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Is Sid Meier's Civilization history?

Journal article
Authors Adam Chapman
Published in Rethinking history
Volume 17
Issue 3
Pages 312-332
ISSN 1364-2529
Publication year 2013
Published at
Pages 312-332
Language en
Links www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080...
Keywords videogame, history, Galloway, Sid Meier's Civilization , epistemology, narrative, representation
Subject categories History and Archaeology, Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Media and Communications

Abstract

Despite the huge sales of various historical videogames (e.g. Sid Meier's Civilization, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed) the discipline of history has shown surprisingly little interest in this new mode of historical expression. These videogames are perhaps the most popular contemporary histories, but there seems to be a perception of the form as unsuitable for consideration as a legitimate form of historical narrative. This article attempts to explore the videogame's legitimacy as a historical form. This is done by starting with Galloway's (2006) informatics critique of Civilization, which has serious implications for the videogame as a historical form. This is followed by evidence from both educators and players, which affirms that playing the game already constitutes a historical experience that ties into a larger historical discourse. Finally, by using a perspective that rethinks empiricism and written representationalism and that endorses a position that frees up intellectual space for the postmodern historian, this article attempts to address issues surrounding the suitability of the videogame as a historical form. This essay seeks to show that these are inherent ‘flaws’ attributable to history (which can be thought of as representation), rather than any particular form. This leads to an exploration of the similarities in the algorithmic process of creative construction of the game-based history to our other more traditional modes of history. By re-evaluating Galloway's work we are also rethinking empirical-analytical historical thinking and practice. Doing so allows us to begin to explore important questions about and affirm that the videogame can be a recognisable metonymic narrative device and thus a suitable form for history.

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