Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the accuracy of Renowned Explorers: International Society, by Abbey Games. This game is an interesting case. While it does have its roots in history, it makes no pretense to be genuinely historical; however, I found the way in which it interprets history sufficiently interesting to justify a post regardless.
The background for this game is the age of exploration, in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. The Americas and most of the African coastline, as well as Asia, have been charted by Europeans, but besides the coastline mystery abounds. The game therefore makes liberal use of pop culture and historical references to populate its world with a variety of historical and semi-historical events and characters. One treasure which can be found in the game, for example, is King Kong (or an equivalent), who can then be brought back to Europe to be displayed. On a more historical note, the locales visited by the band of intrepid explorers controlled by the player include islands in the Caribbean (populated by smugglers) abandoned forts in Hungary, and the coast of West Africa, presenting an interesting mix of global locations.
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The aesthetic of the game, as can be seen from the above screenshot (and this clip), is distinctly cartoonish and childlike; the content, however, while hardly serious, does often include many historical stereotypes. The above-mentioned smugglers in the Caribbean are one example; the witch doctor who rules the village visited in West Africa is another. These stereotypes are interesting because, in many ways, they represent the opinions and beliefs held by Europeans about these areas well into the nineteenth century. Does this make representing these people and areas in such a stereotypical manner acceptable? Perhaps not, but the question is an interesting one nonetheless.
The characters included in the game are from a variety of European nationalities across the continent. The way in which they explore the areas they visit is practically indistinguishable from looting; however, historical European exploration and colonisation was often similarly indistinguishable (as the Elgin Marbles can attest to, to give a solely European example). The game could, perhaps, address the complicated legacy of European theft of “colonial” artifacts more directly; however, an expectation of this would almost certainly be holding such a game to far too high of a standard.
In summation, Renowned Explorers: International Society is a very amusing game, and certainly one which is well worth a try. Its look at history is, perhaps, flawed; it is regardless well worth examining. As in many cases, it is difficult to ascertain how one ought to feel about such use of historical stereotypes, but this game seems to do a decent job in that these stereotypes are contemporary to the setting of the game. If you are interested in history but are not necessarily looking for the more in-depth experience offered by Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis, this game may interest you. Regardless, it is a fascinating look at the ways in which modern pop culture interprets our historical legacy. Thank you for reading this post, and have a wonderful New Year!