Dreaming of Zion

The American West as Place or Process in Fallout: New Vegas’s Honest Hearts DLC

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As a Western set in a post-apocalyptic Mohave, Fallout: New Vegas demonstrates that the big questions that drive Western history are durable and malleable enough to survive even the (fictional) nuclear demise of the United States itself. The fourth iteration of the Fallout franchise is set approximately 200 years after a civilization-ending nuclear war but is valuable for teachers of American history because several major themes of real-life Western historiography are embedded in it. In fact, as I will demonstrate in this essay, the game, and particularly the Honest Hearts DLC, can be used to not just demonstrate, but to allow students to feel why the questions that underlay the study of Western history have real resonance. Continue Reading

Playing with the Past

About - Year One

A sizable subset of game studies focuses on history, whether in the form of the history of videogames (Carly A. Kocurek’s Coin-Operated Americans) or the preservation of videogames (James Newman’s Best Before; Raiford Guins’ Game After). A third approach is to examine how the videogames themselves depict history, and that approach is taken in Matthew Wilhelm Kapell and Andrew B. R. Elliott’s essay collection Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History. Playing the Past joins the ranks of other recent history-focused videogame essay collections, such as Early Modernity and Video Games by Tobias Winnerling and Florian Kershbaumer and Digital Gaming Re-imagines the Middle Ages by Daniel Kline, but distinguishes itself with a firm vision of what videogames have to offer studies of history. Continue Reading

Battle of Bannockburn

Visitor Centre Battle Game

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During the First War of Scottish Independence, the Battle of Bannockburn was a significant victory for the Scottish army, defeating the much larger English forces. Since the battle took place in 1314, its location has become a significant historical site, studied by archeologists and historians and preserved through the efforts of the Bannockburn Preservation Committee, the National Trust for Scotland, and Historic Scotland. While the initial visitor center at the site, the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, opened in the 1960s, it was closed in 2012 to be replaced by a new building opened in March 2014 in time to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the battle. Today, the site’s modern facilities welcome visitors with a gift shop, café, and two “Battle Room Experiences”: the Battle Show, a brief narration illustrated by tabletop map projection, and the Battle Game, which takes place using the same projection system and is overseen by a Battlemaster. Continue Reading

Early Modernity and Video Games

by Tobias Winnerling and Florian Kerschbaumer

Review - Early Modernity and Video Games

The book outlines early on that the way that the authors are examining history is more related to present memory than history itself (xix); in other words, the way we tell history is always reflective of the time we live. This precept holds true as games themselves can be considered historical objects, but the ones that the book examines are about the representation of history. Overall, Early Modernity and Video Games manages to present some worthwhile strategies and theories to studying videogames through a historical lens, but is limited because of its early entry into this field. Continue Reading