In short, I played a 1994 edutainment game that makes a statement that I am completely unable to prove or even support (I can provide more details if requested). I haven't seen the game get anything outright, 100% wrong; at most, it plays around with when events happened so that they can be presented to the players more neatly, or it makes an anachronistic joke for a cheap laugh. At the same time, it's obviously not the most reliable source, so I'm wondering if it would be a waste of time if I asked anything that stemmed from this game.


If you're aware that the source is dubious (and you make that clear in the question) that would seem to be reasonable grounds to question the truth of the statement. I would add that you'd be expected to show some preliminary research beyond the game, i.e. you've checked Wikipedia, done a Google search and they don't yield an obvious answer.

A dubious source is really only a problem if you're relying on it to prop up an argument. So if you asked a question with a certain historical premise and the only support for that premise was a edutainment game of questionable value then you might find people downvoting or voting to close.

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    I have done my own research, going through Wikipedia articles and trying every reasonable combination of search terms I can think of, and since I ended up with jack and squat, I came here. Aug 28 '17 at 20:13
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    Adding to this answer, note that there's a Skeptics SE that, for the most part, is about assessing information from potentially dubious sources. Depending on the question the Skeptics SE may be a better fit. Aug 29 '17 at 19:33

The question sounds interesting, and I would like to see it asked. However, beware that it may get voted down. If you're thick-skinned enough to live with that, ask it. Sometimes even bad questions generate good answers.

One caveat: we get a lot of people here asking questions like 'I read in the stormer that Jews control the weather and started the hurricaine to collect insurance money. Can anyone prove this isn't true?' As long as your question isn't like that, ask it.

  • I think it already has been asked.
    – Steve Bird
    Sep 4 '17 at 14:07
  • @SteveBird Yep, it's that one. Sep 4 '17 at 23:01

The problem I have with "historical" questions based on games of this kind is that the purpose of the game is primarily entertainment, with "history" (and historical accuracy, way down on the list of priorities. The likely result is that history is likely to get bent or twisted for the sake of the game. That is to say that the game might contain "some" elements that are suggested or inspired by "history" without coming close enough to the actual facts to the be accurate. The danger is that games, and questions based on games, are likely to introduce "false facts." that "pass" as "history," thereby misleading, rather than educating, players.

The one game featured a boy who could look into the future and see that his potential career paths branched into 1) the "King of England" or 2) a "scientist" who was a disciple of Faraday. The resulting question was, which boy does this "best" describe. The answer was Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria. The problem is that it introduces several inaccuracies. 1) "Prince Consort of England is no the same as "king" (close, but no cigar). 2) Albert was not a "scientist," only a sponsor of science, but the member of the royal family most likely to do this. 3) Michael Faraday never gave a Christmas lecture in 1831, and Albert would have met him in a much later year.

Here's another example: There is a World War II game, Allies and Axis, where the Allies have a clear advantage, but the Axis can win if they "get lucky" with the dice. One might ask, is this game an accurate representation of the war? Did the Axis actually have a 1-in-10 or 1-in-5 chance of winning the war as of spring, 1942? Answer: No, because in the game, the U.S. has only one-third or so of its historical capacity, enough to make the allies favorites, but not enough to "guarantee" allied Victory.

This is the kind of "history" I would rather not deal with on this site.

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    I understand your reluctance with allowing video games as official sources, but I think that the key difference with the game I cited is that it's supposed to be educational and genuinely teach its players about history. Granted, the specific game I cited is a rather poor example of this, but beyond the initial absurd premise of time travel to contrive a reason for visiting the historical settings, its content is supposed to be factual and is presented to its players as such. It's the difference between Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor and National Geographic's Pearl Harbor Legacy of Attack. Sep 6 '17 at 2:06
  • @Reversinator: No, the games are not "factual," even though they are "based on facts." They don't get things 100% wrong, only 50% wrong. There are times when the glass being "half full" is good enough. This is not one of them, IMHO. There is no such thing as "half history."
    – Tom Au
    Sep 6 '17 at 7:39
  • Pardon, but I'm genuinely not sure what you're talking about. Sep 6 '17 at 15:58
  • @Reversinator:The "facts" that are presented in games are not 100% correct. For instance, the Allies' chances of winning World War II were much higher than presented in the game that featured America at 1/3 strength. So teaching people that America was barely stronger than Nazi Germany (in the game), and that the Allies were only 2-to 1 or 3-to-1 favorites to win is probably counterproductive.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 6 '17 at 16:02
  • Axis & Allies is not an educational game. It is a board game designed purely for entertainment. There's a difference between using James Cameron's Titanic as a source and using James Cameron's Ghost of the Abyss as a source. Sep 6 '17 at 18:09
  • @Reversinator: A game that "plays around with when events happened so that they can be presented to the players more neatly" is not history. The only real question you could ask about a game is that if it is historically accurate. For instance, "Is Allies and Axis historically accurate when it presents America as barely stronger than Nazi Germany and gives the Axis a chance of winning of 1 in 5 or better?" (Answer, no. America was at least twice as strong as Nazi Germany after counting German-controlled Europe,and the Allies' chances of losing, while non-zero, were much less than one in five)
    – Tom Au
    Oct 14 '17 at 15:27

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