Why History in Digital Games matters: Historical Authenticity as a Language for Ideological Myths

by Eugen Pfister

The following article originally appeared in the anthology History in Games. Contingencies of an Authentic Past, edited by Martin Lorber and Felix Zimmermann at Transcript Verlag. [Full Citation: Eugen Pfister, “Why History in Games matters. Historical Authenticity as a Language for Ideological Myths”. In: Martin Lorber & Felix Zimmermann (eds.), History in Games. Contingencies of an Authentic Past. Bielefeld: Transcript 2020, 47-72.]

Introduction

Gerda Lerner wrote in her essay ‘Why history matters’: “All human beings are practicing historians”.[1] Given the abundance of games with a historical setting, this sentence seems to take on a new immediacy. Historians such as Adam Chapman in particular argue that digital games as “(hi)story-play-spaces” have become a new historical form, enabling millions of people to virtually (re-)live history.[2] In the following I will also use the term ‘historicizing games’ after Florian Kerschbaumer and Tobias Winnerling thus underlining the idea, that these games take part in processes of making history and are not just history in and of themselves.[3]

Digital games with a historical setting are among the most financially successful. A historical setting is of course no guarantee for commercial success, but it can help games to stand out from others: in marketing terms, it serves as a USP or unique selling proposition.[4] But when history becomes a selling point, it also means that there must be a demand for it that outstrips the supply. And here we touch on a central question for historical research, but which – for various reasons – is almost never directly addressed: Where does our thirst for history come from?

I am aware that I will not find satisfactory answers to this fundamental question in the course of this essay, so I am more concerned with asking some initial questions to stimulate debate and future intensive research on this topic. To this end and based on my previous research and experience, I will make use of a historical discourse analysis. That means — to put it in a simplified way — I will ask about the discursive rules, the sayable and the thinkable in historicizing games.[5] Thus, I want to focus on whether history serves a function both at the level of the individual and at the level of society and, if so, identify what kind of function it serves. One analytical challenge is that we are no longer used to asking these question about the meaning of history.[6] Among digital game historians only Angela Schwarz and Alfred Martin Wainwright have come to my attention so far with similar questions,[7] without dealing with them in detail either. We — both historians and game players — are usually not asking why we are interested in history. In the following essay I will approach this question by using Roland Barthes’ concept of mythologies. Using a small selection of such myths, I will try to show that history as a setting particularly invites ideological statements, whether consciously or unconsciously. In this context, I will examine how the invocation of historical ‘authenticity’ has a legitimizing function in this myth-making. Finally, I would like to present a first hypothesis as an answer to the question asked in the title of this paper.

I Don’t understand “history”. (Eugen Pfister / King’s Quest / 29.6.2016).

Roland Barthes’ Mythologies

Our interest in history seems so natural to us that it would be strange to question it. For this reason, I will refer to Roland Barthes concept of ‘mythologies’, which I previously adapted for my research into games.[8] In his ‘Mythologies’ Barthes revealed ideological ‘myths’ hidden in supposedly apolitical artefacts and narratives, that is, ideological messages that are not immediately recognizable as such.[9] The concept of myth is not bound to any particular medium, but is so open that a myth could potentially be found in any communication process. Barthes examines myths as diverse and moral concepts in wrestling, the nationalistic charge of French red wine, the idea of ‘depth’ in advertising for cleaning products, etc. It is significant that the myth, according to Roland Barthes, is never a single object, word, image, thought or idea but always a system of symbols that is composed of all these set pieces, giving them added meaning.[10] In Barthes opinion, the secret of the myth’s success also lies in the fact that it supposedly coagulates history to nature, which means that it is not questioned because it seems ‘natural’.[11] Successful myths reproduce themselves, they do not need authors with corresponding intentions. This also means that the reproduction of myths often does not take place consciously. “The thing that causes the mythical statement to be made is completely explicit, but it immediately coagulates to nature. It is read not as a motive, but as a justification.”[12] Michel Foucault argued similarly in the context of “performative utterance” that the repeatability of signifiers allows them to be naturalized in the first place, that is, to be taken for granted.[13] In the following, I have decided to use Roland Barthes’ concept of myth because I think it conveys particularly impressively that not only ideological but also and especially political statements can often be reproduced unconsciously. This means that such myths in our popular culture often also construct and communicate statements about our governance and community. (This is of particular concern to me because I analyze a political history of ideas in games.) I am referring primarily to Barthes’ case studies and less to his theory text ‘Le mythe aujourd’hui’, which was written later. Based on this, I propose my own political myth concept adapted to my question (point 1) while at the same time concretizing the term for my research needs (points 2-4). 

In summary: The political myth in the digital game refers to a political or ideological statement (with implied instructions for action — which I will elaborate on later) that has taken on the appearance of naturalness and is therefore (often) not understood as such by game developers and by players. Accordingly, the myth is reproduced unconsciously and can — continuing to go unnoticed — change its quality in the process of media reiteration.[14] The political myth is characterized by the following four features:

1. The political myth is never a single sign (a clichéd figure, a motif, a symbol, etc.) but a political statement, which is composed of a system of mutually reinforcing signs.

2. The political myth is a immediately obvious political statement. That is why it is often repeated in several contexts, i.e. in several games or media forms without being questioned. Through its repetition (reiteration) the myth reinforces the appearance of ’naturalness’ and is henceforth reproduced unconsciously.[15]

3. Political myth veils history in its argumentation. It quotes well-known aesthetic models and transfers them to current phenomena without becoming historically specific. That is, the myth pretends to references ‘real’ and concrete historical phenomena when in fact only referencing their (no less real) aesthetic shell.[16] It references its own historicity.[17] It gains its persuasive power from this reference to its supposed predecessors, which again reinforces an appearance of naturalness.

4. Despite its superficially historical argumentation, every political myth can be clearly located in its topicality and can only be found in a concrete historical context. This means that there are no centuries-old myths that communicate an everlasting truth, but only contemporary ideological statements.

