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Recent news and blog entries from Play The Past

Game Design as Historical Authorship: Interview with Julien Bazile, part 2 (17th Dec 2019)

This interview is the part three of a three-part series on teaching historical game studies at the undergraduate level, and the second half of our interview with Julien Bazile. In this interview, we discuss with Julien his research into Ubisoft’s Assassin ... Read More

Designing an Undergraduate Course in Historical Game Studies: Interview with Julien Bazile (12th Dec 2019)

This interview is the part two of a three-part series on teaching historical game studies at the undergraduate level, and part one of our interview with researcher Julien Bazile. In this interview, we discuss with Julien his role in co-designing the HST 2 ... Read More

Designing an Undergraduate Course in Historical Game Studies: Interview with Thierry Robert (10th Dec 2019)

At Play the Past, we’ve had a long-standing interest in the intersection of history, games and education. Many of our current and legacy contributor hail from the world of education, and you can read them on as varied topics as video games and educational ... Read More

Smoggy Pasts: Strategy Games and Ecology (11th Jun 2019)

Traditionally, the relationship between humans and our environment has not been the most prominent aspect of historical writing. Particularly before the institutionalization of historical studies in the nineteenth century, the natural world generally took ... Read More

The Cathedral and the Simulacrum (18th Apr 2019)

Staring bewlidered at the images Notre Dame de Paris in flames, I was struck with how numb I’d become to news of the terrible. Numb. Incapable of knowing what I felt. The world’s news cameras had turned on the sad spectacle of France’s most famous cathedr ... Read More

Playing with Power: An Alternate French Revolution Role-Play (14th Mar 2019)

This article is part 2 of a series of posts on using the concept of ‘play’ to teach history in a Malaysian college setting. You can read part 1 by clicking here. On the first day of the final ‘Playing with Power’ session of 2018, I explained to the World ... Read More

Jon Shafer’s At the Gates: First Impressions (Part 2) (14th Feb 2019)

This post is the second half of a two-part article on Jon Shafer’s At the Gates, at launch. You can read part 1 by clicking here. So I’ve given you a rundown of At the Gates’ (AtG) critical reception at launch, discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly o ... Read More

Jon Shafer’s At the Gates: First Impressions (Part 1) (12th Feb 2019)

This post is the first half of a two-part article on Jon Shafer’s At the Gates, at launch. Part 2 will be published this coming Thursday. I have to confess that what sold me on getting Jon Shafer’s At the Gates right out of the gate – considering the game ... Read More

Presence, Preservation, and Virtual Reality (15th Nov 2018)

This week, KUED, a local PBS station premiered a new documentary titled Battle Over Bears Ears that looks at the fight over the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah that was created by President Obama and later dismantled by President Trump.  ... Read More

Playing with Power: An Alternative World War 2 Role Play (29th Aug 2018)

Michelle Low is an educator with an interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Science background who spends her time outside of lecture rooms, tweeting and blogging about gaming and pedagogy, watching gameplay, and researching and writing about Ancient Egyp ... Read More

Shovel Knight’s Pastiche of Backdrops (15th Aug 2018)

The following is a guest post by Zach Wolf, a recent graduate in humanities from Willamette University. History-themed games are a popular niche of video games. But if many players care about historical accuracy, historical setting seem to take a back sea ... Read More

The Bethesda Style, 2: Progression by Performance (6th Jun 2018)

I apologize for not replying to comments on the first post of this series! I’ll remedy that now, and promise to be more vigilant with this post! Digital RPGs have a wide variety of ways to allow the player-performer to progress their player-character towa ... Read More

The Bethesda style of oral formulaic epic, part 1 (22nd May 2018)

In a series of essays starting in 2004 and including a series of posts here on Play the Past, I’ve described player-performance in adventure games of various genres as examples of what Albert Lord, in The Singer of Tales, the seminal work on oral formulai ... Read More

Videogames and Memory (20th Mar 2018)

Public Memory is a concept that is intertwined with history in many different ways, so it’s no surprise that memory is a theme that has come up over and over again here on Play the Past.   Memory and videogame intersect in a number of different ways, from ... Read More

History’s Creed: Episodes 6 to 10 (6th Mar 2018)

Below are episodes 6 to 10 of History’s Creed, and ARTE Web Series on History in Video Games. To read Play the Past’s introductory remarks on the series, please click on this link. Episodes 1 to 5 are discussed here.   Note: if subtitles do not autoplay, ... Read More

History’ Creed: Episodes 1 to 5 (1st Mar 2018)

Below are episodes 1 to 5 of History’s Creed, and ARTE Web Series on History in Video Games. To read Play the Past’s introductory remarks on the series, please click on this link.   Note: if subtitles do not autoplay, please click on the settings wheel at ... Read More

