World, Rules, and Play: Digital Games and Researching the Medieval World

World, Rules, and Play: Digital Games and Researching the Medieval World
10 Jan 2018, 17:30 to 10 Jan 2018, 19:30
IHR Wolfson Room NB02, Basement, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Robert Houghton, University of Winchester

The potential importance of digital games to popular understandings of medieval history (and history more generally) has been demonstrated exhaustively. Many studies have demonstrated the role these games can play in getting students interested in the period and even in informing their core understanding of the middle ages.

The utility of games in the taught environment at every level of study from pre-school to undergraduate has been examined and a growing number of universities make use of such games to support their teaching. From an educational standpoint, the importance of digital games is fast becoming undeniable: even if games are not to be used in class, an understanding of how they can shape students’ ideas about history is increasingly useful.
In comparison to the numerous and wide ranging studies on the relevance of historical computer games in teaching, explorations into the historical research applications of these same games are remarkably sparse. Studies almost invariably focus on the impact of history on games or on the ability of games to present a historically accurate depiction of the medieval world. The potential impact of games on academic history is ignored. There are some valid reasons for this research gap, but its existence overlooks numerous possibilities afforded by this unique medium. This paper will highlight several promising areas in which digital games may support historical study using examples from games such as Assassin’s Creed, Crusader Kings II, and Mount and Blade.
It will consider the difficulties in using games in this manner from both a mechanical and historiographical standpoint. Ultimately, this paper will argue that while computer games can never replace traditional research methods, they can act as valuable tools and can present perspectives and approaches to this discipline.


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