Created in partnership with the Center for New American Media and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Past/Present is an immersive computer game designed to foster decision-making and critical thinking skills in those studying American history. The game tells the story of four days in the life of a fictional New England mill town in 1906. Players choose to be either an immigrant female mill-worker or a native-born male mill manager. Both characters must deal with labor strife as well as earn money to support their families.
In Past/Present, players encounter multiple points of view. For instance, there are two newspapers in Eureka Falls, one a corporate booster and one that agitates for labor. Characters the player meets reflect clashing worldviews, from a fiery socialist vegetable peddler to the mill’s watchman, a loyal company man. Players will come to understand that history is not black and white but infinite shades of grey. In the multi-layered storytelling that is at its core, Past/Present reminds us of the need for complexity in our understanding of the human condition.
The game focuses on middle school based on research that confirms Past/Present’s special appeal to kids between 10 and 15. However, players from other age groups, including adults, can enjoy Past/Present’s different layers of sophistication. Students, parents, and educators interested in the game can play it for free on this website.