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Guardians of History: Britannica’s new choice-driven historical adventures

“When problems occur in history, we send you back in time to make sure history happens the way it is supposed to,” says Professor Wolf of Britannica’s new Guardians of History.

Your voice launches the immersive audio adventure that is one part Oregon Trail, one part Back to the Future, one part Choose Your Own Adventure, and one part classic radio theater.

Guardians of History players become Time Travel Agents to explore historical civilizations and learn about the characters and institutions that influenced them.

The free, choice-driven adventure is designed for all ages–both students and enthusiasts. A version is designed for players under 13. Time travel begins when you enable tell your smart speaker–Amazon Echo or Google Home, either Alexa, open Guardians of History,” or “OK Google, open Guardians of History.” And, if you are using a screen-enabled device like Echo Show, Echo Spot or Google Home Hub, you will be able to see supporting illustrations to enrich the story.

It’s perfect sandal weather. The first Guardians of History case, The Olympia Obstacles, asks HEROs (Historical Extraction and Reconstitution Operatives) to visit Ancient Greece to help young runner, Jason, repair mysterious Time Tears in order to win his destined Olympic victory in 424 BCE. Along the way, players engage with a variety of characters, objects, locations, and events in ancient Olympia in their attempt to help him win the race. From her theoretical space lab, Professor Wolf, founder and first Time Agent of the Britannica Preservation and Accuracy Department, will guide players to historical time tears cases to come using a chrono-catapult. Players will also meet BRITT, a Backpack Robotic Informational Temporal Technician, who functions as a trusty sidekick who can translate languages, provide critical information and is a personal hologram that wraps around and disguises players to ensure they blend in. Without her help, the integrity of history would collapse.

Each game will offer over 40 minutes of professionally recorded audio and may take around 20 minutes to complete depending upon the player’s choices. You can save and return to your game. The audio company is composed of professional audio fiction podcast talent as well as the synthetic voices of Alexa and BRITT.

I spoke with Ryan Bond, Britannica’s Director of Digital Consumer Products. He explained that the game uses a branching decision tree approach. But unlike, Oregon Trail, players will not die from dysentery, snake bites or drowning. Every choice is designed to take players through a supported learning experience focused on history, environment, and culture with historically accurate content compiled by editorial experts at Britannica.

During or after completing a mission, players receive codes to unlock mission files–subscription-based Britannica articles for three age levels. Note: While players are encouraged to sign up for a free three-month trial of Britannica (using a parent’s email address for children), a significant amount of selected free content enriching historical elements of the story is available by scrolling a little further down the page. These resources include primary sources and free ebooks.

Bond is excited about harnessing the increasing popularity of voice media, like podcasts and audiobooks, to engage audiences in learning through story. He believes parents are losing trust in media and proud that Britannica brings its trusted 250-year old brand into new learning landscapes. Bond is also interested in balancing the current pedagogical focus on STEM with a more A to Z approach that embraces a wide range of integrated learning experiences, including such disciplines as history, music, art, and sociology.

Noting that book reading is often a solitary experience, Bond sees the potential for the story series to be used at home with whole families participating in the action as a communal experience.

While Guardians of History is not specifically being developed for schools, I can see these interactive experiences used in classrooms or libraries to introduce a unit of study and the resources suggested used to support inquiry.

Look for many stories to come and possibly some transmedia features!

Complete the short survey to let the folks at Britannica know the sites to which you and your kiddos would like to travel to address the next Time Tears.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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