As this website is a collaboration project between IT and history, we are very interested in how history is portrayed in popular gaming culture. Gaming is a multi-billion global business nowadays. There is an ever-growing field of students studying how historically themed games can help gamers playing with the past.
Many recently released games have historical themes and settings, allowing gamers to create an alternate history like Sid Meier’s Civilization. Or, for instance, Mafia 3, where gamers can interact with real historical eras as American Vietnam veteran hero in the American south during the seventies of the previous century.
One of the most famous games with historical settings is, of course, Assassin’s Creed franchise. It has long vended itself on how it interacts with and portrays historical scenes—for instance, Victorian London, Medieval Italy, fantastical tales of Templar conspiracy, and so on.
Such video games offer exciting possibilities for historic collaboration with the past. One of the releases in the series franchise, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, welcomes gamers to ancient Egypt, allowing a special Discovery Tour game mode that allows players to participate in dozens of interactive tours organized by historians Egyptologists.
Also, older games such as Skyrim have been ported to new platforms such as Nintendo Switch, expanding the range of potential new generation of gamers.
In addition to the ability to impart historical experiences to consumers and interact with heritage sites, as some academics argue, a closer look at some video games shows us between the way history is shown in the cinema and other forms of visual culture.
Let’s take a look at the Call of Duty franchise, especially the fourth in the series, whose setting is a second world war. There was a game’s trailer show, and the game’s production draws similarities to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan during the launch event. On the other hand, the production team considered spending a lot of time researching Europe to ensure the game was as historically accurate as possible.
Next, one of the most anticipated titles in 2020 was an epic Wild West saga Red Dead Redemption 2. The game is inspired by Western cinematic genres’ history and the real history of times when America expanded to the west.
Focusing and referencing to the past is not used just by the big game titles. Also, it’s not always about the world wars. But there are also indie games like Never Alone, This War of Mine, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, etc., which are often even more nuanced and vibrant to the historical periods and unique political situations that are mostly overlooked in popular culture.
There are now more and more communities of researchers in the historical network of game studies. The History Respawned podcast sees academics and game developers discuss in detail the types of presentations that popular (and more obscure) games offer players, while sites like Gaming the Past explore ways games can and are used to engage students into history. Archaeoogaming is also built into historical digital games with projects dedicated to the archaeological exploration of the past.