History’s Creed: ARTE Web Series on History in Video Games (27th Feb 2018)

Fresh on the heels of our editorial team transition, Play the Past is pleased to announced that the French-German TV channel ARTE is releasing a new web doc series on the treatment of history in video games. The series, commissioned by ARTE Creative and p ... Read More

Player Two Press Start: New PTP Editors & Directions (20th Feb 2018)

Seven years ago, back in November of 2010, we launched this blog. In those seven years, an amazing cast of more than thirty writers from a range of humanities perspectives have written 337 posts about the function of the past, history, and memory in video ... Read More

Victoria 2 : Take the #Canada150 Challenge (2nd Oct 2017)

N.B. Readers wishing to take up the Victoria 2 #Canada150 Challenge without reading the historical introduction, can skip to the play rules, below.   March 16th, 1882. Canada’s 4th parliament is in session. A member of the Liberal party from the oppositio ... Read More

Notes from the Roman Camp (18th Apr 2017)

Setting the Stage Playing The Creative Assembly’s Rome: Total War (2004) is a manner of performing history. When the map loads, the Mediterranean world appears under a technicolor backdrop of young factions ready to be swallowed up by the Roman banners. T ... Read More

‘Sad When a Game Outlives a Player’: Memorials and Monuments in MMO Gaming (10th Apr 2017)

“Death is difficult under any circumstance. The death of a friend you only knew via the internet is something that this generation is just learning how to deal with.” — Matthew Miller, mmorpg.com, 6/25/2013 Games, gaming, and digital worlds affect lived r ... Read More

Meaningful Choices in Twine, History & Counterfactual History (PoH Notes, Part 2) (23rd Mar 2017)

Path of Honors (here at my Twine site on philome.la) is an experimental interactive history that I am designing in bits and pieces. The plan is to model an aristocratic Roman as he played the game of politics and sought to win election to offices and gain ... Read More

Preservation and Ephemeral Gaming (28th Feb 2017)

The Problem of Ephemeral Gaming Do you remember where you were when Twitch Plays Pokémon finished Pokémon Red? It was only in 2014— barely three years ago—but many people who actively participated have already forgotten about it; interest faded fast after ... Read More

Path of Honors — Thoughts behind the design of an interactive history (18th Feb 2017)

Path of Honors (here at my Twine site on philome.la) is an experimental interactive history that I am designing in bits and pieces. The plan is to model an aristocratic Roman as he played the game of politics and sought to win election to offices and gain ... Read More

Banished: Towards a Playable Human Ecology (7th Feb 2017)

At first glance, Banished feels pretty familiar for gamers who grew up playing things like Age of Empires. You start with a small stock of supplies and a few workers standing around in the wilderness. Your task is to efficiently convert that wilderness in ... Read More

Path of Honors Update (18th Dec 2016)

As I noted in my last post Meaningful Choices – (Twine Developer Diary) – Part 3, I have been working on developing my own Twine interactive history alongside the projects my students are designing. With the winter vacation, I’m hoping to post ... Read More

Oxenfree, Memory, and Public History (22nd Nov 2016)

  Oxenfree is not a game you’d immediately associate with history. The adventure game, released on various platforms in the first half of 2016, follows five teenagers as they visit an island for a party but soon become involved with a supernatural presenc ... Read More

From line-end formula to aristeia: how an epic ruleset goes from mechanic to theme (25th Oct 2016)

In my last post I discussed the most basic rule of the epic game: kleos. Oral epic developed in such a way as to provide glory to heroes by naming them at the end of the poetic line. Now I’m going to push forward and show how that simple mechanic When we ... Read More

Meaningful Choices – (Twine Developer Diary) – Part 3 (18th Oct 2016)

This is the third in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history education and how students might be enabled to design their own researched, text-based historical simulation games using the interact ... Read More

Creating Interactive Histories in History Class (Twine Teacher Diary) (10th Oct 2016)

This is the second in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history education and how students might be enabled to design their own researched, text-based historical simulation games using the interac ... Read More

Twine, Inform, and Designing Interactive History Texts (3rd Oct 2016)

This is the first in a series of posts intended to get readers thinking more about interactive text as a tool for history and how students might be enabled to design their own researched text-based historical simulation games using the interactive fiction ... Read More

Banished: It Takes a Village to Raise a Surplus (21st Sep 2016)

This article is part four of a four-part series on the future of quantification in history. For the thematic introduction to the series, please click here. Or click on the following links for part one, part two, or part three.   Kaplunk: “Your reserve in ... Read More

The line-end formula, smoking gun of play-mechanics in oral epic (16th Aug 2016)

Part of a series on the educational affordances of interactive narrative. ba da Bum ba da Bum bum Podas ōkus Akhilleus (pronounce the final “eu” as “yoo” if you have to—it’s a diphthong: the final Bum). Polumētis Odysseus (same here). “Swift-footed Achill ... Read More

