Archive for the ‘Game Design’ Category

Historical Game Design Theory and Practice: Dialogue with Luke Holmes, Part 2

October 19, 2022 1 comment

Part 1 of our dialogue blog is here. Last time, Luke left us with Chris King’s argument that game developers should choose their historical interpretation based on whichever suits the gameplay best. I always felt a bit uncomfortable with that, but maybe I have too much of an agenda as a historian! . We’ll start this second instalment from there.

JEREMIAH: That does seem to be a rather bold statement. Here my response as an educator with historical games and as an academic studying historical games might differ. King’s suggestion works perfectly for a history class so long as the teacher presents the game as an interpretation, a model, that needs to be critiqued for defensibility by students (McCall 2011 and now McCall 2022, forthcoming). I suppose though that even from a more formal academic analysis, the idea of picking a historical interpretation based on mechanics is probably not noticeably different than the practice we mostly all seem to recognize: that in a conflict between fun/playability and historical accuracy (leaving aside how problematic that term can be), devs on record tend to say that they will usually go with fun/playability–I’d have to go back to look for references; pretty confident Sid Meier has said that. Also pretty confident that Soren Johnson agreed and elaborated on this principle back on my first GTP:Designer Talks podcast. In a sense “picking the historical interpretation to suit the game mechanics” is just a variation on this right? Even so, it’s a generalization of course, so whether devs pursue something more on the consistent with historical evidence (“defensible”) or less will depend on their originality pillar, right, to the extent that advancing a certain historical proposition could be part of a game’s originality? (or the expectations pillar if players expect a defensible historical model?)

 LUKE: I wonder too if video games’ position in media-culture-hierarchy also gives game devs a lot of flexibility precisely because they don’t have to be defensible. Academics (and a lot of devs, too) would I think argue that video games very much are vehicles of history, but I’m not sure all audiences would agree. When video games aren’t presented as an authority (in the way that a book, museum, or academic might be, however flawed that is) the worry about whether a historical model fairly represents the period or discourse becomes unimportant – it is, after all “just a game”. For me though, games that take this line run a risk of trivializing the past, or even exploiting it for inspiration and genre appeal. It creates a nonsense proposition: that fun is directly incompatible with good history. 

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Prototype A Available – De Agricultura: The Universal Abstract Overly-Simplified Ancient Peasant Agriculture Game

July 1, 2022 1 comment

Update for September: I did playtest prototype A with students and found the core game solid–at least enough for a good class reflection. Here is the most recent prototype that I used.

Like all prototypes, this will break, and I’d be grateful if you sent me a note about how it broke so I can improve on it. But I think Prototype A probably works well enough (I haven’t group playtested it — that’s where you all come in) to use in a class (I’m going to this August).

Prototype A PDF

Briefly, the goals of the game are this.

A better appreciation/understanding of peasants in agrarian societies. It is very hard for moderns to appreciate that the vast majority of ancient agrarian societies (some 80-90% of population) were peasant farmers, i.e. subsistence farmers. They lived and worked in a state of subsistence, just enough to get by, with little bits of surplus food. That tiny surplus, magnified over thousands of peasants, was what the state extracted to fund non-farming activities from armies to building projects etc.

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Categories: Game Design, Lesson PLans

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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