The Myth transforms history into nature

Attentive readers will have already have noticed some parallels to historicizing games at this point. Indeed, in the following I would like to show, on the basis of the four points mentioned, that historical settings are particularly well suited for the construction and communication of such myths:

1. A system of mutually reinforcing signs. This can be demonstrated particularly impressively in games because here, in addition to the narrative level, we have an audio-visual aesthetic level and a game mechanical level. So for the historian seeking answers, it is not enough to concentrate on the story or on the gameplay alone. In the game Assassin’s Creed Unity (2014), for example, the ideological charge of the depicted epoch of the French revolution — i.e.  the illegitimacy of a bloody uprising — is fed in equal parts by the framing narrative, the depiction of the characters, the ambient architecture as well as the gameplay and game rules.[18]

2. The myth as an immediately obvious political statement. Digital games also lend themselves to this aspect of a myth, as they afford much less room for reflection and criticism than, for example, the novel or the film. The player’s actions are usually determined by the game mechanics. Adam Chapman adapts the term ‘affordances’ for this phenomenon.[19] Because they do what the game tells or, rather, affords them to do the players are normally not questioning their actions. The idea that a limited number of resources must automatically lead to competition or conflict between interested parties is a good example. This thinking is the basis of most of the so-called 4X Games like the Civilization series (1991-2016) in which the player has to achieve world domination. While in later games of the series a diplomatic and cultural victory became possible, the never were as gratifying as the military victory, because most of the game mechanics focus on expansion and the development of military units.

3. Myths argue using history. Here we enter the core area of my thoughts. History becomes the legitimizing instance of current ideological statements. In the following I will delve into this aspect in more detail.

4. Myths are always a contemporary phenomenon. Here we are entering terrain familiar to historians. The depiction of the Middle Ages in games like Crusader Kings (2004-2013) and Medieval: Total War (2002) is not a source for the history of the Middle Ages but for the society that created it. This means that historians learn from the analysis of Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018) something about the context of its creation, the developers, the industry and contemporary Czech history but not about the history of a Czech Peasantry in the 15th century.

It is important to remind us that “History with a capital H”[20] does not function as a myth in itself, rather it enables such myths. History becomes a language that potentially allows an infinite number of different statements, and thus becomes — for the reasons mentioned above — particularly suited for the construction of myths. In the following, I would like to illustrate these thoughts by means of three selected myths.

Myth 1: The pirate as individualist

A good example to begin with is Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag (2013), an action-adventure, which is part of the overarching Assassin’s Creed narrative of a centuries-long battle between two secret societies. In this case, the game takes us to the Caribbean at the time of the so-called ‘Golden Age of Piracy’, i.e. the beginning of the 18th century. We assume the role of the British pirate Edward Kenway, and in the course of the game we advance to become a masterful ‘assassin’ (one of the two secret societies mentioned above) in search of an alien artifact. In the meantime, however, the game sends us on a history tour in a similar fashion to previous iterations of the  series. We encounter a selection of more or less well-known pirates, such as Edward Teach, better known under his nom de guerre ‘Blackbeard’, Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Jack Rackham, and can marvel at beautifully reconstructed historical colonial architecture and ships. According to their own statements, the developers based their world-building mainly on the book ‘The Republic of Pirates’ by the American journalist Colin Woodard[21] and received additional support from the experienced weapons historian Mike Loades, himself commending the developers for wanting to set the game in an “authentic historical world”.[22] Certain anachronisms — such as the sailor songs, most of which date back to the 19th century — were apparently tolerated because of the atmosphere they evoke.[23] The gameplay is predetermined by the series — a mixture of combat, stealth play and parkour. In addition to this, halfway through the game sea battles and the management of a player base and a small fleet of pirate ships are unlocked and dominate the gameplay experience henceforth. The game is interesting for us here because it partially breaks with a popular cultural tradition of the pirate image. In fact, since the 17th century a very successful myth of the pirate as outcast has been established, who is able to rehabilitate himself (or in a few cases herself) in society through honourable behaviour and assisting the community.  One can clearly see the socially disciplining motive of the narrative, which had been successful up until the pirate movies of the post-war period.[24]

In early games like Sid Meier’s Pirates (1987) — analyzed for example by Gunnar Sandkühler —[25] and The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) we could still see vestiges of this traditional myth of the ‘Gentleman Pirate’. At the same time it was the success of pirate simulations like Sid Meier’s Pirates and Port Royale (2002-2020) that made it possible to recode the pirate into a new myth: from gentleman pirate to adventure capitalist.[26] In Assassin’s Creed Black Flag Kenway does — accordingly — not rescue a princess, he does not return into the lap of society at the end of the story. Life as a pirate, as the culmination of individual freedom becomes an ideal in itself (as in, by the way, the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2015) film franchise).[27] Being a pirate is no longer a rite of passage into society to serve as an officer or governor. The narrative of the game stages the ‘Brotherhood of the Coast’ as a quasi-democratic liberal association of individual pirates. The striking appearance of Kenway — the white hooded dress of the assassins — as well as the flamboyant clothing of the other pirates, especially against the background of otherwise uniform NPCs, reinforce this impression. This becomes also apparent in its game mechanics and the importance of improving one’s own ship and base through good resource and time management and the most efficient raids on uniform ‘enemy’ ships. What emerges is the pirate as entrepreneur who decides alone on basis of his own experience what is right and what wrong. Thus, a system of mutually reinforcing signs is identified. He does not listen to the decisions of a community (not even those of the assassins) but trusts only his own decisions. Opposite him  — exemplified in the person of the pirate hunter Woodes Rodgers — stands the colonial administration, largely infiltrated by Templars and thus corrupted. What emerges is the myth of the freedom-loving pirate as the epitome of the individual, who alone is capable of making ethical decisions. This should be of no surprise to us as it simply corresponds to a currently dominant statement in line with the neoliberal paradigm, confirming my earlier statement that myths are always a contemporary phenomenon. As Zygmunt Bauman shows in his book ‘Liquid Modernity’, individualization is fate and not choice in the neoliberal state.[28] This new emerging pirate narrative was certainly facilitated by traditional game mechanics, which conventionally tend to strengthen the agency of the player, and thus to propagate consciously or unconsciously a strong impression of individualism. Traditional ideas of gameplay focusing on conflict, concurrence and the accumulation of resources and wealth defined a new imagination of the pirate, from gentleman-adventurer to adventurer-capitalist. According to Bruno Amables, neoliberals have realized that in order for their ideology to be successful, a state’s populace must internalize the belief that individuals are only to be rewarded based on their personal effort.[29] We not only encounter the dominant individual in pirate games, we generally also encounter it frequently in first person shooters and action adventures: The Master Chief of Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), Commander Shepard of Mass Effect (2007), Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011). The explanation for this is usually the need for player agency, although to my knowledge there are no studies to support this anticipated demand for agency by the players. In its seamless integration with popular game mechanics, the myth as an immediately obvious political statement becomes visible. In a historical setting this myth quickly becomes naturalized because history serves as a legitimizing instance. ‘Look here,’ the myth calls out, ‘even the pirates in the 18th century knew that in the end only the individual is important’. This is essential to note because only a few decades earlier and in other media the pirate image conveyed a completely different message. These myths argue by means of history and imply a long tradition where there actually is none.

