A defining fixture of our contemporary world, video games offer a rich spectrum of engagements with the past. Beyond a source of entertainment, video games are cultural expressions that support and influence social interactions. Games educate, bring enjoyment, and encourage reflection. They are intricate achievements of coding and creative works of art. Histories, ranging from the personal to the global, are reinterpreted and retold for broad audiences in playful, digital experiences. The medium also magnifies our already complicated and confrontational relation with the past, for instance through its overreliance on violent and discriminatory game mechanics. This book continues an interdisciplinary conversation on game development and play, working towards a better understanding of how we represent and experience the past in the present.

Return to the Interactive Past offers a new collection of engaging writings by game creators, historians, computer scientists, archaeologists, and others. It shows us the thoughtful processes developers go through when they design games, as well as the complex ways in which players interact with games. Building on the themes explored in the book The Interactive Past, the authors go back to the past to raise new issues. How can you sensitively and evocatively use veterans’ voices to make a video game that is not about combat? How can the development of an old video game be reconstructed on the basis of its code and historic hardware limitations? Could hacking be a way to decolonize games and counter harmful stereotypes? When archaeologists study games, what kinds of maps do they draw for their digital fieldwork? And in which ways could we teach history through playing games and game-making?

Return to the Interactive Pasts is available for free to read online, or as a PDF EBook for €9,95. Individual authors may also freely share their own chapters. You can download and read our own introduction here.

Printed versions are also available through Sidestone Press.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Angus A.A. Mol, Aris Politopoulos, Csilla E. Ariese, Bram van den Hout & Krijn H.J. Boom

Part I: Narratives in and of Video Games

2. The Role of Historical Research and ‘Historical Accuracy’ in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Johnnemann Nordhagen
3. Their Memory: Exploring Veterans’ Voices
Iain Donald, Emma Houghton & Kenneth Scott-Brown
4. The Desolation of Vixens
John Aycock & Hayden Kroepfl
5. The Final Word? How Fans of The Elder Scrolls Record, Archive, and Interpret the Battle of Red Mountain
Dennis Jansen

Part II: Representations and Intersectionality in Video Games

6. Personal and Social Recent History in Fragments of Him: Defining and Exploring ‘Immersion’ in Video Games
Mata Haggis-Burridge
7. ‘Transcending History and the World’: Ancient Greece and Rome in Versus Fighting Video Games
Dunstan Lowe
8. Synthetic Spaces and Indigenous Identity: Decolonizing Video Games and Reclaiming Representation
Ashlee Bird
9. Fork in the Road: Consuming and Producing Video Game Cartographies
Florence Smith Nicholls

Part III: Historical Research and Learning through Video Games

10. Scholarly History through Digital Games: Pedagogical Practice as Research Method
Robert Houghton
11. Life Was Really Hard! Designing and Using Digital Games to Explore Medieval Life in Primary Schools
Juan Hiriart
12. Gaming the Past: Video Games and Historical Literacy in the College Classroom
Jeffrey Lawler & Sean Smith
13. Of Ecosystems and Landscapes: An Essay on Grasping Themes of Environmental History in Video Games
George L. Vlachos
14. Stories Around the Campfire
The Interactive Past Community (Curated by Csilla E. Ariese)