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The Middle Ages in the Modern Game: Representing the Play Element of Historical Cultures

Conference contribution
Authors Adam Chapman
Published in Paper presented at the Middle Ages in the Modern World conference, University of Manchester, UK, July 2017
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Subject categories Media and Communications, History and Archaeology


The representation of the Middle Ages and associated themes in videogames continues to draw academic interest (e.g. Kline 2014). Generally analytical approaches to historical representation in videogames concentrate on the inclusion and negotiation of historical content. However, less work has considered the relationship between the act of playing itself and the representation of particular perceived historical periods. Such questions become significant when considering work such as Huizinga’s seminal Homo Ludens, which argues that “Mediaeval life was brimful of play” (1949, 179). Using this analytical reframing allows us to reconsider the relationship between Middle Ages history and videogames through examining the playful interactions games structure in relation to particular historical content. This is an attempt to move beyond examining the use of particular imagery or themes by particular games to considering if the very nature of the playful game inherently offers something resonant with histories of the Middle Ages. To do so is to ask if games are particularly suited to the representation of the Middle Ages, not only in comparison to other forms but also in comparison to their representational relationship with other histories. This also leads to wider questions about the broader relationship between history and games in which the correctness of Huizinga’s particular assessment of the playfulness of the Middle Ages becomes less important. For example, if the play element in culture has indeed differed over time, does this mean that the playful form of games is inherently more or less suited to the representation of particular histories? Kline, Daniel, (ed.). 2014. Digital Gaming Re-Imagines the Middle Ages. London: Routledge. Huizinga, Johan. 1949 [2000]. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. London: Routledge.

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