This event took place in October 2023. You can read all the blogposts under this theme here. You can view the panel video here.

Event details

Date25 October 2023
LocationVirtual (Zoom) | Sign Up here
SpeakersCasilda de Zulueta, Kate Marrison, Ian Kikuchi [Chair: Dr Hanne Wagner]


For this theme, we’re interested in exploring how games – as always, broadly defined – engage with memory, commemoration, cultural remembrance (and forgetting), remembrance practices and memory organisations. Our aim has always been to bridge the gap between academia, the games industry and cultural heritage organisations and to that end there is a wealth of existing and forthcoming work on games and memory.

The resurgence of memory in public discourse at the end of the twentieth century has been variously described as the ‘memory boom’ (Huyssen 1994, Terdimen 1995), the ‘memory industry’ (Klein, 2000) and the ‘memory wave’ (Kansteiner 2002). Since then, societal interest and the corresponding cultural significance that governments (in particular) have placed on the prominence and significance of memory as the framework for relating to the past has only accelerated. In the United Kingdom, for example, annual remembrance and commemorative services for the wars of the twentieth century have been reinforced through large-scale commemorative events such as the centennial of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Other commemorative events continue to shape national encounters with the past, including 9/11, the 2012 Olympics, Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee, and the more recent UK Commission on Covid commemoration. At the same time, we’ve seen institutions and society struggle to confront reinterpretation of the commemorative practices of previous eras from the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign to the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials across the United States, to the tearing down of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston during an anti-racism protest in Bristol, England. Our interpretation of commemoration and remembrance continues to be a flashpoint in the culture war. 

With commemoration firmly embedded in societal and academic debate, the games industry has increasingly engaged with memory as a theme. Games have often used memory (or amnesia) as a narrative device. Games like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009), Remember Me (2013), The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014), Stories Untold (2018) and A Memoir Blue (2022) have all used memory to present plotlines, story arcs and gameplay mechanics. At the same time both AAA and Indie development teams have engaged in exploring how games can better present war, conflict, and individual and collective trauma. The centennial of the First World War saw games such as Valiant Hearts (2014), Battlefield 1 (2016) and 11:11 Memories Retold (2018) all interpret remembrance in a different approach and style. Other games focused on war and conflict and their impact such as This War of Mine (2014), Attentat 1942 (2017), My Child Lebensborn (2018), The Light in the Darkness (2023) have garnered critical acclaim. Games such as Observation (2019) and Hindsight(2022) explore memory from the perspectives of Artificial Intelligence or of someone else.

For this theme, we invite contributors to think about the role of memory in, of and around historical games. What can games do with memory, as a mechanic, plot device or narrative frame? How do our own gaming experiences nurture nostalgia for platforms, systems, franchises, characters and environments? How do games use, engage and intersect with the wider memory industry? Can games be an effective container for commemoration and remembrance activities? How does the global game industry navigate the markets where national memory and remembrance practices differ widely based on varying interpretations of history? What are the tensions that exist between games as entertainment and games as experiences when dealing with differing accounts of the past? What is forgotten in the production and development of games that deal with the past and/or public memories? We aim to discuss the both the concept of memory in games and memories of games, and we are open to a wide range of interpretations of this theme.

Works cited 

Huyssen, A. (1995). Twilight memories: Marking time in a culture of amnesia. Psychology Press. New York: Routledge.

Kansteiner, W. (2002). Finding meaning in memory: A methodological critique of collective memory studies. History and Theory, 41:2 (May 2002), 179-197.

Klein, K. L. (2000). On the emergence of memory in historical discourse. Representations, 69, Special Issue: Grounds for Remembering (Winter 2000). 127-150.

Simine, S. A. D. (2013). ‘Memory boom, memory wars and memory crises’. Mediating Memory in the Museum: Trauma, Empathy, Nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies. Palgrave Macmillan: London. 14-19. Terdiman, R. (1993). Present past: Modernity and the memory crisis. Cornell University Press.

Speaker Bios

Casilda de Zulueta (Twitter; Bluesky) is a freelancer technical artist and animator, indie developer and animation teacher. With 8 years in the profession, she likes to optimize graphics for low-end devices, takes pride in making game assets run smoothly without sacrificing visual quality, and will animate whatever may fall into her hands. Native from Valencia, one of the three capitals of the Second Spanish Republic, she moved to Germany to obtain a master’s degree in Game Development & Research (M.A.) at the Cologne Game Lab with the intention of making games not only for a living, but as a means of creative expression. It is during that time when she made the first iteration of “13 Rosas”, a historical horror adventure game for mobile about the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Dr Kate Marrison is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Weidenfeld Institute of German-Jewish Studies, University of Sussex, where she is currently leading the ‘Sussex Digital Holocaust Education Project’ and working on the ESRC-funded ‘Co-creating Recommendations for Digital Interventions in Holocaust Memory and Education’ and the HEIF-funded ‘Dealing with Difficult Heritage’ projects. Her research is primarily focused on digital memory practice, education and commemoration as it emerges at the intersection between Holocaust studies and media theory. Prior to this, Kate worked as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Leeds, where she also completed her PhD project, which explored the concept of digital witnessing across a range of case studies including virtual and augmented reality projects, video games and 3-dimensional installations of Holocaust survivor testimonies. Her research has been published within Jewish Film and New Media and has contributed to the edited volumes, Digital Holocaust Memory, Education and Research (Walden, 2021) and Visitor Experience at Holocaust Memorials and Museums (Popescu, 2023).

Ian Kikuchi is an Historian and Curator at the Imperial War Museum. After completing a BA in War Studies and History at King’s College London in 2007, he joined the Imperial War Museum film archive as a cataloguer. From 2011 to 2014 he worked on the museum’s First World War Galleries and since then has curated a number of exhibitions including Churchill and the Middle East and Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies. In 2016 he proposed War Games, an exhibition on war and video games. Opening in 2022 at IWM London, War Games explored how video games tell stories of war and conflict.

Dr Hanne Wagner [Chair] is a Lecturer of Applied Informatics in the School of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment at Edinburgh Napier University. She is a multidisciplinary researcher with a background in Human Computer Interaction, Political Science, Law and Psychology. Her PhD research focused on the role of politics in video games and how game design can be utilised to promote engagement and interest into politics. Her current research interests cover political and historical games and game design, as well as issues of misinformation and disinformation, and (mental) health and well-being.

Photo by s j on Unsplash