Historical Truth


This event took place in May 2021. You can read all the blogposts under this theme here. You can view the panel video here.

Event details

Date26th May 2021
LocationVirtual (Zoom) | Register here
SpeakersYlva Grufstedt, Javier Rayón, John Glancy [Chair: Adam Chapman]


Questions about “truth” in popular culture and discourse have been ever-present in recent years, but the practice of history has long been grappling with and debating what “historical truth” means or looks like, as it relates to understanding and representing the past. Like other media industries with a longer history of reimagining and writing their own histories, games routinely become sites around which (implicit or explicit) “truth” claims are made, negotiated, and contested. Critics, players, and the industry itself often do so by deploying a number of other terms, equally ambiguous and disputed in meaning: “accuracy”, “realism”, and “authenticity” being those most often used to stake or undermine particular claims (e.g. Salvati and Bullinger, 2013; Shaw, 2015; Wright, 2017; Lorber and Zimmermann, 2020).

So, when we ask questions about what it means to be “truthful” when engaging with history, what are we actually asking? What responsibility do game makers have to “tell the truth” about the pasts they seek to represent? Likewise, what responsibility do critics have when approaching these complex issues?

Ultimately, how can we navigate the complicated, but often productive ways that games relate to understandings of history while creating new opportunities for dialogue and collaboration between researchers, teachers, developers, heritage professionals, and beyond.


Ylva Grufstedt is a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University and a guest researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her main research interests are the various interplays of history and game design. She obtained her doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki in 2020 with a research project on the game design and design practices of counterfactual history in digital strategy games. She is currently a part of the Playable Concepts project that addresses game design tools and games as partial and embedded in textual contexts. She also studies historians as integrated or outegrated experts in making games about the past.

Javier Rayón is the writer and director of Dream of Darkness, a Lovecraft+Aztecs video game for PC. With his startup he tells the real mysteries of history, starting with his hometown of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, current Mexico City. Javier founded his game startup, studied his BA in game design, and consults with historians and archeologists, so their findings and questions resound with the general public. In the past he has appeared in Shark Tank, received Mexico’s Ministry of Economy Innovation Grant, and prevented high-risk incidents in the oil industry with VR training. He loves mezcal, coffee, and salsa dancing. http://dreamofdarkness.com/

John Glancy is the Executive Producer for Schools and Families at Imperial War Museums where he manages a national programme that covers IWM’s five branches and online. John and his team are currently developing a new Holocaust Learning programme in collaboration with a leading digital studio and Oliver award winning dramaturg which will be launched in late 2021 . Previous to working in heritage John worked extensively in theatre across the UK as an actor, director and producer including periods as Head of Creative Learning at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh and Schools Producer at the Lyric Hammersmith. John’s creative practise is deeply rooted in telling real stories about real people inspired by both local and global history. John believe all culture is fundamentally storytelling and these stories are vital to engaging hard to reach audiences as it’s an approach everyone can contribute to. He currently lives in Edinburgh with his partner and new baby daughter. He loves all aspects of History, is an occasional stand-up comedian and is a passionate advocate for the cultural value of Professional Wrestling.