AoE Official November 19, 2021
UArizona history faculty members developed educational content for the popular strategy game. Students from UArizona can earn university credits by engaging with the content. HTML3_ A unique partnership between the University of Arizona and Microsoft’s World’s Edge Studio and Relic Entertainment will allow students from UArizona to “make history their own story” and earn college credit.
Starting in early 2022, Age of Empires IV players will be able to interact with special educational content at ageofempires.com; this content, which seeks to supplement the historical storytelling found in the Age of Empires IV campaign, was developed by two members of the University of Arizona Department of History – associate professor of medieval history Paul Milliman and department head Alison Futrell, an associate professor of Roman history. Based on their admission status to the University of Arizona, players could earn one academic credit by engaging with the special content.
The idea of creating lessons using a new framework and giving the public an opportunity to interact in a dynamic way with this material was very exciting. Futrell stated that Microsoft’s involvement gave the project credibility and energy. “One of my fields of research is actually the way in which the ancient past has been revisited in different kinds of media in more recent times, specifically in performance and in movies, but also novels and advertisements and things like that.”
Age of Empires IV is the first brand-new entry to the franchise since 2005 for the popular game franchise, which had its first title release in 1997. The newest version allows players to enjoy 4 distinct campaigns with 35 missions that span across 500 years of history from the Dark Ages up to the Renaissance. The campaign is not the only feature of the game. 8 different civilizations are available for online multiplayer or against the AI.
In Early 2022, entry to the “University of Arizona enhanced experience” will be spotlighted in the game’s Community Tab and will guide players to ageofempires.com where they’ll find an onboarding portal, including required steps for receiving college credit, as well as accompanying modules called “Illuminated Histories,” written by Futrell and Milliman. This content was created to complement the campaign mode. It offers four story-based campaigns that are based on key moments in the medieval period. These include the Norman conquest of England; the Hundred Years War between England & France; the expansion of Mongol Empire and Moscow’s quest to become a superpower.
Milliman, Futrell appear in brief introduction videos that tie together all campaign content. After completing the four campaign story points, players can take an online assessment of the UArizona content they have learned. One credit hour will be awarded to players who pass the assessment. This credit will be used for admission to UArizona. College credit is only received upon successful admission to UArizona; however, the supplementary content on ageofempires.com is free to be enjoyed by all. As with many college courses, there are required materials. As with many college courses, there are required materials. Prospective students must have access to the Age of Empires IV on Steam, Microsoft Store or with subscriptions for Xbox Game Pass for PC and Ultimate. All players will need an Xbox Live account to log in to the game. The idea for the partnership came about more than two years ago when UArizona’s Kara Aquilano Forney, executive director of corporate initiatives and business development for Arizona Online, connected with Will McCahill, business lead at Microsoft’s World’s Edge game studio.
“Will and I began discussing a collaboration utilizing the Age of Empires platform as a way to expand learning opportunities and enhance the user experience for game players,” Forney said. “I approached the history department and called it serendipity, or fate. But when I found out that we had two gamers professors and one was a medievalist it sealed the deal. We had discussions before COVID, which set us back over a year. But now we’re finally at a point where we can announce the partnership, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
“The Age of Empires franchise has been building a community of history enthusiasts since its inception. McCahill stated that Age of Empires IV was the latest installment. “The teams at World’s Edge, Relic and Relic decided to increase their focus on “Humanized History”, which allows players to experience real historical events through gaming. “University partnership wasn’t our initial goal but the first time I played the campaign, it sparked a 20+ minute conversation about the Normans with our narrative designer. This was something I knew we had to put in front of students. Kara and the U of A History team were crucial partners in that realization. “I’m excited, and I think students are pleasantly surprised by the unique approach to learning History.”
Faculty members Milliman & Futrell hope that the first credit earned through playing the game will also be a step towards many players pursuing a history degree at UArizona.
” I’m creating a course specifically for those who have played the game and are interested in attending the university. Millman stated that it will assist them in their transition from gamers to students. I’m going to give a different version for students who are already here. However, this will make online students more familiar with historical research and the life of a university student. There will not be textbooks or tests. It will be project-focused and based on the experiences they had playing the game with our additional content.”
More information, including steps required to take part, will be shared on the Age of Empires website when the UArizona content becomes available next year.
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