Most of us who play video games have often daydreamed about being offered college courses for our favorite games. That dream has now become a reality for the students at University of Arizona. Microsoft has formed a partnership with the institute that will allow students to earn credit towards their degree for playing Age of Empires IV.
The degree credit can be earned through the University of Arizona Illuminated History Experience course that is now being offered to all current and future on-site and University of Arizona Online students. Credit will be awarded for engaging with "special educational content" available when playing the game. Microsoft says that this content will supplement the campaign experience and will also enable students to learn more about historical eras, outside of the game.
The course is being pioneered by Associate Professor of Medieval History Paul Milliman and Associate Professor of Roman History and Department Head Alison Futrell, who both appear to be passionate gamers in their joint interview with Microsoft. Milliman says that:
In recent years, so many of the best students I’ve worked with are gamers. They are researching historical events while they are playing these historical events in games, so I wanted to meet these gamer-historians where they are meeting history and show them some of the wonderful places they can go online to do their own historical research. As Age of Empires IV says, I wanted to teach them how to make history their story.
Futrell echoed similar sentiments, stating that:
The short documentaries alongside the enriched game play were fantastic! Yay archeology! As a former archeologist, I really appreciated the depth and tangibility those presentations brought to the dynamic ‘you are there’ quality of AoE IV. Many ways to understand what’s going on! With the special course, we’re adding different kinds of challenges to enhance what gamers have already experienced.
Age of Empires IV was reviewed by Neowin's News Editor Pulasthi Ariyasinghe, who gave it a glowing 9/10 review. It will be interesting to see if academic teaching via video games will lead to increased engagement and interest from students and if this opens doors for other similar endeavors too. As the old adage goes, perhaps it is time to git gud.