DIGRA 2023: Re-Playing with History: Revisiting Historical Games Studies

We are delighted to announce that HGN will be hosting a workshop at DiGRA 2023 in Seville, Spain on 19 June 2023.


In 2016, the Playing with History workshop at the DiGRA/FDG conference saw game scholars and developers present 16 papers on broad themes encompassing historical games. Since then, Historical Game Studies (HGS) has continued to flourish as a field of intellectual inquiry.

This workshop aims to revisit several of the questions raised in 2016, bringing together a range of theories, perspectives and techniques to better understand how games and history interact, and how games can influence players’ perceptions and understanding of historical narratives. HGS scholarship often identifies the field’s antecedents in William Uricchio’s (2005) chapter in Raessens and Goldstein’s Handbook of Computer Game Studies, which identified several significant issues that continue to be important to the field today: the deconstructionist (Cruz Martinez 2020) nature of the history in historical video games; questions of simulation and virtual history; and the role of the academic historian in respect of such games. Over a decade later, Chapman, Foka and Westin’s (2017: 358-9) introduction to the HGS special section in Rethinking History opened by re-engaging with Uricchio’s work, echoing, Kapell and Elliott’s (2013: 2) Playing with the Past from a few years earlier.

This particular history of HGS reminds us that the field did not emerge from either Historical Studies or Game Studies alone, and owes a significant debt to Media and Film Studies, where video game research has often been situated. In 2023, HGS is a truly interdisciplinary field, with many understandings of the past and of games, which offers a series of interventions into Historical Studies and Game Studies. It is not exclusively concerned with games that include history, any more than it is with history as it appears in games. It is subject to a range of disciplinary tensions about how both the past and games ‘should’ be approached, and even what they are. At its best, work in HGS engages with literature and debates in Historical, Game, Media and Film Studies, and other disciplines too. We hope to address a range of questions expanding on those asked in 2016, along with some which have become apparent since:

  • What exactly constitutes the ‘object’ of Historical Game Studies?
  • How do (video)games represent particular pasts?
  • What are legitimate modes of historical knowledge in and around games and how are they legitimated?
  • How do researchers, developers, players and the media (including the gaming press) respond to and understand historical content within games?
  • How do historical games shape historical narratives more broadly?
  • How do they subvert dominant narratives and to what effect?
  • How far should historical games encourage us to play with historical outcomes? Does playfulness challenge the boundaries of how we teach and study history?
  • Which interdisciplinary methodological, conceptual, and/or theoretical approaches might historical game studies need to attend to in future?

We seek submissions that:

  • Explore the nature of games as a form for historical representation and reception.
  • Explore how interdisciplinary approaches can enhance historical game design and research.
  • Analyse (emergent) practices and technologies in historical research and game design for enhancing historical narratives.
  • Identify games, design techniques and technologies that can stimulate audiences and encourage wider discussion of historical narratives.
  • Discuss the development of games that encourage interaction and playfulness with historical narratives.
  • Demonstrate how game design approaches can be applied to improve and challenge historical research and established narratives.

Workshop Outcome

Selected participants will be invited to contribute chapters to a proposal for a game-focused edited collection in Bloomsbury’s ‘Writing History’ series, which will offer accessible methodological, theoretical and conceptual approaches to the study of games and history.

Submission Details

Please prepare an abstract of up to 500 words (excluding references) for a 15-minute presentation at the workshop related to the questions and topics listed above. Please also submit a 150-word biographical statement. The official language of the workshop is English, but we welcome contributions from outside the Anglosphere. Participation from colleagues with research or development experience from the games industry is very welcome. As this workshop seeks to explore new directions in historical games scholarship and game making, submission of in-progress results is encouraged.

Please send submissions to All submissions will be evaluated by the workshop organisers, who will make the final selection.

Important Dates

The workshop will take place on 19 June 2023.

  • Abstract submission: 20 April 2023
  • Notification to authors: 30 April 2023

Workshop Organisation

The workshop will comprise 4 paper sessions, each of 3 papers and followed by Q&A. We will end the day with a plenary debate, consolidating the outcomes from the workshop. We would hope for around 30 attendees overall.


This workshop is organised by the convenors of the Historical Games Network:

Adam Chapman is a former Senior Lecturer at the University of Gothenburg currently working as an independent scholar. His research focuses on games that in some way represent, or relate to, discourses about the past, and he has been writing on the topic of historical games since 2009. He is the author of Digital Games as History: How Videogames Represent the Past and Offer Access to Historical Practice (2016).

Esther Wright is Lecturer in Digital History at Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Her research centres on historical games and their paratexts, the construction of “authenticity” in promotional discourses, and developer branding of companies like Rockstar Games.

Nick Webber is Director of the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, at Birmingham City University, UK. His research explores the historical practices of player and fan communities, the impact of games on our understanding of the past, and the relationship between cultural policy and video games.

Iain Donald is a Lecturer in Design and User Experience in the School of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment at Edinburgh Napier University. His research examines the intersection of games, digital media and history with a focus on commemoration and memorialisation.

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