Age of Empires is a reality-based game of strategy set in historical periods. Games are organized by historical periods and regions such as the Stone Age, or Ancient Empires, or Colonization of North America. The game scenarios provide historical data about the relevant geography, economy, politics, culture, and military so players can make informed decisions during play. The site also offers videos and fact sheets describing additional information about the civilization or the scenario in the game. The objective of the game is to lead a civilization through various stages. As the leader, the player must make critical decisions that will advance progress for the people by keeping them safe, feeding them, and providing shelter. Poor decisions result in the decline of the civilization. A stats board tracks the success of players. Finally, Age of Empires provides community forums for players to interact about game play. Steinkuehler and Duncan (2008) found that game forums provide useful avenues for social knowledge construction in which players use evidence to support arguments, persistence to prove a point, and create relationships around shared goals. All of these skills are advantageous to learning!
Age of Empires could be a fun learning opportunity for students in a history class. If the students are studying the military campaigns of the Romans, they could engage in play on Age of Empires to experience the complex factors that contribute to military efforts in times of war.
Steinkuehler, C. & Duncan, S. (2008) Scientific habits of mind in virtual worlds. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 17(6), 530-543.