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Historical Game Design Theory and Practice with Luke Homes

After a too-long hiatus (4 years), a new series of dialogue-blogs start on Gaming the Past with this installment. This time my very-esteemed interlocutor is Luke Holmes, Game Designer at Creative Assembly (previously museum-worker, with a History MA). We’ll set out on what we both excitedly hope will be a series of substantial discussions by talking about developer goals and the design of historical games 

LUKE: I’m going to jump right in! When studying historical video games, historians often think about what games are trying to say, and how they say it. We do our best to draw conclusions from the characters, levels, narratives and mechanics, and to some degree judge these products by their historical interpretations. How faithful was Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey to ancient Greece? How far can Civilisation be used for teaching and studying history?  

We look at the goals given to the player, and we analyse whether they are historical. Is the decision of whether to hire knights or archers in Age of Empires IV reflective of the kind of decisions that historic nations had to make? I know you’ve done a lot of work in this area, Jeremiah, so I’m interested to explore this a little more. 

JEREMIAH: One of the reasons I am so pleased to get to work with you on this, Luke,  is because the developer perspective is so critical to historical game studies but not explored nearly enough. Historical game developers are historians. They meet the basic criterion:  they create curated representations of the past (something any number of historical game studies folks including myself have emphasized, not least of all Chapman 2016). So, it follows that a key to better understanding the medium of historical games is to better understand developers’ approaches to designing GAMES that are historical. Your insights will be of great interest in this light. It’s always good to remember that history, categorically  ≠≠ academic written history.  

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Dreams of Darkness as a Historical Problem Space: A Discussion

June 20, 2022 1 comment

Friend and HGS colleague currently working with Dream of Darkness, Tamika Glouftsis, wrote an insightful blog in April Can the Historical Problem Space framework help us make better history games? I was excited to see her thoughts, not least of all because I’m considering a book project specifically on using the HPS framework to guide game design for students (in the form of interactive texts, and physical boardgame design) a guide that, hopefully, would have value for teacher-designers and historical game developers too. So with that in mind, and the pleasure of exploring this topic for any synergistic insights we or others might developed,  I wrote some interlinear comments to Tamika’s post to continue the discussion, and Tamika wrote some additional comment to turn this into a dialogue. So what we have is, we think, an interesting discussion of ideas and a continued exploration of how developers (in addition to those studying historical games) might use the Historical Problem Space framework (McCall, 2020) as an analytical tool for historical game development. Both Tamika and I welcome further conversations on this, so please reach out to us with questions and comments

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