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Going Beyond the Textual in History

By The GPDH Editors | March 5, 2012

I mention the article not because I found it to be a progressive example of innovative historical thinking on games, but rather the opposite.  Instead of offering a means by which games can be productively and thoughtfully incorporated into historical study, the authors present a reactionary stance that seeks to bind ‘gamic action’ within the tightly defined epistemological boundaries incorporated into textual modes of history.  While they do offer valid insight when it comes to analyzing the roles and pretenses games follow today with regards to claiming historical validation, the repeated insistence on bringing into alignment the modes of ‘objective’ history and playable games not only overlooks the complimentary nature of both in creating reasonably justified truths about the past (to borrow a central concern of the authors), but also ignores the more fundamental issue centered on student prosumption (production + consumption) of historical knowledge.Because of my interest in both history and games, I’m always on the look-out for good writing or new takes on how to bring elements of the gaming world into the framework of historical inquiry.

Increasingly, I’m finding my best sources of this kind of reading from my Twitter stream, as was the case when Shawn Graham (@electricarchaeo) pointed me towards an article in the recent edition of the Canadian Game Studies Association journal, ‘Loading…‘, titled ‘Beyond the ‘Historical’ Simulation: Using Theories of History to Inform Scholarly Game Design‘.  Tackling what they call ‘gamic action’, the authors of the paper look to use elements of ‘procedural rhetoric’ (a concept introduced by Ian Bogost in his work ‘Persuasive Games’) combined with ‘valid and scholarly means’ of constructing the past (modeled on the monograph or print article) to produce ‘reasonably justified truths’ compatible with current methodologies in use by many historians.

Read full post here.