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Canadian War Museum's newest exhibit explores war gaming and the impact on popular culture

Do you remember playing with toy soldiers as a kid? A friendly game of Battleship, Chess, or maybe you immersed yourself in the latest online 'first-person shooter' video games.

War Games, played by many, are also used by militaries around the world.

Now the Canadian War Museum presents its newest exhibition, called 'War Games.' It opens to the public at the museum in Ottawa on Friday.

"It’s a chance to get off the couch and try something that you can’t download and play at home; but also, to look at the long and international history about war and playing games," said Andrew Burtch of the Canadian War Museum.

War, play, and games have long and interconnected histories.  War has shaped the games people play, and militaries have used games for recruitment, planning and training.  

War Games, the newest exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum, explores the importance of gaming to military training and strategy, as well as the impact of conflict on games in popular culture.

Visitors can play and learn from games about war.

"The games that have been shaped by war, the people who have played in the hobby market and popular at-home games," Burtch said.

The exhibit also looks at ways in which militaries around the world have used games and game technology.

"The war games allow us to think, and they allow us to think in a way that we can take chances and we can take risk that we wouldn’t want to take on a battlefield or in a crisis situation. It allows us to play through different scenarios," Col. Christopher Horner of the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre tells CTV News Ottawa.

It’s not just about conflict on the battlefield.

"In 2020, I actually delivered a war game related to pandemic relief and CAF assistance in long-term care homes, vaccine rollout," says Brianna Proceviat, Canadian Joint Warfare Centre - War Game designer.

There are interactive displays, reproductions of historic war-games, strategy, simulations, artifacts, and even foreign games that represent other perspectives.

"The personal connection to history that this copy of the game provides is that its original owner, probably a German teenager, actually marked down British ships as they were sunk and turned over the card and put down the information about the U-Boat that sank it," David Steward-Patterson says.

Parts of his personal collection are on display.

"I’ve played war games since I was a kid because they’re good games, and often it’s about rewriting history. Hey, if I take on Napoleon, can I win the battle of Waterloo?"


If you're an online gamer, there's an entire section of the War Games exhibit devoted to war-themed video games and first-person shooter games like 'Wolfenstein 3D' and 'Call of Duty.'

"Often, when these games come out, their revenues can dwarf blockbuster films because they’re very, very popular," Burtch says.  "So, I think they’re a point of contact for people to come and talk about war and games. But I really hope people looking at the surrounding information can draw the lesson that we hope they do, which is war isn’t a game and the effects of these wars is quite dire."

The new War Games exhibit opens Friday at the Canadian War Museum, and runs until Dec. 31. Visitors are welcome to reserve their tickets online ahead of their visit. Top Stories

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