A defining fixture of our contemporary world, video games offer a rich spectrum of engagements with the past. Beyond a source of entertainment, video games are cultural expressions that support and influence social interactions. Games educate, bring enjoyment, and encourage reflection. They are intricate achievements of coding and creative works of art. Histories, ranging from the personal to the global, are reinterpreted and retold for broad audiences in playful, digital experiences. The medium also magnifies our already complicated and confrontational relation with the past, for instance through its overreliance on violent and discriminatory game mechanics. This book continues an interdisciplinary conversation on game development and play, working towards a better understanding of how we represent and experience the past in the present.
Return to the Interactive Past offers a new collection of engaging writings by game creators, historians, computer scientists, archaeologists, and others. It shows us the thoughtful processes developers go through when they design games, as well as the complex ways in which players interact with games. Building on the themes explored in the book The Interactive Past, the authors go back to the past to raise new issues. How can you sensitively and evocatively use veterans’ voices to make a video game that is not about combat? How can the development of an old video game be reconstructed on the basis of its code and historic hardware limitations? Could hacking be a way to decolonize games and counter harmful stereotypes? When archaeologists study games, what kinds of maps do they draw for their digital fieldwork? And in which ways could we teach history through playing games and game-making?
Angus A.A. Mol, Aris Politopoulos, Csilla E. Ariese, Bram van den Hout & Krijn H.J. Boom
Part I: Narratives in and of Video Games
2. The Role of Historical Research and ‘Historical Accuracy’ in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
3. Their Memory: Exploring Veterans’ Voices
Iain Donald, Emma Houghton & Kenneth Scott-Brown
4. The Desolation of Vixens
John Aycock & Hayden Kroepfl
5. The Final Word? How Fans of The Elder Scrolls Record, Archive, and Interpret the Battle of Red Mountain
Part II: Representations and Intersectionality in Video Games
6. Personal and Social Recent History in Fragments of Him: Defining and Exploring ‘Immersion’ in Video Games
7. ‘Transcending History and the World’: Ancient Greece and Rome in Versus Fighting Video Games
8. Synthetic Spaces and Indigenous Identity: Decolonizing Video Games and Reclaiming Representation
9. Fork in the Road: Consuming and Producing Video Game Cartographies
Florence Smith Nicholls
Part III: Historical Research and Learning through Video Games
10. Scholarly History through Digital Games: Pedagogical Practice as Research Method
11. Life Was Really Hard! Designing and Using Digital Games to Explore Medieval Life in Primary Schools
12. Gaming the Past: Video Games and Historical Literacy in the College Classroom
Jeffrey Lawler & Sean Smith
13. Of Ecosystems and Landscapes: An Essay on Grasping Themes of Environmental History in Video Games
George L. Vlachos
14. Stories Around the Campfire
The Interactive Past Community (Curated by Csilla E. Ariese)
Csilla E. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke
Csilla E. Ariese is a museologist with an interest in decolonial practices, community engagement, maritime archaeology, and video games. Her PhD dissertation (2018, Leiden University) explored Caribbean museums and the practices and processes through which they engage with a diversity of communities. Her recent postdoctoral research at the University of Amsterdam focused on the Amsterdam Museum and how it deals with the colonial pasts of its collections and the city. She is a co-founder of the VALUE Foundation, among others organizing the RoMeincraft project and curating the Culture Arcade exhibition. Her publications span the topics of decolonizing museums, Caribbean museums, interactive pasts, and VOC shipwrecks in Australia.
Krijn H.J. Boom
Krijn Boom started his career with a PhD on the sociocultural impact of public activities in archaeology. Subsequently, he was a post-doctoral researcher in heritage management at the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University and Project Manager Blended Learning at the University of Amsterdam. Krijn also co-founded the VALUE project – for research and outreach on the past, heritage, and video games. Currently, Krijn is an education consultant and publisher for Acco, a Flemish academic publishing company. Here, he combines his love for digital innovations in the didactic process with established media, in an ongoing quest to find the optimal ways to transfer knowledge and engage audiences.
Angus A.A. Mol
Angus Mol is an assistant professor at the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities. Here he teaches and does research, not only on how digital tools can be used in the study of cultures and societies, but also how digital media shape our engagement with the present and past. With a background in archaeology and as a co-founder of VALUE, his research and outreach specifically address the intersections of the past and video games. His previous publications have appeared at Sidestone Press and a number of international journals and handbooks. These include the first Interactive Past volume as well as work in theoretical and Caribbean archaeology and network studies. He also writes blogs and produces other media as Dr. Random on VALUE’s Interactive Pasts website.
Bram van den Hout
Bram van den Hout is a researcher and data manager at the International Institute of Social History and his fields of interest are slavery, piracy, and violence in the Dutch East Indian Company. Through the VALUE Foundation he also explores the intersection between video games and history. He co-authored the book Testimonies of Enslavement: Sources on Slavery from the Indian Ocean World (2020) and three articles all on slavery and the slave trade within and around the city of Cochin on the Southwest Indian coast, at the time controlled by the Dutch East India Company.
Aris Politopoulos is a lecturer for the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, and a postdoctoral researcher at the Leiden University Center for Arts in Society working on the Past-at-Play Lab project. His research focuses on ancient Near Eastern empires, the archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean, the archaeology of Play, and the archaeological study of video games. He is also a co-founding member of the VALUE Foundation and has published extensively on the topic of video games and archaeology.