It is interesting that both pirate myths — i.e. the honorable pirate as saviour of society as well as the individualist pirate as entrepreneur — have a historical reference, but at the same time both are anachronistic because they charge the historical pirates with contemporary ideological statements. Both myths were or are in harmony with dominant ideological statements of their epochs.[30]

Myth 2: The Perpetual War

Many historians have already pointed out the peculiar fact that history in games means one thing above all: war.[31] Without claiming completeness here, a quick look at games with the tag “Historical event” in the MobyGames database gives us a good first impression. Of course, you have to say in advance that the categorization does not meet any scientific standards for example none of the Assassin’s Creed games are mentioned. Also, you can find Sid Meier’s Colonization (1994), but not Civilization. It must be assumed that the ambiguous term ‘event’ is the cause. Nevertheless, it is a statement in itself that in 2017, out of 1,115 games (from 1981-2017) that were tagged, 757 referred to very specific historical wars.[32] Angela Schwarz summarizes: “The narrated history usually consists of a kind of chronology of militarily relevant events.”[33]

The war fetish of historicizing digital games can also be recognized in marketing. Zied Rieke, chief developer of Call of Duty 2 (2005) explained his “careful attention to weaponry” accordingly: “[W]e’ve redone every single weapon to add more detail and take advantage of our new graphics technology, which allows us to make the wood look real and metal to shine – like real metal – as well as include the tiniest details … all the way down to the serial number”.[34]  Similar to filmmakers, game developers consult military consultants for the most realistic reproduction of weapons and uniforms. Above all, however, they know how to present these consultants in public relations.[35] Historical weapons are being experimented with to great public effect. For Medal of Honor: Airborne (2007), sound engineers recorded the engine noise of a flying Douglas C-47 Skytrain.[36] This focus on weapons and uniforms is also reflected in corresponding forum debates. The user “CA Dave” writes: “Anything – from the flags to the soldier’s boots – accuracy of muskets – historical events, etc etc. Im [sic!] really interested!”[37]  Naturally, we must not be subject to the misconception that the opinions of some players who are particularly active on forums are representative of the majority. An indication for this widespread perception, however, is provided by a survey on first person shooters from 2005, which Steffen Bender quotes.[38] This survey revealed that the historicizing WWII shooters were awarded the highest degree of realism by the audience.

https://steamcommunity.com/app/203770/discussions/0/846963711022449000/

Of course, we must not forget that the focus on conflicts and the use of violence to solve these conflicts is not a peculiarity of historical games but applies to all digital games — and, to a lesser degree, to games in general. So much so that it is often explained in a circular argument that games as a whole can only be thought of in terms of conflict, from Chess to Risk to Call of Duty: World War II (2017). Because we’re used to games as simulations of conflict we can only imagine games as simulations of conflict. In the vast majority of first-person shooter and strategy games, the use of weapons is the only means to solve these conflicts.[39] Even historicizing city-building games like the Caesar (1992-1998) and Pharaoh series (1999-2000) would not do without accompanying military campaigns, not to mention the Age of Empires (1997-2019) series. Exceptions such as the 1869 Hart am Wind! (1992) trade simulation or Sims Medieval (2011) only show us how much we have otherwise accepted to play history primarily in terms of war. What are the reasons for that? At this point I cannot yet give a clear answer to this question. However, I deeply distrust the argument that games can only be thought of as a conflict. I think there is a myth at work here as well, which prevents us from questioning the motives of its constant repetition. Here, a historical view on the two genres of strategy game and first-person shooter is helpful. The first historical strategy games came from the USA and Great Britain. They were a digitalized sequel to the popular board games of game manufacturers like Avalon Hill and Victory Games. Then — similar to today —, the Second World War dominated as a historical setting. In the 1980s and 1990s, war was portrayed in games as a sporting contest between two equal opponents.[40] This becomes visible in the texts of the game manuals, as well as in the presentation of German generals and weapons on the cover, but especially in the game mechanics, which consistently ignored civilians and human rights crimes. In other words, war had to be fun. And while  other media have evolved dramatically in their depiction of the war in the last twenty years, digital games discursively still lag behind. Even for the ‘good war’, i.e. World War II,[41] films or Netflix series simply glorifying the war would be unimaginable today. A diachronic comparison of Saving Private Ryan (1998) with The Longest Day (1962) shows this development that even in mainstream blockbusters, war now must be depicted critically, at least in part. Such a discursive development only came with delay in digital games, where we can see some first discursive especially in first-person shooter games who, since Call of Duty: World at War (2008), have increasingly, albeit reluctantly, embraced the dark sides of war. This notwithstanding, strategy games like the Hearts of Iron series (2002-2016), which depoliticizes the Second World War presumably to make it playable, are still common today. I therefore ask the question: Are we encountering here the last remnants of an outdated myth – corresponding to dominant discursive statements of the late 19th century, i.e. that imagines war as a game?[42] The question must remain unanswered for the time being, since the answer depends on how historical wars are represented in games in the future.

https://www.reddit.com/r/badhistory/comments/9d9ra2/assassins_creed_unity_a_near_complete_list_of/e5hh8tc/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web3x&utm_name=web3xcss&utm_term=1&utm_content=share_button

It is important to note that wars were for the longest times narratively and aesthetically legitimized in video games: not only the Second World War but almost all historical wars. They were shown as the only way to solve the conflicts depicted by the games, be it the fight for the Japanese shogunate or the European crusades. Above all though, they are legitimized in terms of game mechanics, because there are — in fact — no other possibilities: Most games do not allow for any conflict resolution other than war. Thus they become a system of mutually reinforcing signs. As with all myths, however, we can assume that it is not historical worldviews but contemporary ones that are being negotiated here. In his conversation with Guy Lardreau, the medievalist George Duby explained: “I am constructing something that is the expression of myself, of my worldview”.[43] Steffen Bender, for example, has convincingly pointed out how the Second World War as a narrative also served as a template for current wars such as the ‘War on Terror’.[44] Myths argue with history. Politicians again resorted to war rhetoric during the Corona Pandemic, which appears to be yet more evidence of an ongoingly potent myth which again shows that myths are always a contemporary phenomenon. Put simply, this myth has an immediately obvious political statement, he  perpetuates the legitimization of warfare as an opportune foreign policy action.

