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Why Historians Should Think About/With Video Games & Simulations

Lecture, HIST2809, Carleton University
by

Shawn Graham

on 22 November 2012

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Transcript of Why Historians Should Think About/With Video Games & Simulations

Hours played in WoW: 5.93 Million Years' worth.
5.93 million years ago: the first human ancestors stood up. What is
a game? Jane McGonigal: What if
we used that time for good? Games
problematize
knowledge Why Historians
Should think about/with
Games &
Simulations HIST2809 So what do historians need to know? Well, let's
try this... A simulation or formal system where
choices and rules are important
- Maria Andersen ...d'oh! I wonder
what happens
if... (cc) photo by Jakob Montrasio Shawn Graham, Carleton University procedural
rhetoric
(Bogost, 2007) Simulation: or how to raise
the dead* A series of interesting decisions
- Sid Meier Bateman A process using uncertainty to create
compelling and engaging experiences Micro-history
& Martin Guerre 1378 Networks, agent-based modeling, and the Antonine Itineraries
http://bit.ly/uBCw6z ABM lets you sweep all possible
combinations of environment with
behavior: testing for 'could've beens' see also: http://realityisbroken.org/ http://prezi.com/rj_b-gw3u8xl/playing-to-learn/ see 'fun' in http://www.half-real.net/dictionary/ Meier Andersen see: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6555/what_is_a_game_an_excerpt_from_.php When you encounter a new game... do you read the instructions? play the tutorial? or jump right in? Roger Ebert:
Games cannot be art, since they are goal-oriented activities.
M.C. Esher:
"My art is a game, a very serious game."
Bateman:
"Art too can be understood as processes that make
use of our attitude towards uncertainty and contingency to create
compelling and engaging experiences.... all art is a game." Can a game be art?
Has a game ever made
you cry?* Interactive Fiction the art of persuasion through encoding
arguments in the rules of the game. ...isn't that rather much
the same thing
as historiography? http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/canadian_historical_eview/v090/90.2.kee.html Archaeology,
as imagined by WoW * http://www.playthepast.org/?p=559 ...given this particular understanding
of how the past works:

we don't simulate the past;
we simulate what we believe to have been true of the past. Behaviour Space: Simulating Roman Social
Life and Civil Violence http://bit.ly/sbVYy5 All games, all digital representations have a worldview in their code: procedural rhetorics

All games, all digital representations encourage you to unconscioulsy absorb these rhetorics, these arguments.

Rulesets map to historiographical approach.

Modding skills or simulation building skills help you to contest or encode your own rhetorics. Games promote historical thinking

Simulations can answer questions you couldn't possibly ask, any other way Shortcut! For the best discussion of the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined) on the internet,
go to http://playthepast.org Shawn Graham
Assistant Professor of
Digital Humanities
Carleton University
@electricarchaeo * and not because your
brother cheated.
Full transcript