CfP: Historical Games: Representation, Diversity and Ideology

As part of the larger Challenge the Past/Diversify the Future conference, the organisers would like to draw attention to this specific additional call for papers on historical representations in games.

History is often claimed to be something in decline.  In the past few decades the same discourses have been repeatedly revisited throughout the world.  Typically these debates surround issues such as the state of history education, public knowledge of the past and the fear that too few students study too little history in schools.  Whilst these arguments undoubtedly have validity in some cases, generally they rest on the notion that “history” is a thing synonymous with only official, educational, institutionalised and professional forms, accounts and practices.  Such perspectives generally ignore the role of the everyday, the local and the familial.  This means that both the significance of the popular histories found in mainstream media and the nature of history as an active process of remembering performedby the public as well as professional historians is often missed.

The huge sales of historical game series, such as Assassin’s Creed, Civilization, Brothers in Arms and Age of Empires, belie such flawed assumptions. By firstly being increasingly everyday, but also by being systems that allow their audiences to actively engage in historical practices such as historical (and often counterfactual) narrative experimentation and re-enactment.  These are also practices that have generally previously remained elusive to mainstream popular practice.   Such games therefore offer popular ‘historying’ and are significant in their potentially influential role as one of today’s most successful forms of history.

This makes the consideration of the process of representation in historical games, the ludic aesthetics of historical description, vitally important.  As such, we invite authors to theorise about the effects that the videogame form has for historical representation, whether considered on its own terms or in comparison to other media.  However, neither are historical games a neutral form for representation that exists in a commercial and cultural vacuum. As such we are particularly interested in the ideological and political aspects and implications of historical games and thus also invite papers considering issues of power and diversity in these games.

Historical games can challenge old pasts and diversify the future of history by allowing players to create transgressive or experimental histories and by opening up historical practices to new audiences and allowing them to become part-authors of their historical experience.  However, there is clearly still work to be done.  Historical games are also often used to reassert problematic (for example, colonialist and imperialist) ideologies, grand narratives and historical epistemologies and often contain hegemonic or exclusionary representations of race, gender, and sexuality.  This, alongside the relative lack of work on some of these topics in relation to historical games and the popularity of said games, mean that these are issues that must be discussed and which we hope will begin to be addressed at the conference.

Given these concerns, we particularly invite papers on the following topics, but also welcome other work on historical games:

Representations of gender in historical games

Represntations of race in historical games

Representations of sexuality in historical games

The relation of historical games to jingoistic, nationalistic, colonialist or imperialist grand narratives or ideologies

The relation of historical games to transgressive history

Western-centrism and historical games

The pressures that the game form exerts on history and the process of historical representation

The new opportunities for historical representation that the game form creates

The influence of the critical and commercial culture surrounding historical games

The role of historical games in education

Historical videogames and epistemology


Abstracts for research papers (20 min.) and workshops will be accepted until December 18th, 2014. The abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words in English.


Submit your abstract to adam.chapman@gu.se

Follow us on twitter @ctp2015


For questions, or requests for additional information related to this CFP, please contact us via e-mail at the above address.  For more general information on the conference and to get the latest news on keynote and plenary speakers, please contact us or register for our newsletter by sending us an email at challengethepast@gu.se  Details for registration and accommodation will be announced soon.


We hope you will find this conference to be of interest and we look forward to seeing you in Gothenburg in March!



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