What can we learn about U.S. History from Assassin’s Creed III?

Jeffrey Simons

By Jeffrey Simons

True story: I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how easy and convenient it is to take college courses online with StraighterLine, and that for some courses that have lots of reading from textbooks, like U.S. History, it might even be better online.

And my friend, who is a big gamer, said, “Yeah, I get all my history online. I’m learning about the Revolutionary War right now.”

I said I didn’t know he was taking online history classes, and he said, “No, stupid, Assassins Creed 3. I learned about WWII from Call of Duty. And the Civil War from Gettysburg.” And then he laughed and drank another sip of his Sam Adams. (And no, I did not ask him if he was learning anything about the American Revolution from his beer.)

But it got me thinking. People have often “learned history” from popular culture. For most people, the only knowledge they have of the settling of the American west comes from TV and movies. Same for the 60s and Vietnam, World War II, or even the Civil War. Right now, I’ll bet there are plenty of people out there who think they know about the Civil War because they saw Lincoln at the movies.

Since I didn’t know anything about Assassins Creed 3, I decided to check it out. This version of the popular computer game franchise is set in the American Revolution. The story, as far as I can tell, features a half-English, half-Mohawk assassin named Connor who is fighting the Templars in their attempt to take control of America. (I am not making this up!) You can explore colonial Boston and New York, as well as Lexington, Concord, Charleston and the frontier, with side trips to Philadelphia and the Caribbean. You can even meet George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams and Paul Revere.

But do you actually learn any history? You learn how to kill people with a tomahawk, and a musket, and a bow and arrow. And you do get a computer-animated tour of colonial America. You can spend 20-30 hours playing the campaigns, and an unlimited amount of time playing online. And it only costs you $39.99.

Hmmm. $39.99. For an additional $9.01 and about 10 hours more of your time, you can take United States History I online at StraighterLine. Sure, it may not be as much fun as eviscerating a Red Coat with a bayonet, but you can earn 3 credits towards your college degree.

And believe it or not, our online college courses like U.S. History I have some things in common with Assassin’s Creed. First of all, they’re both self-paced, so you can take as long as you want to finish them. You can study when you want, and if something more interesting comes along, just save your work and take a break. Just like you can save a game. They’re both online, so you can do them anywhere, as long as you have a laptop. (For the sake of this comparison, we’re talking about the PC and Mac versions of the game, of course, not Xbox.) If you need help with our course, you have access to online tutoring. Kind of like if you need help with AC3, you can go online to get cheats and codes. Okay, well, maybe the analogy is starting to break down a bit.

But the point is, for not much more money and time than you’d spend on a historically based computer game playing history, you can actually learn history, and earn real college credits for doing it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking games. Games are important. (I, myself, have been known to unwind with an hour of Civilization III or Heroes of Might and Magic now and again. Best computer games ever!) But they have their place and their time.

You can play all the Oregon Trail, Assassin’s Creed III and American Civil War: Gettysburg you want, and they’re not going to get you one credit closer to your college degree. Brothers in Arms is not going to help you pass the US History AP test or a CLEP test or other history credit-by-exam. And when you go for a job interview, unless you’re applying to Electronic Arts, I can pretty much guarantee you nobody is going to ask what your high score on Call of Duty 2 was.

But if you take online college courses like U.S. History I, United States History II or American Government at StraighterLine, there’s one thing I can guarantee: You’ll save so much time and money getting your college degree that you’ll be able to afford all the computer games you want.

In fact, this Memorial Day weekend, instead of sitting around playing games, why don’t you sign up for history and humanities courses at StraighterLine? We’re still having our Summer Special, where if you sign up for two courses, you get your third course free. If you want to save the most on your college degree, you can’t afford to pass up historical savings like this. But hurry… the Summer Special ends May 31st.

NOTE: Free course has a $49 value. Use code SMR13 at checkout
Jeffrey Simons has been in advertising since the mid-1980s, when faxes were “new technology” and portable computers were the size of suitcases. Now, as Storyteller-in-Chief for his own social media consultancy, JL Simons Marketing & Advertising Consulting, he gets to tell true stories to interested readers for deserving brands.

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