Myth 3: The nation in danger

Having presented two very popular and dominant myths, both of which — despite certain geographical foci — must be analyzed from a global historical perspective, I would now like to present a localized myth. As already mentioned, history as a language allows not only one particular myth but potentially countless. The question is always only how successfully a myth can assert itself and whether it becomes part of our collective identity. Now, if we consider that in the vast majority of games traditional nationalism does not play an important role — if only because of the globally targeted global market — it is all the more intriguing when we do find an example of clear nationalistic statements in games. The fact that not all players consider themselves part of a post-national global community has been proven by Istvan Sudar, who took a closer look at forum debates on Europa Universalis II (2001).[45] He shows how Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian and Croatian players engaged in heated debates as to what allocation of core provinces in the game would be historically justified. It is exciting that the players also made intensive use of historicizing paintings, maps, and literature for this purpose.

On the developer’s side we rarely find similar openly nationalistic historical arguments, but we find nationalistic myths nonetheless. One recent example is the ‘realistic’ role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance (KC:D) from the Czech Warhorse Studio. It was aggressively sold as historically authentic, as can be seen in this promotional text: “KC:D is an open-world, realistic RPG set in the late Middle Ages. The game’s focus is threefold: lavish visuals, realistic first-person melee combat and an immersive, credible story played out in an authentic setting that provides a refreshing alternative to corny, save-the-world scenarios.”[46] 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/379430/Kingdom_Come_Deliverance/

It pays off to take a closer look at the “refreshing alternative to corny save-the-world scenarios”: In the game, we play young Henry, (supposed) son of the local blacksmith, who loses both his parents when Cuman soldiers under the control of Sigismund, king of Hungary and Croatia, attack the small village of Skalitz. The players then get a chance to avenge Henry’s parents when Sir Radzig Koblya accepts him as his envoy. It is later revealed that Henry is in fact an illegitimate son of Radzig. The narrative framework is therefore the same as the story of the young blacksmith Balian in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005). The reason why the story seems so familiar to us is that we have heard it countless times in one form or another. It is also the story of young William Thatcher in A Knight’s Tale (2001) or the story of Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977).

This teenage fantasy of a boy saving the community is in itself not problematic, but what becomes problematic in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is that the developers claim the game to be more historically accurate than any other RPG when in fact it is not. There may be no orcs, dragons, demons, warlocks, or elves and most of the mentioned historical personalities did actually exist at the time the game takes place in. It is also true that the developers have spent many hours painstakingly recreating the architectural façade of a medieval Bohemia. However “Historical accuracy” is used in the game first and foremost as a façade, a historicizing background for a timeless boy fantasy. We learn almost nothing about the actual everyday life of Bohemian peasants or craftsmen in the 15th century, we learn nothing about their way of thinking — an intricate and intelligently woven side quest about Hussites being the noteworthy exception. We certainly learn nothing about the life of women in this period of time, because apart from a mother, girlfriend and some prostitutes we don’t interact with women in the game, as if they became part of the scenery.[47] And this is why lead designer Daniel Vavra’s declaration becomes problematic, when he explains: “Since the Czech historians were kind of cut off from the world, there was no one to tell our history. So basically we are using pop culture to spread the word”[48]. This must be read as a marketing ploy. Here, a myth of an endangered Czech identity arises from the interaction of the game narrative, the audio-visual aesthetics (Cumans dehumanized as the faceless ‘barbarians’), the game mechanics (fighting as the only solution to defend oneself against the conquerors) and the extradiegetic statements of the game developer.[49] Thus the game mechanics and the narrative in the game became together with the public statements of its developer a system of mutually reinforcing signs. The myth is fuelling national resentments of a neglected Czech nation: “For the purposes of Deliverance, it’s enough to say that setting a game during the struggle for power between Sigismund and Wenceslas IV is loaded with historical significance relevant to the modern day. By turning them into easy symbols for good/Czech versus evil/foreign, they foreshadow a nation’s century long fight for sovereignty, recalling a more recent past in which the Czech lands have had to contend with Soviet, Nazi and Austro-Hungarian domination”[50] The myth is thus an immediately obvious political statement. In the end, the game teaches us nothing new about Czech history, its ‘historical authenticity’ serves the purpose of propagating a Czech national identity. It tell the story of an endangered nation surrounded by enemies trying to steal its sovereignty. This use of history as a political argument defines the Myth as a contemporary phenomenon. It remains to be seen whether we will encounter an increased number of nationalist myths in games in the future. This myth was successful in that the game sold over two million copies[51] and Daniel Vavra gained enough local fame for his political comments to be heard in the Czech Republic. The myth of the endangered nation is also potent in that it draws directly on nationalist narratives of the past century.[52]

To authenticate the Myth = to naturalize the Myth

I would like to point out that I have presented here only three of an infinite number of possible myths: two of which I think are very dominant in that they are reproduced abundantly and globally in digital games (the myth of individualism and the myth of perpetual war) and a geographically limited but nevertheless financially successful one (the myth of an endangered Czech nation). With these three examples we can now approach the question of how political myths function in relation to historical authenticity. As previously stated, for a historicizing myth to function in the game it is, above all, necessary that it is perceived by players to be authentic or accurate, i.e., real. Only in this way can a myth avoid being challenged. As Adam Chapman writes: “lt must also be noted that framing something as history in certain ways within popular culture can carry a particular authority and invoke notions of authenticity”.[53] Accuracy and authenticity are used by researchers and by an interested public as two distinct notions, but the definitions vary.[54] For my purposes I distinguish in the following between ‘accurate’ when games try to ensure that certain details correspond as closely as possible to historical depictions and ‘authentic’ when it comes to create a feeling of pastness. Accuracy thus serves the authentication of games or rather the feeling of authenticity (and its inherent cultural and ideological statements) in the traditional sense.

Let us not forget that games with a historical setting, like films, series and novels — here in contrast to history as a science — have no obligation to reproduce the past as accurately as possible. Nevertheless, both the manufacturer and the user pay an increased attention to accuracy and authenticity. Indeed, historical accuracy — as Kingdom Come: Deliverance has shown — appears to work as a selling point.

This also means that — in the absence of our own surveys — we must assume that there is a constant demand for historical authenticity, which would explain the success of these games. This is at least the viewpoint of those responsible for production and marketing of these games: According to Benedikt Schüler, Marketing Director at Ubisoft Germany, history is used similarly to a brand,[55] to reduce the business risk involved in launching a game, because a product must be successful and recoup the sometimes very high production costs.[56] This demand, however, is not the result of a desire to experience history by completely simulating the life of the historical persons depicted in the games. Game developers still assume that nobody wants to re-enact days and weeks of waiting and doing nothing in war, the experience of receiving realistic injuries. Nor do these games give us the possibility to re-enact the lives of millions of historical peasants, but only those of a small handful of privileged regents and warriors. What, then, is perceived as authentic by a majority of players? The answer is repeatability. Authentication works by comparison.

