Oct. 5th: Walking Tours and Video Games

Last week, we all went to downtown London and did last year’s historical walking tour to learn more about how walking tours work and get ideas for our own place-based historical project. I had never been on a walking tour before, so it was a really cool experience. We charted the course of the alleged cop-killer, Peg-Leg Brown, who had hopped trains from Georgetown to London. Instead of giving us all the answers, the tour gave us some facts from different sources, like the London Free Press and its liberal counterpart, the London Advertiser. The tour also got into the details behind his trial, questioning the evidence used against him that led to him being hanged. In the end, the tour challenged us to think differently about Peg-Leg Brown, and come to our own conclusions on whether we thought he was innocent or guilty. 

While I haven’t done this kind of historic walking tour before, I have been on various other kinds of tours. For example, I have done a few different types of guided tours at Old Fort Erie, which were similar in nature to the walking tour we went on. The guided tours involved walking around to different sections of the fort and hearing information on the fort’s history, the day-to-day lives of the people on the fort, and, of course, the War of 1812. I was also involved in the Niagara Falls History Museum’s cemetery tours last year, which involved guided tours and portrayals of both well-known and lesser-known people involved in the War of 1812. Like the walking tour, both of these tours worked to challenge the typical way of thinking about certain aspects of history. Old Fort Erie had female soldiers who would talk about how women would dress up as and pretend to be men so they could fight in the war (I remember my guide explaining the situation as being similar to Disney’s Mulan for some of the younger kids in the tour). Likewise, the cemetery tours also portrayed the story of a young girl with many brothers, who pretended to be a boy in order to join a fife and drum corps. I felt like these tours did a good job of making me, and the general public, more aware of the lesser known stories of the War of 1812. Afterwards, I felt challenged to question my assumptions about history, and I hope that the public had a similar attitude.

Since this past class involved discussing video games in digital public history, I also wanted to talk about my experience with the “Discovery Tour” mode of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Before actually starting a tour, I was already learning about the Ancient Greeks. While the game is loading, you are able to scroll through a number of quick facts on Ancient Greece, such as the kinds of goods found at markets, or when and where certain battles were. After it loads, you are able to start one of the many tours offered, which Ubisoft emphasizes were curated with the help of historians. The first tour I did was on the Athenian Acropolis, and I found the form was very similar to a real walking tour. Each tour gives you a path to the next stop, where a narrator will talk to you, offering you more information to read and a picture of an artifact (much like the guidebook we got with the Peg-Leg Brown tour). The tour involved a number of facts on people involved in making the Acropolis, and others who were important for Athens during this time-period. While this tour involved more fact-based learning (ie hearing about the specific people of Athens, what they did, when they lived, etc.), a different tour, one on women in Ancient Greece, was more complicated. This tour involved an interesting look at the historiography of ancient Greek women, making note of how certain things were poorly documented for women compared to men, like the idea of playing outside; the tour mentions how Ancient Greek boys would often play outside, and this is depicted often in writing or art, while the same is depicted very rarely for the girls, even though they were known to do the same. Overall, I found the “Discovery Tour” section of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey very intriguing. Even though I only did a couple of tours, I found them both to be very interesting. The first involved the recreation of amazing buildings and statues now lost or in ruins, accompanied with information on them, while the second tried to offer some interesting and lesser known facts about Ancient Greek women.

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