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Its Hard to Play in the Trenches: World War I, Collective Memory and Videogames

Journal article
Authors Adam Chapman
Published in Game Studies
Volume 16
Issue 2
ISSN 1604-7982
Publication year 2016
Published at The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction, and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society (LinCS)
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Keywords history, games, historical games, World War I, collective memory, popular memory, frame analysis
Subject categories Media and Communications, History and Archaeology


This article explores the relation of WWI popular collective memory to historical videogames. The article provides an overview of WWI games, organising them by genre and determining their engagement with the imagery that typically sustains and constitutes WWI popular memory. This reveals that -- unusually for popular history -- the majority of these games (40/58) do not significantly engage this memory. The article attempts to explain this lack of engagement by examining the issues that face videogames in trying to engage WWI popular memory (tonal incompatibility; fear of trivialisation through ludification; uncertainty about playable positions) given its relatively sensitive and contested nature. Accordingly, the analysis suggests that the nature of the depictions of WWI that players are exposed to in this new popular form is partly shaped by the particular limitations that the videogame form and its perceived cultural role entail. In doing so, the article also examines the nature of the videogame as a form for historical representation.

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