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History in multimodal gameplay: A new language and model for constructing, experiencing, and studying the past

This doctoral study examines how historical gameplay constructs and provides ways of experiencing history within (historical) video games. Historical gameplay is examined and defined as an expression of history within historical games as it is the primary medium of representing or experiencing the past based on the interactions between the player and the various intricacies and components of the historical game. This thesis identifies, interprets, and illustrates several modalities of histories that emerge from and are characterised by particular modes and sequences of gameplay, with the aim of discerning and demonstrating what kind of experiences and knowledge of history are being conveyed. The undertaking of gameplay research in this thesis produced case studies of two contemporary Medieval games: A Plague Tale: Innocence (Asobo Studio, 2019) and Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Warhorse Studios, 2018). These texts were analysed via recorded footage of the author’s gameplay activity, while in-person interviews with several members of the game studios responsible for developing both these historical games provided insights into the research and game development processes required to produce historical games. In spite of the growing recognition of, and scholarship on historical video games, there are no current works from the discipline of history that thoroughly explore gameplay as a different yet innovative medium for disseminating and understanding history. This thesis fills that gap. Studying gameplay from the development and release of recent Medieval historical games has the potential to provide historians with new insights and opportunities regarding gameplay as catalysts for studying, discussing, and critiquing history. 
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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