As Felix Zimmermann convincingly demonstrated in the introduction to this volume, with recourse to Baudrillard and Winnerling, it is not a matter of scientific verification or falsification but more of ‘feeling’.[57] It is a matter of comparing the historical representation in a game with already known historical representations. Most people do not use scientific papers or monographs for this purpose, but rather memories of comparable depictions in popular culture. We find a nice anecdote about this in a forum for Shogun: Total War II (2011). On the occasion of the debate whether the use of Horos[58] is authentic, the user “pulpnofiction” sarcastically claims: “Tom Cruise, the last and most important of all samurai did not wear one. Therefore they should not be in this game”.[59]

https://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?437802-The-Great-Horo-Misunderstanding-(the-back-balloons-for-the-uninformed)&p=9247767&viewfull=1#post9247767

The search for authenticity is comparable to the search for the watermark on banknotes or to the checks made to discern whether a branded product is genuine or counterfeit. Valentin Groebner explains in his comments on history tourism that the more often and intensively the experience is reproduced and re-enacted, the more authentic it can claim to be.[60] Concerning authenticity in the depiction of antiquities in digital games, Dunstan Lowe has called this a “box ticking approach […] whereby certain highlights of the classical world (those firmly anchored in the popular imagination) must be present regardless of chronological, geographical and other pragmatic constraints”.[61] In sum: We can always only verify what we already know. Steffen Bender speaks of “authenticity signals” that are used in games.[62] Carl Heinze used the term “scenery authenticity”, Andrew Salvati and Jonathan Bullinger “selective authenticity”[63], Nico Nolden “object fixation”[64] and Felix Zimmermann “object authenticity”[65]. The authentication of historicizing digital games therefore works primarily by comparing the representation with other popular cultural representations. First-person shooters set in World War II are therefore first compared to known movies and series like Saving Private Ryan or Enemy at the Gates (2001).

The reasons for why this need for authentication of experienced past exists and persists are not yet clear to me in their entirety. However, this desire for authentication should be understood as an integral part of the game fun if historicizing settings are involved. According to Winnerling, an assumed historical accuracy is supposed to help a game reach “a state of authentication in which it ceases to irritate players and succeeds in immersing them instead.” [66] Once a historical representation has been authenticated in the game, most people no longer question it. It is thus naturalized in the sense of Roland Barthes and reinforces the communicated discursive statements.

Political Communication and Identity Construction in Video Games

But where does this need for historical authenticity come from? In the following I would like to show that this demand is also produced by our socio-political system. For the reproduction of history in our popular culture also has a systemic function: If we assume, following Niklas Luhmann, that we witness an increase of functionally differentiation of an already complex society in the recent centuries, then we should also ask how these new highly specialized subsystems (Luhmann gives us as examples “Economic Production”, “Political Enabling of Collectively Binding Decisions” (i.e. politics), “Legal Dispute Settlement”, “Medical Care”, “Education”, “Scientific Research”, etc.) can communicate with each other.[67] Who today can still keep track of all economic, cultural, scientific, and political factors, even in a small state, and equally in all areas? Furthermore, each subsystem contains its own semantics, its own ‘language’, and its own values and culture. For a society made up of politicians, workers, researchers, salespeople etc. to function as a whole, these subsystems must continue to be compatible with each other despite all their differentiation. For this reason, a common language and a shared world-view must exist. For example, there must be a consensus on the right form of government, the legitimacy of a monopoly of power, the definition of freedom or the question of taboos and boundaries in art and science, and how the legal system should operate. For the police and the courts to effectively function, an overwhelming majority of the population must ‘believe’ in the rule of law. Issues of relevance to society as a whole, such as climate protection or refugees, but also questions of scientific ethics or of gender equality must be constantly negotiated and communicated publicly. This process of political negotiation takes place, in part, in the corresponding political environments: in parliaments, within parties, and sometimes in specialized subsystems such as academic structures. However, in order for the decisions made here to become binding, they must be communicated to as many citizens as possible in democratic societies — as well as in autocratic ones, by the way.

I would argue that our popular culture and also video games serve the function to enable such communication. One such language, in possession of its own syntax and grammar, is the language of historicizing games. In my opinion, historical settings are particularly suitable for this purpose because — in contrast to science fiction and fantasy settings — they also provide their legitimation in the form of a historicized myth through the constant demand and supply for authenticity. I would argue that our cultural system itself produces a lot of these myths in order to reproduce and thus stabilize itself. Let us take one of the examples I have given as an illustration: I don’t think that game developers of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag consciously wanted to spread the myth of the individual as the only instance of morality. What happens here is rather a reproduction of dominant discursive statements. A historical setting — in my example, the golden age of piracy — thus also serves the purpose of communicating that this social paradigm is historical. This prevents us from questioning it, which in turn means continued stability of the system. That is not a bad thing in itself. In order for our societal and political system to work we cannot constantly question everything but must accept many things as plausible and legitimate. At the same time, the example of the myth of the good war shows that the system, despite its tendency towards stability, also changes over time. Above all, this can occur whenever we become aware of these ideological statements in games and can thus question them. In recent years, public debate in Germany and elsewhere has led to a renewed interest in the question of the extent to which the crimes of the Nazi regime must also be portrayed in games which stimulated a different view of war in digital games.[68]

I have only described the tip of the iceberg in terms of the historicizing myth in video games. This fundamental process of identity construction has so far received too little attention from researchers, especially in the field of digital games. The authentication of the historicizing myth leads to its naturalization. With some distance, this can also be understood as a protective mechanism of the myth. It protects it from prying eyes. If we were not used to always playing historical wars from hundreds of comparable games, we could ask how many wars really were fought in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. If the games weren’t forcing us to wage war, we could ask ourselves if there were no other conflict resolution tools in the long history of mankind. Players could ask the question whether dynastic wars in the Middle Ages really threatened the Bohemian identity if Kingdom Come Deliverance wasn’t presented as an authentic representation of a national past. And those who study the history of piracy could ask questions about whether the golden age of piracy was not so much a struggle for freedom as a desperate fight for better living conditions for British sailors.

(Eugen Pfister / Conquest of Camelot / 29.6.2019).

