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Discussion: Historical Accuracy and Historical Video Games (Part 1)

December 26, 2017 2 comments

For this first post in a series, Adam Chapman and I begin to discuss, and hopefully unravel, the ideas of historical accuracy and authenticity in historical video games. What do we mean by these terms? Can games show accuracy and authenticity? Does it matter and, if so, why? We have authored this as a dialogue, each of us contributing a little text at a time and responding off each other.  We welcome participation and will respond to comments.

Jeremiah: It seems a straightforward sort of question: “how historically accurate is that video game?”,  whether it’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Call of Duty: World War II, Sid Meier’s Civilization or any of the myriad historical video games. Sometimes when we talk about historical video games, we use the term historically authentic to try to capture something different about the ways a historical game relates to the past it depicts. Either way, it’s not an easy question. But let’s see if we can unpack it.

What does it mean to be historically accurate in general? Does that mean that a medium (text, recording, image, video, game, etc.) represents or depicts events in the correct chronology and “as they happened”? If so, we’ve got a problem right there. It’s been quite awhile since mainstream historians have argued that historians can in any meaningful sense depict the past “as it was.” But let’s leave that aside for a moment. Let’s stipulate that historically accurate means presenting accurately in the medium the “historical facts”, the “generally accepted” view of events, the participants, the order they happened, causes and effects, that sort of thing,

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