I created a mod a couple of years ago in Civ IV covering the world in 1492 and conquest of the Aztecs by Cortes for a course taught by Ed Webb on empires. Overall, I was extremely happy with capabilities offered by games. Virtually all of the variables within Civ IV regarding civics, technology, religion, demographics and foreign relations can be altered to create a historic scenario. That being said, even a complicated game such as Civ IV is still a great simplification. However, having students play the game then critique its short comings gave them a great opportunity for goal oriented research and critical analysis. In this case, the center piece this analysis was the book, “The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other” by Tzvetan Todorov which emphasizes the importance of the “belief systems”, a variable not included in the mod. The other principle factor was the role disease played in weakening the Aztec forces.
My only regret was that I didn’t have the students create the mod themselves. When all was said and done, I’m pretty sure I learned the most about the both the Aztecs and Europe during the time period. Everything from the relative size of the Iroquois, the collapse of the Mayan Empire, the lingering effect of the plague on European populations, and the cultural/religious within Europe and North Africa had to be researched. The students were let off rather easily in comparison.
Anyone interested in playing the mod can download it here. Keep in mind, that my mod was actually a modification of an existing mod. Credits and resources are referenced in the ReadMe file. Finally, for those interested in creating their own mods, we’ve published our notes on the modding Civ IV workshops during the NITLE sponsored conferencing on gaming at Dickinson College. The introduction to modding is here while the hands on worksheet for creating your first mod is here.