Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gaming the Past, Second Edition, Is Published

November 19, 2022 1 comment

Gaming the Past, Second Edition, is out with Routledge! I am so very grateful and excited to have had the chance to revise significantly and add to the first edition work that came out over a decade ago. If you’re interested in reading more about my bibliographical road to Gaming the Past First Edition and the decade between it and 2.0, I’m working on a series of posts about my time in historical game studies as one of the earlier academics.

— Jeremiah McCall

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18 Years in Historical Game Studies: A Biographical/Bibliographical Musing Part 1 (2005 – 2012)

November 11, 2022 2 comments

Gaming the Past, Second Edition, is out today with Routledge! I am so very grateful and excited to have had the chance to revise significantly and add to the first edition work that came out over a decade ago. I thought perhaps it is a good time to reflect a little on my time and work in Historical Game Studies and in teaching history using video games as tools. Here’s a first post to see if it’s of interest to anyone else.

— Jeremiah McCall

Though I experimented a little with interactive learning in history in my graduate years finishing my PhD on Greco-Roman History with Nate Rosenstein at the Ohio State University (2000), I did not work with making and integrating actual physical games until my first history teaching position in a secondary school. Hoping very much to add life to my ancient history courses (high school) I made a couple of physical game prototypes: One a simulation of Roman politics in the Republic and the other a simulation game of ancient warfare. For students, the interest these games brought to the areas we studied was palpable, and I knew I wanted to do more with games in history education. This process continued when I came to Cincinnati Country Day School and had access to laptop computers. I experimented with some board games like Diplomacy and continued to work on designs for tabletop prototypes–many never reaching a truly playable state. I was struck along the way with the amount of research I had to do to make a historical game. Inspiration–get students to design games as a way to encourage them to study a historical topic in depth. This led to my first “Historical Simulations” senior elective at CCDS, in the winter and spring of the 2004-05 school year. While the course was focused on having students design their own historical tabletop games I was also struck by Civilization III as a potential model to play and study. So, in addition to the design part of the class, I had students play Civ III and compare it to the first chapter or so of Patricia Crone’s Pre-Industrial Societies. This experiment with Civilization (III) caught the attention of friend and colleague Kurt Squire (now UC Irvine) who invited me to speak at the Education Arcade in May of 2005. I was part of a panel discussing the use of Civilization III in the classroom. There’s still a video of the whole panel to be found on Youtube (and me considerably younger with a great deal more hair.)

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Mobile Civilization Building Genre (Draft)

November 6, 2022 2 comments

I wrote this section on MCB games for the genre chapter Gaming the Past, Second Edition, but had to cut it for reasons of space. Just posting it here in case it’s of interest

A somewhat more unique mobile genre is the Clash of Clans clear mobile genre (we’ll call “mobile civ games” for short) These games are clear examples of the freemium game model where players may play for free but get access to extra abilities, resources, etc. if they pay money to the developers through microtransactions. In games of this genre, the player agent leads a civilization—from a list of historical states whether Roman, Chinese, Aztec, or any number of other options depending on the game. The player agent constructs settlement in a home-base location with some geographic features: generally open land and land that must be cleared to be developed upon. The player agent fills their home-base settlement with various types of buildings. The core buildings are houses, each supporting a limited number of workers for the player agent. These workers then construct all the other buildings of the civilization. Buildings range in function from barracks to resource storage to defense to research.

There tend to be a small number of standard resources in these games, two or three: often food, coins, and wood or stone. These are stored in stockpiles with finite capacities in the player agent’s settlement. Resources are sometimes gathered automatically by the civilization when the player is logged out; sometimes the player must log in to gather resources, a design technique to encourage players to regularly visit the game and keep up the player base. If the player agent’s resource stockpiles are full, all additional harvesting of those resources is stopped until the player logs in and spends the resources. So, for example, if the player-agent’s food stockpile is full, all additional incoming is wasted, a lost opportunity, and the player will need to log in and spend food on some project to avoid missing out on acquiring resources. Indeed the whole game is designed around real-world time consumption and players can decide whether they want to commit more real-world time to the game, logging in and playing more frequently, and, as the level up, waiting longer and longer times to construct more powerful buildings and armies, or purchasing special resources with real-world money to cut down on time.

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Historical Problem Spaces on the Studying Pixels Podcast

October 23, 2022 Leave a comment

In late September, I had the pleasure of talking with Stefan Simond over at the Studying Pixels podcast about games as historical problem spaces

An Introduction to Historical Problem Spaces 

This is a reprint of my original PlaythePast post . It offers a brisker survey of the Historical Problem Space framework that I lay out in greater detail in the academic journal Game Studies article, The Historical Problem Space Framework: Games as a Historical Medium, also published in late 2020. The ambition to write a series of these for has not yet been fulfilled.

