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

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The Debate is on: Historical Accuracy and Historical Video Games (Part 2)

April 8, 2018 2 comments

For this second post in a series, Adam Chapman and I dig deeper, continuing to discuss the ideas of historical authenticity in historical video games and debating whether the games like Wolfenstein 2: New Order and Call of Duty: World War II are really comparably historical games when doing this kind of analysis.

For the first in this series go here

Jeremiah: In our last post you ended by asking the question: Does your separation into two types of simulation approaches help us determine when a game is an interesting and at least somewhat defensible model of the past or just a rubber ball?

Adam: Again, I think the answer to this is one of those ‘yes and no’ responses that we academics are so frustratingly fond of. For me, the idea of the realist/conceptual framework is to describe the style of representation of historical games. Does it attempt to show us the past as it claims it appeared to agents (realist)?  Or does it aim to tell us about the past by mainly using abstraction (e.g. rules, menus, maps, text, charts, tables) and therefore representing discourse about that past (conceptual)? So for me, the framework is an effort to categorise the styles of representation we find

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March History and Games Links

March 30, 2018 1 comment

Here’s the list for March.

Historical Video Games 

  • Check Your 6! — Turn-based game of aerial battles in World War 2
  • Mewilo – Give this proposed game and website a look. It represents a game about historical Martinique, surely not a commonly found topic in historical games. Says the creators, “You are transported in 1900, in the tumultuous past of an island of the Antilles, the Martinique,”  and that this game as “an unprecedented reconstruction work allowsus to rediscover the atmosphere of this city nicknamed ‘the little Paris of the West Indies’ or ‘the tropical Venice’.”
  • Northgard – A Viking themed game that the designers say is based on Norse mythology and focuses on the discovery of a new land and competition to control it.

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February (Even though it’s March) History and Games Links

March 5, 2018 1 comment

Here’s the list for February. A lot of games, including the controversial Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the uncommonly focused Nantucket (19th century whaling), and the potentially very classroom-useful Neolithic: First City States. Some excellent essays and podcasts; really all kinds of materials. Enjoy!

Historical Video Games 

  • Age of Empires: Definitive Edition — An updated version for Windows 10 of a watershed commercial history game, first released in 1997. Currently only available through the Windows store, but there is some buzz that it will be available on Steam. See T.J. Hafer and Marcello Perricone’s articles below
  • Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt— Lots of excitement for this, a violence-free tourist mode where players can explore the 3D world of late Ptolemaic Egypt, meet historical figures, and learn about material culture. This is a free update for those who own AC: Origins, but also can be purchased separately.  Be aware this will take a good graphics card to run well. See John Hopley’s essay below.
  • Check Your 6! — Turn-based game of aerial battles in World War 2
  • Fields of Glory 2: Legions Triumphant expansion— An expansion (must own the main FoG2) focused on the Roman Empire and its foes from Augustus to Romulus Augustulus (476 CE)

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My 30+ minutes of fame on the GDR podcast

February 24, 2018 Leave a comment

I was very pleased to have the chance to be on the latest episode (189) of The Game Design Round Table talking about my work with history games and even my amateur game designs for class.

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Civilization VI, Problem Spaces, and the Representation of the Cree – A few thoughts

February 19, 2018 2 comments

Civ VI CreePC Gamer published a short article on the controversy stirred by Civilization VI’s release of the Cree as a DLC civilization led by the historical leader, Poundmaker (Poundmaker Cree Nation leader criticizes Cree portrayal in Civilization 6). Reporter Andy Chalk quotes Cree Headman Milton Tootoosis’ assessment of the harmful depiction of the Cree:

“It perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land,” Headman Milton Tootoosi said. “That is totally not in concert with our traditional ways and world view.”

“It’s a little dangerous for a company to perpetuate that ideology that is at odds with what we know. [Poundmaker] was certainly not in the same frame of mind as the colonial powers.”

And Chalk notes that Civ VI’s representation of the Cree as a playable civilization is problematic because it seems to suggest that the Cree were just another global player in the ultimate arena: world civilizations struggling to dominate the globe.

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Playing with the past in serious ways: Twine interactive history project guide, Part 1

February 18, 2018 3 comments

This is the third year I have incorporated a long-term (one quarter to one semester long) Twine interactive history project into my ninth-grade ancient world history and twelfth grade Roman Republic classes at Cincinnati Country Day School. I have written in the past about Twine, the benefits for students researching and designing Twine histories, and some of the methods I have employed (See Twine, Inform, and Designing Interactive History Texts and Creating Interactive Histories in History Class at Play the Past. Also see the YouTube video I prepared for the VALUE project). This post talks about my latest implementation-in-process this semester and some thoughts on the process and educational value of a Twine interactive history project. Included are the spec sheets and rubrics I have developed to help teachers launch their own Twine history projects.

Types of Choice-Based Interactive History Texts

Types of Twine histories

There are three fundamental approaches to choice-based interactive history texts one can design with Twine or similar tools (see: Crafting Interactive Histories: Twine and Choice-Based Interactive Historical Texts ) Every Person, Specific Agent, and Experimenting Deity. Each has a different sort of player agent that produces some differences in the research required for each and the handling of issues like counterfactual history that are inherent to most interactive histories. Read more…

January 2018 History and Games Links

January 20, 2018 1 comment

So many interesting things to investigate in this month’s links collections!

Historical Video Games

  • Ancient Warfare – Looks to be perhaps a combination of block-building creation (a la Minecraft) with realtime strategy/third person battles. Clearly a sandbox of sorts and equally clearly, a sketchy status as a historical game.  Ostensibly claims the ability to do WWI and WW2 battles, which undermines the whole title.  Let me know if you play with this one.
  • Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ first DLC: The Hidden Ones is out on January 23rd at Uplay
  • Attentat 1942 – Attentat 1942 (my review) was recently named a 2018 competition finalist in the IGF (Independent Games Festival) competition. It is an engaging mystery game where you, playing as a modern Czech man or woman in Prague, investigate your grandfather’s involvement in the historical assassination of Nazi Governor and Holocaust Architect. Definitely a good candidate for play in classes studying civilian life in Nazi occupied Europe (Czechoslovakia), and an good genre game for anyone interested in the topic.

Read more…

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