of places, from Amazonia to a fictive island from the Japanese archipelago.

Ok, I listed so many titles, but is it exactly like this?

Are video games realistic enough that you can consider yourself some kind of digital tourist? I won’t give an answer, but I will mention two things: Assassin’s Creed Origins is a representation of Ancient Egypt from the 40-50 BCE.

It was used in the National Geographic Museum from Washington. This exposition ended on September 15th, 2019 though, so you can’t visit it anymore.

Do you remember Notre-Dame Cathedral’s fire? Assassin’s Creed Unity will be used as a digital model for its reconstruction.

The artists worked for one year before the game’s launch, back in 2014. Of course, video games, in my opinion, should be complementary used with the knowledge you get from school, books, and documentaries. It’s the only way you can experiment the subject in a robust way.

Usually, video games have some limitations (usually technic) or some artistic visions of the director, that can ruin its accuracy.

Sure, you should also see the place in person. For me, it is a pleasure to play the games, then to go there and make comparations, or the other way around. I came from a trip to Austria, where I visited Hitler’s house from the Berchtesgaden Alps. I started to remember scenes from Battlefield, Call of Duty or Wolfenstein.

In 2019, we can say gaming isn’t that expensive.

Most of us have a TV with HDMI, a decent screen, a PC or maybe even a console. If you’re thinking about buying something and you don’t exactly know what, I recommend you a console (even though I personally prefer playing games on my PC).

It’s said that this year will bring for us the next generation of consoles, with the prices of the actual PS4 and Xbox being lower, and they will continue to decrease.

Many of my friends went to Greece last summer. One of my classmates went to Creta Island, someone went to Halkidiki and another one to Zakynthos and Thessaloniki. I’m still on holiday so I can say that I’m satisfied with visiting Greece in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

In September, last year, a new mode, Discovery Tour, for AC Odyssey was released.

There, history is explained to us by a narrator from the game. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll go to Greece in person, those games really made me curious…

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