The problem for computer games producers is that they combine a knowledge-based representation of history, while they are going to sell a commercial product, writes Henrik Arnstad apropos of a recent anthology on the subject.
Nothing is so important to convey notions of history as popular culture. It is not by reading historical research that the public knows elapsed the landscape. It is instead through feature films and TV series that experiences spread – everything from the Roman Empire through Adolf Hitler to the Vietnam War. “Film is the most influential mediator of history,” the historian Ulf Zander wrote. But today challenged the feature film of another medium: computer and video games.
This has led historians Matthew Wilhelm Kapell and Andre BR Elliot compiling the research anthology Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History . In Swedish about “playing with the past”, which pretty well sums up how historians analyze computer games as a mediator of the past.
On academics language called this type of research for a study of the use of history, that is how the story used afterwards; politically, culturally and socially. The common notion is that historians researching what it was in the past. It is equally true that historians often examines how the “old days” used later – or today – by different actors with politicized agendas. For example, in computer games.
PC Games often seen as something belonging to teenagers, but I myself belong to the first computer game generation (born 1967) and approaching 50 years of age. “The Game Boy Generation” is gray middle age and has increasingly received their view of history through computer games. Historians in the anthology are generally positive for this:
“Historical computer games allow a deep understanding of the facts, people and events. But even for the complex discourse of uncertainty, conditions and coincidences that form the basis for a genuine understanding of history. “
This is particularly the historical game of strategic model ( Civilization series , Age of Empires and the like). The player manages a world history with the open end, where history is changed by your own decisions. The past becomes an experimental workshop that examines what had happened, for example, “if the British lacked fleet,” writes Chapel-Elliot. The researchers ‘conclusion is that the games’ value should be estimated in a far greater degree in education.
But there is one problem, namely that the elapsed unit even in the digital version reproduced in selective form. The games have a focus – the “Western and preferably white European societies” which forms the basis for a “division of the world into ourselves and the others,” writes Chapel-Elliot. A “we” and “them”. Specifically criticized the game Civilization IV: Colonization . There reproduced conquest of America and the indigenous population is only a natural resource. They are “stagnant” and “trapped in time – unable to development”. The game is “arguably despicable – but it would be impossible to create a ‘neutral’ simulation of colonial clashes”, not least commercially. Instead, make up the game a “banality of evil,” the researchers write, citing thus philosopher Hannah Arendt’s famous opinion about the Holocaust.
The problem for computer games producers is that they combine a knowledge-based representation of history, while they are going to sell a commercial product. Thus, they must be based on the public’s general view of the past. The games are made based on what “the player thinks is correct, or expect to be there.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the games of World War II, where US troops must be given a central place – for it “knows” game buyer in the US (and probably Sweden) that it was. This is called by the researchers for “selective authenticity” of what is on the basis of a politicized memory culture are “brand WW2″.
Game spouses may therefore not reproduce the Second World War geostrategic course correct. The war was essentially a battle between Germany and the Soviet Union, but to stick to this would make the product difficult to sell and probably also “controversial” in the Western public. Instead directs play the spouses themselves on authenticity in terms of uniforms, combat vehicles and weapons (‘technological fetishism “). Reluctant war torque – as the 1945 atomic bombing Japan – generally avoided in the games. “We are making computer games, not political maneuvering,” said the studio that produced the title Call of Duty: World at War . This constitutes “selective authenticity”, ie that the games “are not the facts to fantasy per se, but rather what elements are in the forefront as established authenticity, and who is excluded.”
politicization, however, rule within all the popular culture of history, which usually serves the purpose to seek to strengthen our own time structures. All history is really about the present, as it is called. Movies, books and television about history are usually produced to strengthen national identity and nationalist pathos – or to change these emotional experiences to the desired direction.
What makes computer games especially interesting is the intensity of the historical experience. If you – personally through a prolonged and intensive effort – managed to defeat your enemies and triumph on the battlefield, it becomes your history image much stronger than if you seen one feature film. That was how it was! I was once there myself! It was I who did it!
At the same time reinforced the image of the past that the masculine fields lords, kings and heroic soldiers arena. If the nation’s struggle and survival in competition with others – to the death. The fittest for survival. Using the most modern computer technology is view of history at express speed to the 1800s. It says a lot about our time.
The problem for computer games producers is that they combine a knowledge-based representation of history, while they are going to sell a commercial product. Thus, they must be based on the public’s general view of the past, writes Henrik Arnstad on the occasion of the research anthology Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History which analyzes computer games as an intermediary of the past.
Henrik Arnstad is a regular contributor to the GP Culture. Author of the book Beloved Fascism: The brown-black movement’s ideology and history. Last wrote about Cecilia Notini Burchs dissertation A Cold War Pursuit: Soviet Refugees in Sweden from 1945 to 1954.