“HISTORY” | Keywords for Video Game Studies GIG Session, Nov. 8, 1:30 PM, CMU 202

The Keywords for Video Game Studies graduate interest group’s (GIG) second event of the Autumn Quarter is on Thursday, November 8, 1:30-3:30 PM, in Communication 202.  This is our second public reading group/workshop of the year and will focus on the gaming term “History.”

The Keywords for Video Game Studies working group, in collaboration with the Critical Gaming Project at the University of Washington, is supported by the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

What to Expect

The format for the reading group/workshop is simple: read, play, gather, discuss.  (And share in some refreshments.)  Though our immediate audience is graduate students, our goal is to bring together people from a variety of fields and from all different points in their academic careers who have an interest in video game studies.  The reading group/workshop format allows us to frame the discussion with a handful of short essays, a few key games, and the rest is up to participants to tease out the issues and angles related to the day’s key word.

What to Read

We hope everyone can read and come prepared to discuss the following essays:

If you have a UWNetID, you can find copies of each essay on e-reserve.  If you do not have access to UW e-reserves, please contact us and we’ll work something out.

What to Play

Though we will undoubtedly talk about many different games, we have selected the following games to serve as common points of reference for our discussion:

What to Discuss

The second session for the 2012-2013 Keywords for Video Game Studies graduate interest group will focus broadly on the topic of “HISTORY.”  Focusing on this keyword immediately presents a decision for critical focus between the history of “video games” or how they engage in and comment on human history?  In the case of the former we are presented with what Ian Bogost would call a “mess.”   We can easily identify various micro-histories: of video game media, of platforms, of market genres, of engines, of communities and virtual worlds, and so on.  Part of the difficulty here is the impossibility of conceiving of Tennis for Two, Plants vs. Zombies, MYST, Pac Man, Bejeweled, Dance Dance Revolution, Braid, Skyrim, Street Fighter II, Angry Birds, Oregon Trail, and The Secret World as a comprising a uniform “artistic medium,” despite valiant efforts by Mark J.P. Wolf and others.

In the case of focusing on video games engaging in history we’re confronted with another wonderful multiplicity in which we can talk about SuperColumbineMassacreRPG and September 12 and historical events, Spore and models of cosmic history, Fallout and Deus Ex and alternate histories, CIV4 and world history, World of Warcraft and Second Life and virtual histories, and even player histories within game worlds captured via mnemonic systems like in-game play galleries, journals, save games, and achievement and player profiling systems.

Although we may engage many of these aspects of history in gaming in our discussion we would like to channel our critical energy initially on more manageable set of questions:

  • How do games that use human history as their conceit comment on and model those histories?  Is history integral to the game, or is it simply a skin?  If the latter, can we see ways in which the historical context may be working with or against the game?
  • Are there novel ways in which video games relate to their own histories (on the level of “games,” genres, or even internally within sequels)?  What do the assumptions about what is important to record and when tell you about the values of the game/game world?
  • What about platform studies, which attempts to track the material history of video games?  What is gained from these excavations of hardware, code, marketing campaigns, and consumer cultures?  What is overlooked or lost?
  • How might we think across these questions?  How might we engage the intersections of these different domains and definitions of history?

Feel free to comment on these here or add your own questions.  Either way, come be a part of our discussion Thursday, November 8, 1:30-3:30 in CMU 202.

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