Instead of a Conclusion

I think that the hypothesis I put forward, namely that historiographical games also serve as a language for system stabilizing myths is plausible precisely because the statements transported within them are so obvious. It is not about working out hidden messages from a text by means of close reading. It is about making the obvious visible through a certain distance. This answers the question of why our cultural and societal system promotes historicizing settings in popular culture, but it does not answer why we demand it on an individual level. Why do we “crave” [69] representations of the past?[70] In the following — in the absence of detailed studies on this question — I can only argue historically.

Until the (temporary?) end of the great comprehensive philosophies of history in the course of post-structuralism, history and the science of history were attributed an unambiguous function by philosophers such as Hegel and Marx: simply put, knowledge allows progress and/or liberation. I believe that such theories are partly the answer to our individual desire for history. We look for explanations for the world we live in. History gives us — among many other things — orientation. Gerda Lerner speaks accordingly of a “deep need for history”[71] that “serves as a necessary anchor for us. It gives a sense of perspective about our own lives and encourages us to transcend the finite span of our life-time by identifying with the generations that came before us”.[72] We seek confirmation of our identity on an individual level.

At the same time, however, Gerda Lerner had little love for “false” history communicated by the media “by packaging the past into boxes neatly labeled by decades and offering these for nostalgic reliving”. She called this phenomenon “a surrogate history”[73] I think we should understand her criticism as follows: The myth itself is neither good nor bad, it is only a matter of preserving the system as it is. But if one wants to change the system, it is first of all necessary to make the myth visible and thus open to scrutiny.


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Ludography

  • 1869 Hart am Wind! (Max Design, O: Max Design1992)
  • Age of Empires [Series] (Microsoft/THQ 1997-2019, O: Ensemble Studios et al.)
  • Anno [Series] (Sunflower/Ubisoft 1998-2019, O: Max Design/Related Designs/Blue Byte)
  • Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag (Ubisoft 2013, O: Ubisoft Montreal)
  • Assassin’s Creed Unity (Ubisoft 2014, O: Ubisoft Montreal)
  • Caesar [Series] (Sierra 1992-1998, O: Impressions Games)
  • Call of Duty 2 (Activision 2005, O: Inifinity Ward)
  • Call of Duty: World at War (Activision 2008, O: Treyarch 2008)
  • Call of Duty: WW II (Activision 2017, O: Sledgehammer Games / Raven Software)
  • Crusader Kings [Series] (Paradox Entertainment 2004-2013, O: Paradox Entertainment)
  • Europa Universalis II (Paradox Entertainment 2001, O: Paradox Entertainment)
  • Hearts of Iron [Series] (Paradox Entertainment 2002-2016, O: Paradox Entertainment)
  • Kingdom Come Deliverance (Deep Silver 2018, O: Warhorse Studios)
  • Medal of Honor: Airborne (Electronic Arts 2007, O: EA Los Angeles)
  • Medieval Total War (Activision 2002, O: Creative Assembly)
  • Pharaoh [Series] (Sierra 1999-2000, O: Impressions Games)
  • Port Royale [Series] (Ascaron/ Take 2/ Kalypso 2002-2020, O: Ascaron / Gaming Minds)
  • Shogun: Total War II (Sega 2011, O: Creative Assembly)
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization [Series] (MicroProse / Infogrames / 2K Games 1991-2016, O: MicroProse / Firaxis)
  • Sid Meier’s Colonization (MicroProse 1994, O: MicroProse)
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates [Series] (MicroProse / Atari / 2K Games 1987-2004, O: MicroProse / Firaxis)
  • The Secret of Monkey Island (Lucasfilm Games 1990, O: Lucasfilm Games)
  • The Sims Medieval (Electronic Arts 2011, O: Maxis Redwood Shores)

