In a 2005 article discussing the simulation of history through video games, William Uricchio observes that the opportunities for mediation through play pose new and difficult questions about narrative authority and representation. “What happens”, he asks, “if we push the notion of mediation beyond language, to the domain of game, enactment, or simulation? Does this allow us to slip out of the well-critiqued trap of representation? And if so, where does it land us?” As of 2011, his questions remain unanswered.

Amid a world of SIMs, first-person warfare games, strategy, MMO and MMORPs in which players can influence the outcome of battles, campaigns, and even entire civilisations, such questions about the means by which history is delivered to new generations gain increasing importance. When history can be simulated, recreated, subverted and rewritten on a variety of levels, new questions arise about the relationship between video games and the history they purport to represent, questions which traditional historical approaches cannot properly address.

The proposed edited collection thus seeks to examine representations of history through video and computer games from a multidisciplinary perspective. Our aim is to avoid criticisms of inaccuracy and betrayal or descriptions of games which purportedly ‘get things wrong’, but to look instead at the ways in which contemporary players actually can and do engage with the past, and what effect this has on the period depicted. Suggested topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The representation of historical battles, wars and campaigns (e.g. Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Command & Conquer, Battlefield
  • The role of play in the recreation, retelling and representation of key events in history (e.g. Anno 1404, Anno 1701, Sid Meier’s Colonization)
  • The representation of historical personages (Caesar, Napoleon, Victoria, Sun Tzu)
  •  The ways in which non-western histories are depicted (e.g. Seven States, Pharaoh, Age of Empires: Asian Dynasties, East India Company, Total War: Shogun, Assassin’s Creed)
  • The role of the player and designer in subverting the “master narratives of history” (Sim City, Sim Earth, Populous, Age of Empires, Deus Ex)
  • Games which rewrite histories across eras (e.g. Civilization, Empire Earth, Europa Universalis, Pride of Nations )
  • Instances of alternative history or future history (e.g. Alpha Centauri, Masters of Orion, World of Warcraft, Galactic Civilizations, Homeworld)

While we welcome proposals which adopt unusual approaches to representations of the past, we hope to focus on games with a wide fan base in order to appeal to a wide readership of both non-gamer historians and non-historian gamers alike. Likewise, we would encourage essays which address a single topic or theory (such as World War I or the Great Man theory of history) across a number of games. Proposals are sought from both experienced researchers and doctoral students alike, and co-authored submissions which seek to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries are especially welcome.

Abstracts of 300 words, along with a brief CV or publication list, should be sent to the editors at simulatehistory@gmail.com by January 16th 2012. At this stage we are expecting to receive draft essays of 5-6,000 words by late May 2012. For informal enquiries, please contact either Matthew Kapell or Andrew Elliott at simulatehistory@gmail.com.