About Past/Present

Click here to watch Anna Caruso's Story or Walter Armbruster's Story on Vimeo.

Imagine a learning experience where players are thrust into the everyday hustle and bustle of life in America a century ago. That's what happens in Past/Present, a fully realized interactive 3-D "virtual world" in which a player "becomes" a fictional character, or "avatar", who is caught up in the big issues of the early 1900s. Players can choose to become either Anna Caruso, an immigrant weaver at the Boylston Mill in the fictional New England town of Eureka Falls, or Walter Armbruster, a native-born middle-manager at the same factory. Both Anna and Walter are confronted with financial pressures and the threat of labor unrest, and players have to shape their responses to the challenges of the era.

What is Past/Present?

Past/Present is an immersive computer game designed to impart decision-making and critical thinking skills in the study of American history. The game tells the story of four days in the life of a fictional mill town in 1906. Players can 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.

What makes Past/Present special?

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 painted in black and white but in 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.

Which age groups is the game suitable for?

The game is designed for the middle-school years, and has been shown to have 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.

How is the game played?

Past/Present can be installed and played on any Windows or Mac machine that meets our minimum technical requirements and has an internet connection. The game is single-player, meaning that only one person can play at a time per machine. The player navigates an avatar through an elaborate 3D virtual world and makes decisions that affect their character's life and family. The game remembers the player's progress on the server, which means it can be resumed from any computer with an internet connection.

What is the cost to play?

Past/Present is offered free of charge.

How complicated is the game to learn?

Past/Present takes place in a richly-imagined virtual world with many incidental characters and various quests and mysteries to solve. Nevertheless, it has been designed with a quick learning curve that does not require a lot of prior gaming experience. Information is presented in both written and aural form to appeal to players with different learning styles.

How long does it take to play?

Although playing speed may vary, Past/Present offers at least four hours of gameplay if played all the way through once.

I'm a teacher. How do I use Past/Present in my classroom?

Please see our Teachers' Pages for detailed lesson plans and supporting materials, as well as some Quick Answers to questions you may have about the game.

Watch full scenes of Past/Present being played.

More clips can be found on the video page.

Experience two different points of view

Immerse yourself in the past

Solve mysteries

Test your work skills