This War of Mine: Human Survival and the Ethics of Care (27th Jul 2016)

This article is part three of a four-part series on the future of quantification in history. For the thematic introduction to the series, please click here. Or click on the following links for part one, or part two.   It’s when your favorite character get ... Read More

Open Thread: Public Memory & Pokemon Go (17th Jul 2016)

I know. I know. Everyone is writing about how Pokemon Go connects to whatever they work on. But here we are. Given how Pokemon Go has kicked up controversy around how it uses public sites of memory and conscience, without in any way considering if it is a ... Read More

Let’s Play: Far Cry Primal Ep.4: An “Archaeological” Exploration (12th Jul 2016)

This is a guest post by Philip Riris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. His research interests run the gamut from digital data in archaeology to cave art to the archaeology of South America. Philip’s first po ... Read More

Socrates the Gamer (6th Jul 2016)

In this post I’ll expand on some points I made in my last. By opening out the notion of Socrates as fundamentally a participant interactive performances (that is, like his fellow Athenian elites, steeped in a culture founded on homeric epic), I mean to la ... Read More

The Long Dark: the Last Lonely Days of the Quantified Self (29th Jun 2016)

This article is part two of a four-part series on the future of quantification in history. For the thematic introduction to the series, please click here. For part one, click here.   “You’ve faded into the Long Dark”… Thus ends each “survival trial” in th ... Read More

Games and Learning: Building Sustainable Communities (21st Jun 2016)

E3, The Electronic Entertainment Expo, was just last week, so there’s quite a bit of videogame news circulating about the internets right now.  Amid the waves of game trailers and press releases, most of us could be forgiven for not knowing that during th ... Read More

Big Data: Endgame of Virtual History (1st Jun 2016)

This article is part one of a four-part series on the future of quantification in history. For the thematic introduction to the series, please click here.   At face value, it might appear to the casual reader of Play the Past, that the main focus of this ... Read More

Let’s Play: Far Cry Primal Ep.3: An “Archaeological” Exploration (17th May 2016)

This is a guest post by Philip Riris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. His research interests run the gamut from digital data in archaeology to cave art to the archaeology of South America. Philip’s first po ... Read More

Play the ancient game (10th May 2016)

I’m glad to say that I have real hope of starting to contribute to PlaythePast again. I’m working on a book I’m excited about, though I have no idea whether it will ever actually emerge in any traditional “book” format. In any case, I’m going to start bro ... Read More

Systems of Science: Games Shaping Cultural Perceptions (3rd May 2016)

Science and media have a complicated relationship.  Film and television crews regularly hire science consultants both to improve the realism of their productions and to give themselves an air of authority and respectability.  Scientists also have a vested ... Read More

Finding Older Historical Games at GOG.com (29th Apr 2016)

For a history educator, trying to find suitable simulation games to use in class can be a significant obstacle to using the medium. I have made some lists of potentially viable historical games in Gaming the Past (2011) and my website gamingthepast.net. H ... Read More

Let’s Play: Far Cry Primal Ep.2: An “Archaeological” Exploration (19th Apr 2016)

This is a guest post by Philip Riris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. His research interests run the gamut from digital data in archaeology to cave art to the archaeology of South America. Philip’s first po ... Read More

Writing the History of the Universe Inside EVE Online: An interview with Andrew Groen (12th Apr 2016)

Andrew Groen is a journalist and former contributor to outlets like Wired and the Penny Arcade Report and also written for publications like Popular Science and Ars Technica. He also has written an extensive history of the events which occurred inside the ... Read More

Let’s Play: Far Cry Primal Ep.1: An “Archaeological” Exploration (29th Mar 2016)

This is a guest post by Philip Riris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. His research interests run the gamut from digital data in archaeology to cave art to the archaeology of South America.  Far Cry Primal h ... Read More

Minecraft as a 3D Cultural Heritage Modeling Tool in the Classroom (17th Mar 2016)

Jessie Craft teaches Latin and ancient history at Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools; he recently published ‘Rebuilding an Empire with Minecraft’ in CAMWS Classical Journal, Vol 111.3, Feb./March 2016  based on those experiments in his classroom. Introd ... Read More

The Oral History of MMOs (3rd Sep 2015)

This is a guest post by Josh Howard, a PhD Candidate in the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University. He is also one of four editors for the Sport in American History Blog, and spoke recently at the NCPH conference about the function of ... Read More

In the Trenches: Verdun Developer Interview, part 2 (3rd Jun 2015)

This article is part 2 of a two-part interview with the creators of the World War 1 themed first-person shooter multiplayer game, Verdun. To read part 1, please click on this link.   In this second and final part of our interview with the developers of Ve ... Read More