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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GTP Designer Talk 1 – Soren Johnson

GTP Designer Talk Podcast #2: Jon Shafer of Civilization V and At the Gates

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Jon Shafer designer of Civilization V and through his Conifer Games, At the Gates , about a variety of topics related to history and historical game design. If opportunities continue for more of these GTP Designer Talks, I will get a Google Play, Apple Play, Spotify setup. For now you can follow the link to my Google Drive and download the mp3 on your player or listen to it here on the site.

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

or listen right here here:

 

A Brief Intro Letter to US History Teachers

Taking a page from Emily Short and Chris Klimas’ blog playbooks, I was recently responding to a request from a teacher for suggestions using games for the first time in a college introductory-level US History survey courses\. I get requests like this every so often, and I’m delighted when new people find my work. I realized, though, I should probably post my suggestions on Gaming the Past for others to, hopefully, benefit from. So I polished it just a little bit, and here it is.

If you have more questions or want to dig deeper, I’m always willing to help out: jmc.hst@gmail.com

 

Hi

Thanks for your email. It’s always a pleasure to talk shop about these things and find that someone has interest in the work I do. I’m assuming from your email this is first-year US History? … I’m just going to get started there …
So first off, let me stress that, I think, the goal is to get students learning about historical systems and actors’ choices within systems (Historical problem spaces), but I also think the goal is to get them to use their historical knowledge by actively critiquing any game they play using the evidence of class notes and readings. So, having a historically accurate game (a problematic concept anyway because we are constantly revising and shifting and challenging historical interpretations in the field) is not the goal per se. Rather the sweet spot is a game that presents some reasonable propositions about the past (past systems and past problem spaces) but also is problematic in some more and less subtle ways. That way students engage and exercise their ability to critique, not just passively learn from a source of authority: textbook, article, lecture etc.

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We. The Revolution

June 28, 2019 3 comments

I should begin by noting that, despite its length, this is far from a complete review of all aspects of Polyslash’s French-Revolution-themed game, We. The Revolution. It is difficult to describe and review concisely as a historical game, and I have only played through the first act, the first 20 days, perhaps some 25 hours with restarts. New systems and mechanics continue to appear.

Not a criticism. Far from it. Ultimately, I am sincerely impressed with WTR. Opinions will vary about the enjoyability of the game (and I encourage readers to read a mainstream games media review when considering playing purely for enjoyment: Anthony Marzano at Destructoid and Robert Purchese at Eurogamer both offer good reviews): is it too linear? are some of the mechanics insufficiently clear and in need of more development? does the quality of voice acting detract too much from the game? What kind of game is it anyway?

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Interview: Matthieu Brevet, Steel Division II

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

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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)

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Gaming the Past Designer Talk #1 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: