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1956 Educational Computer Game Launched in Budapest
The Best History Book You'll Ever Play

By Tamas S. Kiss

Diplomacy & Trade Magazine, October 2006

Hungarian students are spending more time on computers than o0n reading history textbooks and the legacy of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution may remain just a story for them even though loads of books and films have appeared on the subject.

Andrea Lauer, a second generation Hungarian living in the US, recently launched a historically-accurate educational computer game entitled Freedom Fighter 56! (FF56! - see www.FreedomFighter56.com).

“My mother (Edit Lauer, President of the Hungarian-American Coalition) was a '56-er and I grew up hearing stories of the revolution from my grandparents,” she told Diplomacy and Trade before the official launch. “My grandfather was a walking encyclopedia and always told us amazing stories of how people decided to escape, how they became involved in the battles, received news and found bread. Other stories included 10-year-old-kids smearing jam on tank windows and overturning soup bowls so that tank crews thought they were mines and bailed out.

“I felt like nobody knew these small stories that really embodied this modern day David versus Goliath struggle,” she said adding that the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution is a phenomenal opportunity for Hungary and Hungarians to publicize these amazing stories of bravery, creativity and ingenuity that legends are made of, to the rest of the world.

To get the story out to the rest of the next generation, Lauer decided to develop an educational tool with a group of professionals in California. “The ides is to give students a taste of what 1956 was really about and excite them to interactively 'step into' the revolution,” she said. The goal is that once they have learned about it in the game, they will continue to do their own research on the revolution.

Lauer spent five years researching the learning habits of the next generation of e-learners at IBM, realizing that her son Miklos may never know a day in his life without using and manipulating multimedia. Lauer partnered with Szociograf, a market research firm based in Pecs, Hungary) to carry out a detailed survey in which they interviewed 705 high school students and 4 history teachers.

The survey indicated “some confusion” among students and teachers about what happened after World War 2 in Hungary. “We found that over 20% of teenagers did not learn about 1956 in school and of the 80% who did, some thought that Lajos Kossuth (Hungarian leader of the tragic 1848 Hungarian War of Independence) and Joseph Stalin (who died in 1953) were both involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution,” she said.
Lauer reviewed eight school textbooks that Hungarian history teachers can assign to students and found that one textbook had “maybe three pages,” while another had 50 on the subject. Lauer says, “In high school, students spend maybe a maximum of five hours on 1956, a very sort time for such a significant event, not only in Hungarian history but in world history.”

Lauer says these statistics gave her “more ammunition” to create her alternative teaching method. The new game is developed to be very engaging so that kids spend a couple of hours where they step into the revolution and learn about the events. “I want this game to go global, so no matter where people are, they can learn about 1956,” she said, explaining how the educational game received an overwhelming response at the Sziget Festival this summer in Budapest where 75% of the 300 or so kids a day who sat down to play the game, were not even Hungarian.

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