Toying with History


Published on

Presentation at SUNY Potsdam

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • Shadows of War – play the fascists, play the nationalists. Furor. ‘Educational!’ say the makersSome people may be shot, others may not be shot. But all of these are just dancing with the surface. The deeper import of games comes at the level of the rules.
  • 1950s vibe: similar media furor over the role of a new lively art.
  • From abstract: “Players’ understandings are developed through cycles of performance within the gameworlds, which instantiate particular theories of the world (ideological worlds). Players develop new identities both through game play and through the gaming communities in which these identities are enacted. Thus research that examines game-based learning needs to account for both kinds of interactions within the game-world and in broader social contexts.”
  • Writing history is a kind of game. Peers, levelling up, scores (citations)
  • Source of failure, success:The black box can be opened.Problem is: context of that action ... Beware the creepy treehouse.
  • So what is the main game play mechanic in the game of being a history student? Close reading. I should’ve started with this. Instead of ‘go play’, I should’ve said, ‘let’s look under the hood’.
  • JFK Reloaded. Tradition of documentary; an art game; an exploration of the past, say supporters
  • Mark Sample: Their outwardly respectful “interactive reconstruction of John F. Kennedy’s assassination” is undone by inaccuracies and misspellings (Nelly for Nellie, “desparate”) but even more so by the explicitly sexual reframing of this traumatic event. It’s difficult to take JFK Reloaded as a serious exploration of history when under the hood it resembles an adolescent joke, preoccupied with sex and making light of death (“before he croaks”).
  • MacDougall: when we look at a simple, stylized cartoon, we can project our own identity on to it. We can see it as our self. This is why cartoon protagonists from Tintin to the Simpsons are so often drawn in less detail than their backgrounds or supporting casts. The abstraction of a Playmobil, or any tiny plastic representation of the human form, has a similar psychological effect. Henry Jenkins describes action figures as avatars that let children enter imagined spaces and try on various roles.He goes on: “I do believe the most mature kind of historical thinking only comes when we confront what we cannot understand or empathize with in the past. Still, in proscribing personal identification, play-acting, and make-believe, professional historians amputate a whole lot of what people want from their history.”
  • 1:35: maybe he’s been around so long he knows everything.
  • Toying with History

    1. 1. Shawn Graham @electricarchaeo Carleton U
    2. 2. -or- What Sid Meier & Bill Murray Can Teach Us About the Past
    3. 3. In Three Acts 1. On playing games 2. On building games 3. On simulation
    4. 4. Drill ‘n’ kill. Just say no.
    5. 5. What makes for a good game?
    6. 6. 26 of the 133 on this list with historical themes or settings (at my last count) sold > 1 million copies
    7. 7. We’re frightened by historical games
    8. 8. What if people learn the wrong history? • Globe & Mail, Editorial, ‘Assassin’s Creed III video game distorts history’ Nov 14 2012. • “[…]Assassin’s Creed III is just a video game. But given the dearth of history instruction in our schools, it might be the only place that Canadian young people are learning about the Revolutionary War. At very least, they need to be equipped to separate the Ameriphilia from the facts.”
    9. 9. They’re immoral!
    10. 10. But wait! They’re educational!
    11. 11. , Sid Meier, & Kurt Squire
    12. 12. Writing history is every bit as synthetic as this:
    13. 13. Even Wikipedia is a kind of MMO
    14. 14. 2. The real game is in making the game
    15. 15. Year of the Four Emperors
    16. 16. Close Reading
    17. 17. Open the hood.
    18. 18. JFK: Reloaded (Traffic, 2004)
    19. 19. marginalia in JFK Reloaded source code // ————————————————————— // Jackie cradling JFK before the money shot // —————————————————————— [ACTION] <NAME> JackieCradleJFK <CONCERNED> 0 0
    20. 20. Game & Worldbuilding software with affinities to how we’ve always written history
    21. 21. #hist3812 The Medic’s War
    22. 22.
    23. 23.
    24. 24. 3. Toying with History via the Action Figure Curriculum
    25. 25. Toying with History via Simulation • Agent based models as the ultimate playset • A formalized ‘let’s pretend’ • A making explicit in code of what we believe to have been true about some phenomenon in the past • An impartial referee to work through all of the unintended consequences
    26. 26. Raise some zombies and set them to work.
    27. 27. Agent models: your own personal Groundhog Day
    28. 28. Characteristics of an ‘agent-based’ model
    29. 29. The ‘environment’
    30. 30. The Antonine Itineraries as Network A limite id est a vallo Praetorio usque mpm clvi A Bremenio Vindomora viiii Vinovia xviiii Cataractoni xxii Isurium xxiiii Eburacum, leg. vi victrix, xvii Derventione vii Delgovicia xiii Praetorio xxv
    31. 31. The model code: to go ask romans [ pass-the-word ; if somebody here hasn’t heard the idea, tell them! move-forward ; then follow the route of the itinerary to somewhere else ] update-plots ; plot the percentage who have now heard the idea if everyone-heard-it = 100% [stop] ; if everyone has heard it, stop the simulation set ticks ticks + 1 ; update the clock. end
    32. 32. Results – JMA 19.1 Internal Dynamics of Provincial Information Diffusion Proportional of Time Steps "1" represents the initial number of time steps to get the message to 10% of the population 1 Iberia Britain Italy Three Gauls 0.1 1 21 41 61 % Who Have Heard the Message 81 101 121
    33. 33. PatronWorld A Rather More Complex Model Published as ‘Behaviour Space: Simulating Roman Social Life and Civil Violence’ in Digital Studies 1.2 (2009)
    34. 34. Why doesn't it all collapse sooner?
    35. 35. Begin with something fundamental: salutatio
    36. 36. Networks derived from central Italian brick stamp data
    37. 37. PatronWorld Mode
    38. 38. When Digital Romans Go Bad
    39. 39. When Digital Romans Go Bad Oppression Model runs where violence emerged Deaths
    40. 40. Final Word to Phil Connors: I am a God. Key bit is at 1.35 – 1.40
    41. 41. The Point. • Toying with history encourages love & mastery of the materials. • Toying with history allows for expressive, lively, and emotional engagement with contingency in the past. • Toying with history confronts the ways we share authority with algorithms to create knowledge.
    42. 42. • Toying with history forces us to be explicit about our ‘let’s pretend’ stories. • Toying with history allows us to explore the consequences of those stories. • It might be toying, but it’s anything but a…
    43. 43. Acknowledgements & thanks • Title slide image: “It belongs in a museum!” cc by Puuikibeach, Flickr • Shadows of War, Spanish civil war game screenshot, • ‘Great game’ cartoon -daydreams-failure/ • Zombie legos cc by Pedro Vezini,Flickr • Classic photos in LEGO c by Mike Stimpson • Thank you to Elizabeth Andrews, the College Libraries, and the Bregman Humanities Series for having me.
    44. 44. shameless plug.