Call for Contributions – Environment!

Historical games of all kinds are made up of many components, combining  elements of gameplay, interaction, agency and challenge with modes of representation such as images, characters, narrative and space. The environments of historical games sit precisely at the intersection between gameplay and representation. In historical games, space and the environments it contains not only reflect narrative, which anyway has a spatial component (we talk about going backwards or forwards in a narrative), but actually function as narrative itself. Whether environments offer a pre-crafted narrative for players to experience, or provide a resource from which players can craft their own narratives, this element of games is deeply important to the historical experiences they offer (Chapman, 2016: 100-118).

A sense of historical place and space embedded within a specific environment is often as important as the characters and players that fill such spaces. Techniques such as environmental storytelling (Jenkins, 2004; Smith and Worch, 2010) are vital to the function of games as representations of the past, offering solutions to the challenge that agency presents to many traditional forms of storytelling. For digital historical games, virtual environments can be representations of historical ones – functioning much as heritage or living history spaces do in reality. Analogue historical games use implied environments to produce particular interactions between players in order to create historical expressions. This is particularly the case with many playful heritage experiences, ‘pervasive games’ played in real and/or pre-existing environments which can introduce both constraints and possibilities to design and historical messaging. Historical games, then, exist within environments, even as they create and represent them, and their environmental context also includes the conditions of their production and play, as well as their sustainability as part of a global games industry.

For this theme, we invite contributors to think about the role of the environment in, of and around historical games, and the role it plays in our explorations and understandings of the intersection between history, play and games. How do games define, depict, and negotiate the “environments” they engage with, and what role does this play when we make meaning about the past? How might games help us to understand past environments? How are games deployed and positioned within present-day spaces to develop ideas and understandings about history and heritage? How do games mobilise the spaces of the future to help us think about the past? We take a liberal view of what a “game environment” can be, and are interested in environmental elements with a historical or temporal quality, even in those games that are otherwise ostensibly non-historical. This might include the inclusion of ruins or ancient architecture, or historically themed environments such as museums, heritage sites or landmarks, in games with otherwise contemporary or futuristic settings. Ultimately, we aim to discuss both environments in games and games in their diverse environments. 

Contributions to the Environment theme

As with our previous themes, Environment is an open theme, and we hope that the network will add to the discussion in new and interesting ways. #HGN provides a space to explore the conjunction of history and games, and we are seeking contributions to the theme from anyone interested in discussing environment(s) in this area. We are open to a range of formats and approaches: blog posts, book reviews, literature reviews and state-of-the-field posts, game criticism and reviews, event reviews, game analyses or post-mortems, podcast recordings, video essays, or any other type of creative contribution you might be interested in sharing. As a guide, we might expect written pieces to be in the region of 1,000-1,500 words, and video essays or audio recordings of around 5-10 minutes. However, if you have more to say, get in touch!

The Environment theme is initially open for contributions until Friday 1 July, and we will post content received during the period 1 May to 31 July. All material will be treated in line with our copyright statement (you can find this on our About page: TL;DR – it’s free, open access, and you can repost your work wherever you like).

Submission and editorial process

Please submit contributions via the email linked at the bottom of the page, and any queries or questions through the same route. Contributions will be assigned for editorial review to at least one member of the HGN editorial team, and we will supply feedback and suggestions for amendment, as appropriate, for any submissions received. Please note that we reserve the right to reject contributions which are unsuitable for the site, and to request and/or require specific editorial changes before publication to meet any legal, funding or support requirements or obligations.

We commit to respond to all submissions within two weeks, and to fix a publication date for accepted content at the earliest possible point.

HGN is an open access, public-facing project intended to connect people, and we neither charge nor pay a fee for editorial support and publication on our site.

Works cited

Chapman, A. (2016). Digital Games as History: How Videogames Represent the Past and Offer Access to Historical Practice. New York: Routledge.

Jenkins, H. (2004). Game Design as Narrative Architecture. In N. Wardrip-Fruin and P. Harrigan, First Person: New Media as Story Performance and Game, 118-130. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

Smith, H. and Worch, M. (2010). ‘What Happened Here?’ Environmental Storytelling. Paperpresented at the Game Developers Conference, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *