4th International Conference
Digital Culture & AudioVisual Challenges
Interdisciplinary Creativity in Arts and Technology
Hybrid - Corfu/Online, May 13-14, 2022
In his 1938 book Homo Ludens, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga views the very act of playing to be the cradle of civilization itself. By tracing its various revelations in the history of humanity, he perceives its cardinal role in various “serious” aspects of civilization such as war, art, and religion.
It is without a doubt that in our contemporary digital era, gaming is becoming an increasingly popular engagement not only among children but in particular among adolescents and adults. Moreover, the mass exposure of millions of gamers to their gaming screens attests to video games being perhaps the most relevant and influential contemporary means of representation not only of fantasy worlds but of history itself.
However, in spite of the many innovative capabilities of immersion and artistic reenactment offered by this new medium, video games are often scorned by scholars as an infantile activity shackled to the field of recreational subculture, as opposed to the traditional literary and visual mediums being perceived as the sole valid forms of approaching and narrating history.
Nevertheless, the 21st century has brought a surging academic interest in video games and their various capabilities. Naturally, the eminent link between video games and history has been noticed by a number of historians who have explored the medium’s historiographical capabilities, manifested through its recreational function. Having recognized their immense impact on our contemporary conception of history, they begin comparing its narrative and informative capabilities to those of formal education, as well as considering its integration in the educational process.
The goal of this paper is to examine the academic coverage of videogames as a medium of historiography, by comparing and critically evaluating the methodology and arguments of a selection of texts, as well as their relation to the video game examples they are based upon. By referring to a number of relevant articles by contemporary academics, I will attempt to explore the academic coverage of the subject through different perspectives. From Dawn Spring’s investigation on the concept of an “academic video game” and Lisa Gilbert’s experiment on video games’ educational capabilities through the means of empathy to Alexander Galloway and Johannes Koski’s critical theory on video games’ historiographical capabilities and their underlying ideologies, this upcoming paper explores the broad extent at which video games have been assessed and criticized in academic terms.
However, this upcoming paper is by no means a simple re-introduction of a previously attained academic coverage. It follows the methodology of an article review, in which I will critically assess the(occasionally problematic) arguments brought by each article, comparing them to common and personal experiences with the video game examples in question. In this way, I will attempt not only to connect the arguments of each perspective and assess video games’ contemporary status as a means of historiography, but also to broaden the discourse and expand our perception of the matter by bringing into question the goals and methodologies that have been used. Thus, academic citations are used in combination with personal hands-on experience, as a means to assess our actual capabilities to study history and its historiographical mediums themselves, by critically indulging in their particular aspects that have already transformed our contemporary world-view through immersive recreation.
In conclusion, video games are no longer to be seen as simply another method of studying the past. Due to their particular immersive and dynamic capabilities, they can transform the past into present, creating an algorithmic process of experiencing history not through the monolithic lens of a set-in-stone conclusivity, but through its underlying potentiality that can only be fulfilled by a dynamic recreation of our archived experience. This particular capability, despite having been perceived by academics, has yet to be fulfilled in a manner that dynamically and creatively involves it in a broader academic discourse. It is through the critical lens of a digital "homo ludens" that I shall attempt to assess the true status of video games as the primary contemporary means of historical representation.