Theory, design, research,and use of historical games in and beyond history education. Look here for links to current research, lists of available historical video games, reviews, and essays on a variety of topics connected to historical games. Created and maintained by Jeremiah McCall (jmc.hst@gmail.com; @gamingthepast), teacher, historian, researcher, and author of Gaming the Past

  • See the home page for essays and news on historical games.
  • Browse the content pages for articles and links to historical games.
  • Comment and post your own insights.

Interview: Matthieu Brevet, Steel Division II

May 18, 2019 1 comment

Recently, I had the opportunity to pose a list of questions about history and games to Matthieu Brevet, historian and game designer at Eugen Systems, makers of both historical and counterfactual strategy games such as R.U.S.E., the Wargame series, and Steel Division: Normandy 44. Eugen is finishing up production as lead designer of the WW2 real-time strategy game, Steel Division II. The game releases on Steam June 20, 2019, and is available for pre-purchase now.

Jeremiah McCall: Hi Matthieu. Thank you so much for your willingness to talk about your work as a designer of historical video games. There are a number of us who study and talk about historical games as kinds of history, and your insights as a professional designer are invaluable.  

Can you, for readers’ sakes, tell us a little about yourself, the work you’ve done in game design, and your current project?

Matthieu: I’m 40 and I’ve been (very) briefly a high school History teacher while studying & obtaining a PhD in Napoleonic History. Since then, I’ve been combining my passion for History with my other one for strategy videogames by working at Eugen Systems. First as a game designer (RUSE, Wargame: European Escalation & AirLand Battle), associate producer (Wargame: Red Dragon, Act of Aggression & Steel Division: Normandy 44) and now lead game designer (Steel Division 2).

Cover

Read more…

New History and Games Article on Journal of Geek Studies

A new survey article I wrote recently is now up on the Journal of Geek Studies

Playing with the past: history and video games (and why it might matter)

It essentially is a broad general survey of the topics and issues in historical games, history learning, and history education, I have been working on the past 14 years. I hope it will prove to serve as good introduction to a bit of the field (though my review essay in S&G 2016, is still a better bet for bibliography)

Categories: Uncategorized

Interview: Civilization Game Designer Soren Johnson

April 11, 2019 1 comment

Those studying historical games need to have more conversations with the designers and developers that actually make these games. I am exploring the possibility of doing some interviews to host on Gaming the Past for anyone interested in learning more about how historical game designers see their games and the role of history in the design process. Since I have used Civilization III and IV in my high school classrooms for the past decade or so, Soren Johnson, designer of those games and now CEO of Mohawk Games working on the historical game 10 Crowns, seemed a perfect first designer to interview. Soren kindly agreed to talk with me about his perspective on history and games as a designer. It was fascinating for me, and should be worthwhile to anyone interested in the development of historical video games.

Click this link to my Google Drive mp3 file, to download it for listening on your phone/player

or listen here:

 

 

History and Games Links – October 2018 to March 2019

March 14, 2019 1 comment

Life has a way of rushing by; here we are, and there’s been no history and games links post since mid 2018. Needless to say; this is a long one.

Historical Video Games 

Read more…

Categories: link lists

The Unexamined Game Is Not Worth Playing ? (repost)

January 27, 2019 1 comment

A bit over 8 years ago, November 2010, I wrote this essay on Playthepast.org. I referred to it a few times in a talk the other day, and thought I should repost it. The central premise holds up well and is still the core of my method using video games as a tool to study history.

socrates deathOf course the unexamined game can be well worth playing if the goal is simply to enjoy and recreate—though I’d wager that many players reflect actively on their experiences in games. Enjoyment should always be a primary purpose of games. When the focus shifts to simulation games and the formal study of the past, however, there is little point to the unexamined game.

Two not particularly difficult paradoxes that are interesting in their ramifications for simulation games and learning, set the stage for this post.

1. “Though it is not an entirely historical game overall, the game does convey a sense of the Court atmosphere at Versailles.  However,  Courtisans of Versailles is ultimately better suited for the purpose of entertainment than that of education.” (please note that writer accurately noted the game title–the game was translated from the French into English as the Courtisans of Versailles, complete with the misspelling and the association with prostitution). This was the thesis recently advanced by a student tasked with critiquing a simulation game in a senior elective on simulations and the French Revolution. The paper was masterfully written, praising the game for promoting rivalries and antagonistic behavior between players that reflected some of what the evidence about court life at turn of the 17th century Versailles suggests. More space was devoted to taking the game to task for its simplifications involving how court influence was acquired, maintained, and quantified.  One might suppose that, as the teacher who assigned the simulation game, I would be troubled by the student’s indictment of the game. Quite the contrary.  Finding the student in the commons, I praised the paper and noted the irony that, in arguing so effectively that the game is “better suited for the purpose of entertainment than that of education,” the student simply proved that the game was perfectly suited to the purpose of education. The student smiled and nodded.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here? Player Agents in Historical Games

December 30, 2018 3 comments

Adam Chapman and I are back on track debating the distinctions between different kinds of historical games and what makes a game historical. I find myself, in these kinds of discussions, increasingly referring to important distinctions I have found between types of player agents in historical games. I developed a starting taxonomy to make these distinctions explicit and useful for analysis in a talk I gave on Twine and interactive historical texts for the Value Project last year (The whole talk is worth it, I hope, but minutes 15:20 – 17:40 present my initial version of the taxonomy). I will write this up more formally in some articles in 2019, but since I have found it to be useful and I refer back to it increasingly, I wanted to present this to interested folk.

[1/1/2019 Note: I’ve gotten some helpful initial feedback, and rather than draft a new post, I am adding new sections in blue italics. This is all still very much a work in progress, but I became struck all-of-a-sudden by the idea of updating more interactively with feedback from Twitter — keep the thoughts coming!]

In historical games (whether using MacCallum-Stewart & Parsler’s (2007, 204) definition or Chapman’s (2016, 16) much broader definition) with historical problem spaces (McCall 2012, 2012, 2016, 8), the types of player-agents game designers focus on in their designs have a significant impact on the connections between the game and the past. There is, of course, a great deal of overlap, but it is still meaningful to consider four main types of historical agents in these games.

Read more…

When Games about the Past Trouble the Present: Games and History, Accuracy, Equity, Representation, and Reality

November 10, 2018 2 comments

Over the past few months I have been mulling over some ideas for a set of talks I’m giving in the winter and spring for students, teachers, and parents on historical video games and gameplay as historying, the ways they represent the past, and the importance of a critical perspective.

As part of this, I’ve just started gathering, for my own research, articles written online about historical video games with interpretations and assumptions about the past that cause controversies and issues for present day gamers.

Disclaimer: I have not read most of these articles yet, but my criterion was basically longer form analytical essays (as opposed to news reports)of historical games that portray the past in controversial ways for the present. The current batch ranges from the diversity of people in past societies, to the portrayal of certain political, social groups, and/or cultural groups to the representation of nuclear weapons. I’m barely scratching the surface here and would love to update this with more articles and links (send me anything you think would fit the bill)

Bias Disclaimer: I stand for equity, inclusion, compassion, respect, and decency. My selections hopefully reflect that.

Analytical Essays

Read more…