Ubisoft Built ‘Living Museums’ for Your History Class

7 reasons why teachers should use the educational versions of Assassin’s Creed in their classrooms

This past September, Ubisoft released their second educational game. The company advertises a video game “set in [a] meticulous recreation of Ancient Greece” that immerses learners in both its culture and environment. Ubisoft piloted their first ‘Discovery Tour’ game back in February 2018 in which learners could explore Ancient Egpyt. The games are considered ‘living museums’ and were designed with the help of historians to be educational versions of Ubisoft’s flagship game franchise, Assassin’s Creed.

A screenshot of Discovery Tour game-play featuring a young Amazigh boy riding a camel in Egypt.
A screenshot of Discovery Tour game-play featuring a young Amazigh boy riding a camel in Egypt.
This screenshot features a playable avatar in Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt (source).

For those unfamiliar with the Assassin’s Creed series, they are adventure games in which players become assassins in sci-fi and historical fiction settings. Between 2007 and 2018, Ubisoft released twenty-one Assassin’s Creed video games that have reached over 95 million unique players. While the Assassin’s Creed games revolve around combat gameplay, the Discovery Tour games replace the fighting with pure exploration. The games offer an opportunity for educators to immerse their students in the ancient societies discussed in history class. Here are seven reasons why teachers should consider purchasing a Discovery Tour.

This trailer shows scenes from Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt and explains the game’s origins.

Ubisoft considers these games to be ‘living museums.’ The tours around Ancient Egypt and Greece were designed by historians rather than game developers. Therefore, the game maps replicate ancient locations as accurately as possible.

But these games are more than just exploring a map. The immersive experience blends culture and mythology into history. Rather than simply focusing on the setting, Ubisoft also included anthropological and art history lenses through which a learner can explore Ancient Egypt and Greece.

A screenshot of the different Greek themes: cities, daily life, war, politics, philosophy, art, religion, and mythology.
A screenshot of the different Greek themes: cities, daily life, war, politics, philosophy, art, religion, and mythology.
These are the available themes in Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt (source).

According to Stephen Baer’s eLearning Industry article on game-based learning, game designers should consider their audience’s learning/playing styles. He breaks these styles down into Achievers, Explorers, and Socializers. And fortunately for educators using Discovery Tours, all three types of learners will find the games engaging.

  • Achievers will be drawn to the game’s unlockable features. In Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece, learners can “unlock 35 unique avatars and 15 mounts,” giving Achievers a progression signifier.
  • Explorers will enjoy the game’s freedom of movement and choice. The Discovery Tours have five themes each (e.g. mythology, daily life, famous cities) and hundreds of stations. The Ancient Greece game provides even more freedom to learners than the first game, encouraging exploration outside of the tours.
  • Socializers will enjoy the virtual interactions they will have with their tour guides. Although Discovery Tours are single-player games, learners will be guided by “charismatic historical or fictional characters.”

All educators know examinations are one of the most time-consuming aspects of instruction. Fortunately, Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece includes quizzes at the ends of tours to assess learner retention. Though this integrated testing is not included in the Egyptian version, educators can easily create tests based upon the vocabulary and content included in that version.

While many video games’ playable characters are limited to white males, Discovery Tour games allow learners to select from a list of diverse playable avatars. Between the two games, learners can play as women and men, and boys and girls. They can also choose avatars of diverse backgrounds including Amazigh, Egyptian, Roman, and Greek.

A screenshot of character selection, showing some of the different select-able avatars in the Egyptian version.
A screenshot of character selection, showing some of the different select-able avatars in the Egyptian version.
This screenshot shows some of the playable characters in Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt (source).

For learners of a different linguistic background, the game can be played in seven different languages (including Spanish and French). The menus, subtitles, and audio can all be changed.

Usually, Assassin’s Creed games are unsurprisingly violent and rated ‘Mature’ (for gamers 17 years and older). The popular game franchise focuses heavily on stealth combat and adventure. But Ubisoft designs historically accurate maps for these games and educators have asked them to release a game without the violence for educational purposes. Discovery Tour games are those games and, without combat, have a lower ESRB rating. Ancient Egypt has a ‘Teen’ rating and can be appropriate for high school students. Ancient Greece is rated ‘Everyone 10+’ and may be brought into middle school classrooms.

Educators subscribing to premium Learning Management Systems with gamification may be used to monthly pricing models. Even though Discovery Tours far exceed LMS games in quality, they can be available indefinitely through an affordable, one-time payment. While most Assassin’s Creed games cost $59.99 when first released, the Discovery Tours only cost $19.99. Now that the Ancient Egpyt game has aged some, its price on the Ubisoft store has dropped to $8. For the amount of content packed into these games and the high-quality depictions, this price is a steal. The Greece and Egypt versions can be purchased here and there respectively.

One drawback to the Discovery Tour games is their system requirements. The requirements aren’t particularly steep. As far as contemporary video games go, they’re actually not bad at all, especially for a personal laptop. But if your school’s computers are anything like mine were, you might have some trouble running Discovery Tours. Forward this link to your IT department (or person) to check if you can run the game and what you might need in order to do it.

Written by

Geospatial Analyst and RPCV, hoping to inspire people to care for each other and the natural world. The views expressed are my own.

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