[1] Lerner, Gerda: Why History Matters: Life and Thought, New York: Oxford University Press 1997, p. 199.
[2] Chapman, Adam: Digital Games as History. How Videogames Represent the Past and Offer Access to Historical Practice, New York: Routledge 2018, pp. 33-34; see also Kapell, Matthew Wilhelm / Elliott, Andrew B.R.: „Introduction“, in: Matthew Wilhelm Kapell / Andrew B. R. Elliott (eds.), Playing with the Past. Digital Games and the Simulation of History, Bloomsbury: New York 2013, pp. 1-30.
[3] Kerschbaumer, Florian / Winnerling, Tobias: „Postmoderne Visionen des Vor-Modernen“, in: Florian Kerschbaumer, / Tobias Winnerling (eds.), Frühe Neuzeit im Videospiel. Geschichtswissenschaftliche Perspektiven, Transcript: Bielefeld 2014, pp. 11-26, here p.14.
[4] Nolden, Nico: Geschichte und Erinnerung in Computerspielen. Erinnerungskulturelle Wissenssysteme, Berlin: De Gruyter 2019, p. 34; see also Schüler, Benedikt / Schmitz, Christopher / Lehmann, Kartsen: „Geschichte als Marke. Historische Inhalte in Computerspielen aus der Sicht der Softwarebranche, in: Angela Schwarz (ed.) „Wollten Sie auch immer schon einmal pestverseuchte Kühe auf Ihre Gegner werfen?“. Eine fachwissenschaftliche Annäherung an Geschichte im Computerspiel. LIT: Münster 2010, pp. 199-216.
[5]  F. Kerschbaumer / T. Winnerling: Postmoderne Visionen, p. 18.
[6] Tschiggerl, Martin / Walach, Thomas / Zahlmann, Stefan: Geschichtstheorie, Springer VS: Berlin 2019, pp.4-5.
[7] Schwarz, Angela: „Siegen ist erst der Anfang, oder: Was kommt nach der Annäherung an die Geschichte im Computerspiel?, in: Angela Schwarz (ed.) „Wollten Sie auch immer schon einmal pestverseuchte Kühe auf Ihre Gegner werfen?“. Eine fachwissenschaftliche Annäherung ab Geschichte in Computerspiel. LIT: Münster 2010, pp. 217-228, here p. 220; Wainwright, Alfred Martin: Virtual History. How Videogames Portray the Past, New York: Routledge 2019, pp. 11-12.
[8] Pfister, Eugen: “Der Politische Mythos als diskursive Aussage im digitalen Spiel. Ein Beitrag aus der Perspektive der Politikgeschichte”, in: Thorsten Junge / Claudia Schumacher (eds.), Digitale Spiele im Diskurs. Fernuniversität Hagen 2018, https://ub-deposit.fernuni-hagen.de/receive/mir_mods_00001258.
[9] Barthes, Roland: Mythologies, Paris: Seuil 2014, pp. 209-272.
[10] Ibid. 209: „Le mythe ne saurait être un objet, un concept ou une idée; c’est un mode de signification, c’est une forme.“
[11] Ibid 236: „Nous sommes ici au principe même du mythe; il transforme l’histoire en nature“.
[12] Barthes, Roland: Mythen des Alltags, Berlin: Suhrkamp 2013, p.85. (Translation by the author).
[13] Hoffarth, Britta: Performativität als medienpädagogische Perspektive, Transcript: Bielefeld 2009, p. 49.
[14] See also Jacques Derrida’s concept of iterability. Here: „A sign is repeatable, it does not ‘exhaust’ itself and therefore can give cause for ‘iteration’; but at the same time it contains a power to ‘break with its context,’ it is in itself and finally always a realized possibility that, by combining it with other signs, can also be different.“ (translated by the author) In Zorn, Daniel Pascal: Vom Gebäude zum Gerüst. Entwurf einer Komparatistik reflexiver Figurationen in der Philosophie, Logos: Berlin 2016, 74.
[15] Judith Butler has taken over from Derrida the notions of citation and iteration (see previous footnote) and developed them further. For her, the subject is directly conceived as the product of the orderly citation and repetition of discursive norms. Rosen, Nadine / Koller, Hans-Christoph: „Interpellation – Diskurs – Performativität“, in: Norbert Ricken / Nicole Balzer (eds.), Judith Butler: Pädagogische Lektüren, Springer VS: Wiesbaden, 75-94. 91.
[16] The myth never refers to a reality outside the media communication which, however, is always only  a mediated reality.
[17] I would like to thank Felix Zimmermann for this sentence.
[18] Pfister, Eugen: „’Des patriotes, ces abrutis!’ Imaginationen der französischen Revolution im digitalen Spiel Assassin’s Creed: Unity“, in: Frühneuzeit-Info 27 (2016), pp. 198-201.
[19] Chapman: Digital Games as History, pp. 173-197.
[20] Rosenstone cited after Rollinger, Christian: „Playing with the Ancient World: An Introduction to Classical Antiquity in Video Games“, in: Christian Rollinger (ed.), Classical Antiquity in Video Games. Playing with the Ancient World, Bloomsbury: London 2020, pp. 1-18, here p. 7 and Kapell / Elliott: „Introduction“, p. 3.
[21] Campbell, Colin: “Truth and fantasy in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag”, in: polygon.com, 22. 07. 2013, https://www.polygon.com/2013/7/22/4543968/truth-and-fantasy-in-assassins-creed-4-black-flag.
[22] „Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag: Historical Pirate Weapons | Trailer | Ubisoft [NA]“ in youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgmIg5CKugc from 17.10.2013
[23] Kapell / Elliott: „Introduction“, p. 12.
[24] Pfister, Eugen: “‘In a world without gold, we might have been heroes!’ Cultural Imaginations of Piracy in Video Games”, in: FIAR 11/2 (2018): Encounters in the ‘Game-Over Era’: The Americas in/and Video Games, pp. 30-43, http://interamerica.de/current-issue/pfister/.
[25] Sandkühler, Gunnar: “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” in: Florian Kerschbaumer / Tobias Winnerling (eds.), Frühe Neuzeit im Videospiel. Geschichtswissenschaftliche Perspektiven, Transcript: Bielefeld 2014, pp. 181-194.
[26] Pfister: In a World without Gold.
[27] Pfister, Eugen: „Der Pirat als Demokrat: Assassin‘s Creed IV: Black Flag – eine Rezension“, in: Frühneuzeit -Info 26 (2015), pp. 289-290.
[28] Bauman, Zygmunt: Liquid Modernity, Polity Press: Cambridge 2001, p. 69.
[29] Amable, Bruno: „Morals and politics in the ideology of neo-liberalism“, in: Socio-Economic Review 9 (2011), pp.  3–30, p. 5.
[30] Pfister: In a World without Gold.
[31] “Ebenso deutlich wird in all diesen Titeln die ‚unabänderliche Nothwendigkeit des Krieges’ ” in: Winnerling/Kerschbaumer: Postmoderne Visionen pp. 1516; also  see Pasternak, Jan: „500.000 Jahre ab einem Tag. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Darstellung von Geschichte in epochenübegreifenden Echtzeitstrategiespielen“, in: Angela Schwarz (ed.), „Wollten Sie auch immer schon einmal pestverseuchte Kühe auf Ihre Gegner werfen?“. Eine fachwissenschaftliche Annäherung ab Geschichte in Computerspiel. LIT: Münster 2010, pp. 29-62, here pp. 40-41 .
[32] Pfister, Eugen: „Von Kriegen und Spielen“, in: WASD 13 (2018), pp. 134-137.
[33] Schwarz, Angela: „Geschichte erzählen in Videospielen in: Florian Kerschbaumer / Tobias Winnerling (eds.), Frühe Neuzeit im Videospiel. Geschichtswissenschaftliche Perspektiven, Transcript: Bielefeld 2014, pp. 27-54, here p. 34, translated by the author.
[34] Salvati, Andrew / Bullinger, Jonathan: „Selective Authenticity and the Playable Past“, in: Matthew Wilhelm Kapell / Andrew B. R. Elliott (eds.), Playing with the Past. Digital Games and the Simulation of History, Bloomsbury: New York 2013, pp. 153-168.
[35] Schüler / Schmitz / Lehmann: „Geschichte als Marke.” pp. 208 and 211. See also Bender, Steffen, „Durch die Augen einfacher Soldaten und namenloser helden. Weltkriegsshooter als Simulation historischer Kriegserfahrung“, in: Angela Schwarz (ed.), „Wollten Sie auch immer schon einmal pestverseuchte Kühe auf Ihre Gegner werfen?“. Eine fachwissenschaftliche Annäherung ab Geschichte in Computerspiel. LIT: Münster 2010, pp. 123-148, here p. 129.
[36] Ibid p. 128.
[37] See https://forums.totalwar.com/discussion/5584/historical-accuracy from January 2011.
[38] Bender: Durch die Augen einfacher Soldaten, pp. 128-129.
[39] Bender: Durch die Augen einfacher Soldaten, p. 133.
[40] Pfister, Eugen: “’Man spielt nicht mit Hakenkreuzen!’ Imaginations of the Holocaust and Crimes Against Humanity During World War II in Digital Games”, in: Alexander von Lünen et al. (eds.), Historia Ludens: The Playing Historian, London: Routledge 2019, pp. 267-284.
[41] Bender: „Durch die Augen einfacher Soldaten“ p. 126 and Salvati / Bullinger: „Selective Authenticity“ p. 155.
[42] The different political confrontations between the British and the Russian in the 19th century were called the „Great game“ e.g.
[43] Duby, George / Lardreau, Guy: Geschichte und Geschichtswissenschaft. Dialoge, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1982, p. 43; Cf. also Landwehr, Achim: Die anwesende Abwesenheit der Vergangenheit. Essay zur Geschichtstheorie, Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer 2016, p. 40: „Die Schwierigkeit solcher gegenwartszentrierter Verständnisse ist, dass die Vergangenheit darunter zu verschwinden droht, weil sie nur noch Steigbügelhalterin eines jeweils aktualisierten Selbstverständnisses wäre und so gut wie keinen Eigenwert mehr besäße.“
[44] Bender: „Durch die Augen einfacher Soldaten“, p. 127; also see Sabrow, Martin: „Geschichte als Instrument: Variationen über ein schwieriges Thema“, in APuZ 63/ pp. 42-43, here pp. 3-11.
[45] Sudar, Istvan: „When There Are Different Histories But Only One Game“, in: ontologicalgeek.com, 05. 04. 2017, http://ontologicalgeek.com/when-there-are-different-histories-but-only-one-game/.
[46] „Our games“, in: https://warhorsestudios.cz/our-games/ without date.
[47] Brandenburg, Aurelie: „Kingdom Come: Deliverance“ ist Realsatire. In: geekgefluester.de, 02.09.2018, URL: https://geekgefluester.de/kingdom-comedeliverance-ist-realsatire
[48] Brillaud, B.: „History’s Creed (4/10)“, in:  arte.tv, 2017, https://www.arte.tv/de/videos/074699-004-A/history-s-creed-4-10/.
[49] Pfister, Eugen: “Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A Bohemian Forest Simulator”, in: Gamevironments 11 (2019): Special Issue on Nation(alism), Identity and Video Games, Lisa Kienzl / Katrin Trattner (eds.), pp. 142-143.
[50] McCarter, R.: „Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Myth-making and Historical Accuracy“.in: Unwinnable.com 02.03.2018, https://unwinnable.com/2018/03/02/deliverance-myth-making-and-historicalaccuracy/.
[51] Jones, Ali: “Kingdom Come: Deliverance has sold two million copies”, in: pcgames.com 13.02.2019, https://www.pcgamesn.com/kingdom-come-deliverance/kingdom-come-deliverance-sales-numbers.
[52] Cf. Dörner, Andreas: Politischer Mythos und symbolische Politik: Der Hermannmythos: zur Entstehung des Nationalbewußtseins der Deutschen. Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag 1996.
[53] Chapman: Digital Games as History, p. 36
[54] Also see Zimmermann, Felix: “Introduction: Approaching the Authenticties of Late Modernity” in this volume.