I’m returning, happily, to my roots to write a series of essays on PlaythePast. In 2012 I proposed the outlines of a framework (first here on PtP and then elsewhere in The Journal of Digital Humanities) that I have come to call the “historical problem space framework.” Since then, I have spent a considerable amount of time–both as a history educator who uses historical games and as a historian studying games–developing and refining this historical problem space framework. While I have an article in the works on the subject, and regularly make use of it in my classes and research, the framework has developed considerably since I first proposed it 8 years ago. Someday, perhaps I’ll get to write a book on the topic. But for now, in hopes of providing a hopefully easy-to-understand, holistic, and practical approach to analyzing and explaining the history in historical games, I’m writing a series of essays here on Playthepast, where the concept was born. Hopefully, readers will find the framework useful for their own research, teaching, and design and just for thinking more about how historical video games work. This is a work in progress and comments, questions, and constructive criticism are most welcome.

The historical problem space framework (HPS) is a holistic, medium-sensitive, design-focused framework for analyzing and understanding, designing, and teaching with historical games. It is, above all, meant to focus practically on how designers craft historical games, based on an understanding that games are mathematical, interlocking, interactive (playable) systems.

History is, in broad terms, the curated representation of the past, so pretty much any medium that can communicate ideas about the past can function as history. This is as true for video games as it is for texts, images, cinema, and so on. It is critical to understand, however, that each medium has its own characteristics, its own ways of presenting the past. This point has been made increasingly clear by historians studying historical film and is certainly true of historical video games. Both need to be approached not as a deficient forms of textual history, but as media that are simply different from text, talk, or lecture.

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New Encyclopedia Article – History Games

My encyclopedia article, an introduction to historical video games and historical game studies has just been published as part of the open-access online Encyclopedia of Ludic Terms

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Making a roll-and-write for history class using Roll through the Ages as a guide

November 5, 2021 2 comments

So, I want to begin simply by promoting Eagle-Gryphon Games Roll through the Ages: The Bronze Age as a terrific game to use with secondary and higher learners in a lesson, unit, or course on ancient agrarian states. But do keep reading if you are interested in creating your own roll-and-write games for history classes that may have nothing to do with ancient history. RTTA Bronze Age provides an excellent model for a roll-and-write game structure that could be used to inspire games about all sorts of historical topics, even ones far removed from RTTA:BA’s setting with Bronze Age states.

Just wanted to pitch both that it is a terrific game to use in an ancient history class, but it models a type of game structure that works very well in history classes. That structure is easily abstractable to then allow for creating other good games on any number of subjects for history class

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(Tweet Thread) Games with Historical Player Agents that Aren’t Rulers or Warriors

June 15, 2021 2 comments

Recently I received a Twitter question asking what kinds of historical games are available that do not place the player-agent (the character the player plays as) in the traditional game role of a ruler, commander, or warrior. Here’s my response, slightly reformatted from the thread: A partial list of some cool historical games that have more varied player-agents.

When Rivers Were Trails, (When Rivers Were Trails by indianlandtenure ( where the player agent is an indigenous person (Anishinaabeg) in the 1890s forced from their Minnesota home and required to survive a journey to relocate on the west coast of North America.

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Video Interview on Games and History with the Arise Project

March 26, 2021 2 comments

I had the pleasure of being interviewed this past July by Vinicius Carvalho and crew with the Arise Project part of the USP Archeology and Ethnology Museum, in 2017. They asked all sorts of great questions and gave me the chance to talk about the wide range of historical games studies topics I work on as a researcher and an educator.

After a Portuguese intro, the interview is in English. Since it’s about 52 minutes long, I thought it might be helpful for those interested to give a little breakdown of the questions I talk about and their place in the interview.

Start: My history and how I came to the work on history and games in education

4:45 What makes a historical game a good fit for learning and classroom use?

8:15 Have you had any experiences where students didn’t actually want to play the game?

10:30 Tell us about Res Publica, a tabletop game you designed for Roman History class I have designed. (also gets into principles of historical game design).

14:40 How can we as game developers assess/judge the knowledge students acquire when playing historical games?

21:00 My work with interactive text design tools by students; for students; by historians. Twine and choice-based games. Parser based games.

28:00 Historical Problem Space Framework in some detail and the philosophy

36:00 The historical problem space framework as a useful guide for historical game design.

39:00 Where are you headed next?
Interactive History class – Imperialism and Colonialism
Testing out the HPS in class more

42:20 What are the challenges and benefits of getting realtime feedback on a game you have designed from students in the class. Working with Teachers to try out historical games. and some suggestions for the Arise project’s work. Matching a historical game to history education.

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Essay on Through the Darkest of Times up on Play the Past

December 17, 2020 2 comments

My two-part essay on Paintbucket Games Through the Darkest of Times is now published on Play the Past. This essay uses the historical problem space framework to analyze the game. Let me know what you think.

Through the Darkest of Times’ Historical Problem Space, Part 1 (

Through the Darkest of Times’ Historical Problem Space, Part 2 (

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