Call for Contributions – (Post) Colonialism!

The next theme for #HGN will be (Post) Colonialism and we’re now looking for proposals! If you would like to contribute to the discussions on the site, please read on! If you have an idea but aren’t too sure whether it fits with the theme please e-mail us.

As we move through our current them – Ethics – you can already read the two-part post from our Event Chair, Adam Chapman (on ‘The Ethics of Representation at Play’ part 1 and part 2) and the first contributing post by Dr Richard Cole on ‘Time Loops and Ethics in the Total War Series’ here. You can find all the content from the theme here, along with the theme provocation. The Ethics theme will run until the start of September, and you can sign up for the theme event via Eventbrite here.

Our third theme, (Post) Colonialism focuses on the wide range of issues and complexities that exist around historical games as they utilise, interpret or critique colonialism. This theme builds upon our previous themes – Historical Truth and Ethics – and will no doubt overlap with those and future themes! The (Post) Colonialism theme will formally launch in September 2021 and will run through until end of December.

Games have firmly established themselves as a global entertainment medium. The most lucrative markets and those that have dominated game development – North America, Europe and Japan – also tend to reflect the histories that those markets, audiences and developers were most familiar with, and are often embedded with problematic and simplistic views of empire. The success of empire-building games (such as Civilisation, The Settlers, and Age of Empires) and the core mechanics of Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate has in part led to an entire genre being abbreviated to the far more innocuous ‘4X’. As technology and processing power has improved, the latest iterations (and others like Crusader Kings 2 and Victoria 2) have more nuanced economic and diplomatic systems, yet the core gameplay still revolves around getting players to seek victory through conflict, dominance and resource exploitation.

Other video game genres, games and developers have encountered similar challenges when trying to represent or critique colonialism and its impact within games. There is now a growing body of scholarship that situates games in frameworks of postcolonial critique (e.g. Ford, 2016; Lammes and de Smale, 2018; Mukherjee, 2017) and there has been a corresponding increase in research into why these games and themes are popular with scholars examining games as diverse as World of Warcraft (Langer, 2008), Minecraft (Dooghan, 2016), and Resident Evil 5 (Harrer, 2018). However, it isn’t just that the modes of play and forms of representation are embedded with western assumptions about and perspectives on the past, there is a huge gap in the creation, availability, and discovery of non-western perspectives.

Our aim in the call for contributions is that we can discuss a wider range of topics and different games – not just the best known examples which have been critiqued by multiple scholars (including our Event Chair, Adam Chapman here). As we posited in the theme description, games like 80 Days may offer particular access to the view of the subaltern, but what is the potential for historical video games to contribute to a genuinely subaltern historiography while enmeshed within a discourse of global capital, and industrial histories which entwine capital and power? What space do game-makers have to challenge these norms and offer access to a playable past which is not simply neo-colonial or characterised by erasure? And how can and do postcolonial critiques inform broader cultural work around games?

Contributions to the (Post) Colonialism theme

As with our other themes, (Post) Colonialism 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 (post) colonialism. 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 (Post) Colonialism theme is initially open for contributions until Friday 17 September. We will post content received during the period 30 September to 31 December. 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.