[55] On this topic, see Schwarz, Angela: “Quarry – Playground: Popular History in Videogames” and Elliot, Andrew B. R. / Horswell, Mike: “Crusading Icons: Medievalism and Authenticity in Historical Digital Games” in this volume.

[56] Schüler/ Schmitz/ Lehman: „Geschichte als Marke.” p. 211; One should however specify that it is not history itself that becomes a brand, but rather concrete episodes known from popular culture, such as World War II. Salvati and Bullinger speak accordingly of the ‚BrandWW2’: Salvati / Bullinger, „Selective Authenticity“ , p.154.

[57] Cf. Zimmermann, Felix: “Introduction: Approaching the Authenticties of Late Modernity” in this volume; also Cf. Pfister, Eugen: „’Wie es wirklich war.’ Wieder die Authentizitätsdebatte im digitalen Spiel.“, in: gespielt.hypotheses.org, https://gespielt.hypotheses.org/1334.

[58] A cloak looking similar to a balloon attached to the back of the armor worn by samurai.

[59] See http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?437802-The-Great-Horo-Misunderstanding-(the-back-balloons-for-the-uninformed)/page2 from April 2010.

[60] Groebner, Valentin: Retroland. Geschichtstourismus und die Sehnsucht nach dem Authentischen, S. Fischer: Frankfurt am Main 2018, p. 32.

[61] Rollinger: „Playing with the Ancient World”, p. 5.

[62] „Authentizitätssignal“ in German. Bender, Steffen: Virtuelles Erinnern. Kriege des 20. Jahrhunderts in Computerspielen, Transcript: Bielefeld 2012, p. 44.

[63] „Kulissenauthentizität“ in German. Heinze, Carl: Mittelalter Computer Spiel. Zur darstellung und Modellierung von Geschichte im populären Computerspiel, Transcript: Bielefeld 2012, pp. 182-183.

[64] „Objektfixierung“ in German. Nolden: Geschichte und Erinnerung in Computerspielen, p. 54.

[65] See also Zimmermann, Felix: “Introduction: Approaching the Authenticties of Late Modernity” in this volume and ibid: Digitale Spiele als historische Erlebnisräume. Ein Zugang zu Vergangenheitsatmopshären im Explorative Game, Verlag Werner Hülsbusch: Glückstadt 2019, pp. 66-70.

[66] Winnerling, Tobias: „The Eternal Recurrence of All Bits: How Historicizing Video Game Series Transform Factual History into Affective Historicity“, In: Eludamos. Journal for Computer Game Culture 8/1 (2014), pp. 151-170, here p. 159. Adam Chapman speaks in a similar context of „configurative resonance“ in: Chapman: Digital games as History, 45.

[67] Luhmann, Niklas: „Gesellschaftliche Struktur und Semantische Tradition“,in: Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, Ideengeschichte. Basistexte, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2010, pp. 187-221, here p. 210.

[68] Pfister: “’Man spielt nicht mit Hakenkreuzen!”, p. 267.

[69] Carr, Edward Hallet: What is History? Penguin: London, p. 109.

[70] On this topic also see Schwarz, Angela: “History in Video Games and the Craze for the Authentic” in this volume.

[71] Lerner: „Why History Matters“, p. 200.

[72] Ibid. p. 201.

[73] Ibid. pp 200-201.



Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Eugen Pfister (2023, 2. August). Why History in Digital Games matters: Historical Authenticity as a Language for Ideological Myths. gespielt. Abgerufen am 20. April 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/p179

Eugen Pfister

Eugen Pfister leitet das SNF-Sinergia-Forschungsprojekt "Confoederatio Ludens" an der Hochschule der Künste Bern - HKB. Er forscht zur Ideengeschichte und politischen Geschichte digitaler Spiele (spielkult.hypotheses.org).

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