History Channel's Fringe History Propaganda Campaign Continues with Official "Ancient Aliens" Video Game
In July 2015, the History Channel released a nonfiction guide to the ancient astronaut theory for children under the Ancient Aliens brand name. Not content to wait for children to visit the library before indoctrinating them into fake history, the network recently launched a beta version (password: letsplayancientaliens) of a new Ancient Aliens Facebook game designed to draw young people and casual fans of the show into the world of Nibiru, gold-hungry aliens, and the other absurd claims of the ancient astronaut theory. This is not the first game based on the ancient astronaut theory, but it is the first I can find that carries the official endorsement of the History Channel and its parent company, A+E Networks. It is particularly disturbing because it seems to be aimed at a young audience. The game is free to play, which almost demands that we ask why History produced it and how they plan to make money from it and its users.
“Help Ancient Astronaut Theorists uncover the truth about alien visitations in our remote past as you abduct humans, alter their DNA and build the pyramids,” the game description reads.
In fact, let’s quote the whole description, as written by A+E Networks’ PR team:
An exciting new free-to-play adventure game from A&E Television Networks based on The History Channel's hit television series ANCIENT ALIENS.
I remember reading Altman’s Lovecraftian pastiche “A Case of Royal Blood” in the anthology Shadows Over Baker Street a long time ago, and Lovecraftian material pops up occasionally in his other work, because of course it does. We’re talking comic books, ancient astronauts, and scifi-horror; how could it not? The game isn’t explicitly Lovecraftian, but it has aliens acting as Anunnaki-Watchers, which is the connecting thread for most pseudohistorical claims about ancient lost civilizations and high technologies.
The game, scheduled for final release this month, is no great shakes, and the opening chapters are more than a little boring (to me, anyway; I don’t care for this type of Civilization or Sim City type of building game), but it has a cartoony aesthetic guaranteed to appeal to the younger end of the Ancient Aliens fan community. The game opens with a cartoon of Tsoukalos giving a lecture on ancient astronauts behind a podium emblazoned with the History Channel logo and before a wall bedecked in the Ancient Aliens title card. If that doesn’t make manifest how much the network and its designers want users to associate ancient astronauts with the History Channel, I’m not sure what would.
I’m not sure whether to praise the game for placing Giorgio Tsoukalos where he belongs, as a cartoon in a fictional world, or to condemn the game for seducing young minds into accepting ancient astronaut claims by reinforcing the supposed reality of the History television program.
The fictitious Tsoukalos then asks you, the game player, to undergo hypnotic regression in order to travel back to a past life in Egypt, where a Grey alien from Nibiru abducts you and orders you to lie to and deceive your fellow humans in order to build nuclear power plants to run the aliens’ earthly gold-mining operations. Later in the game, players meet “Akasha,” an alleged Egyptian oracle, who is clearly named for Theosophy’s Akashic Record and the Vedic Akasha ether it was based upon. Obelisks, of course, serve as energy beams, because David Childress once said so.
All of this I might have dismissed as “fun” if it were presented as fiction, but the game isn’t just content to tell a story about ancient astronauts. Despite a few feints toward noting that the game is merely assuming that the hypothesis is true, as players get deeper into the game, the disclaimers get swapped out for “guidance” by “Giorgio Tsoukalos,” who presents ancient astronaut theory claims in a way that heavily implies that they are factual statements meant to “educate” players about ancient astronauts. For example, in one scene “Tsoukalos” informs players that the Temple of Denderah in Egypt has no evidence of soot on the ceilings and too little oxygen to keep a torch alight, thus demonstrating that the Egyptians had electricity.
I can’t decide whether this game—parallel as it is to the Pawn Stars game History previously produced—is actively harming the network’s audience or whether it represents proof that History considers the program to be essentially a semi-fictional reality show with ancillary merchandising.
But what I really want to know is where the money is coming from. Networks don’t spend cash for no reason, and a “free to play” game either is intended to generate in-game purchases, or else History thinks that this game is going help them expand the Ancient Aliens brand in additional money-making directions. At this point, the investment History and A+E have made in Ancient Aliens—from the game to a fashion line to the children’s book to regular DVD releases—suggests that the program isn’t going anywhere and makes a hell of a lot more money than even I suspected it takes in.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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