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World War II-Themed Video Game Teaches Kids

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As one of the tour guides for our “Behind the Lines” tours, I’m consistently surprised by the knowledge of World War II hardware that our youngest guests possess. One of the tour’s highlights is a hands-on familiarization with the Infantry weapons used by the United States, Germany, Britain, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Usually, I can’t even get the weapons lockers open all the way before these kids are shouting, “Oh, oh, that’s a Thompson, that’s a Garand, oh and there’s my favorite, the B-A-R!” As I hand the weapons to these twelve-year olds, I see their eyes light up, and I ask, “Where did you learn about these weapons?” to which I receive the nearly universal reply, “Oh, I play Call of Duty!”

I have to admit I’m a rather big fan of the World War II-based first-person shooter myself, so I played the latest World War II based title in the “Call of Duty” series, “Call of Duty, World at War.” The game’s plot alternates between the 1st Marine Division’s Island-hopping campaign across the Pacific and the Soviet Army’s drive across Eastern Europe, exposing the player to historically based battles with historically accurate weapons and vehicles at their command. Game play is interspersed with archival footage of the actual battles it recreates along with a very well done dialogue that accurately describes the battle the player is about to experience, but in a fresh, present- tense kind of a way.

I realize violence in video games is a rather controversial subject, but I’m of the opinion that in the context of Infantry combat in World War II, violence is certainly necessary. War and warriors have always drawn the attention and admiration of little boys through the ages, and will continue to do so. I know a large portion of my childhood was filled with recreating scenes from movies like “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, with my little green plastic army men, or pretending to be Sgt. Stryker as the neighborhood kids and I played “War” outside after school.  But now, little boys can literally look through John Wayne’s eyes, and learn about elements of World War II that I could never have imagined as a child. And they are learning, the popularity of these games has spawned a spin-off tour here at the museum, labeled as the “Call of Duty” tour, which is a shortened version of the “Behind the Lines” tour that just covers infantry weapons.

This post by The National WWII Museum Curator Larry Decuers.

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One Response to “World War II-Themed Video Game Teaches Kids”

Terry Lay says:

Hi Larry just read your article, found it very interesting as i have watched my son from early days playing some of these games, but also reading books on the weapons. The great thing as well is he has now taken it to the next level by being involved with the 2nd Guards rifle division, a UK Russian group which he has been with for 6 years since we first met them when he was 7 lol.
His knowledge has grown, his favourite subject is History and this term in school he will be studying ww11, and his ambition is to be involved with teaching History, hopefully we will get a visit to your great museum sometime.
Best wishes from the uk
Terry & Trent Lay

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