HIST3812 Games & Simulation for Historians. A Tenative Course Schedule & Outline

The first time you teach a course, you have to expect some rough edges as things you wanted to try don’t quite work out, some topics aren’t as engaging or don’t tie together how you thought… it’s always a bit of a work in progress. As I design the course, I try to think in blocks of ideas, and arrange them sequentially so that some kind of thread will eventually emerge. This is where I am right now; ask me tomorrow and it’ll probably have changed.

The aim of this course is to explore ways of expressing historical narratives through interactive digital media and simulations.

This does not mean that you have to be a programmer. There are many roles that need to be filled when we enter into this realm. The final project is the creation of a detailed game/simulation design document, working in groups of five.

These documents will be posted online and brought to the attention of the history & games community. The three that generate the most interest (as measured by retweets, likes, or other social media metrics) will receive an XP bonus. I intend to ask PlaythePast.org if they will publish these ones.

Anything you produce above and beyond that (like a working prototype) is also an XP bonus.

XP may be earned by performing any of the tasks listed in the ‘Level Up!’ folder for a given week. They may only be performed during that week. These might involved doing programming tutorials, modifying scenarios or simulations, trying out things in Codeacademy, and yes, playing games. XP can be traded in for a bye on your blogging duties for a given week, or for an extension on certain assignments, or, for those of you in the top third by XP, a small bonus on your final grade.

Required Text: Watrall, E. et al, Play the Past


1 – Getting started. How this course works, how assessment works; Intellectual foundations for the study of history via/of games/simulations

2- Historical Consciousness and the video game industry

3- Deep history of games and simulations, from Lascaux to M.A.D. to Monopoly to the Serious Games movement (and probably some formal game theory)

4- Practical Necromancy, or Simulations: how, why, what, when.

5- Meaningful Play and Digital History (looking at playful approaches to the past fostered by digital history, so not necessarily games; I’m thinking here of the conversations about ‘deformative humanities’)

6- ‘Educational Games’ – how games foster learning; why ‘educational’ games are awful…

7- Interactive Fiction – beautiful simulations, and the literary affinities with how we normally write history…

8- ARGs, AR, and blurring the boundaries

9- Civilization and its discontents: on modding

10- Game design presentations 1

11- Game design presentations 2. I have it in mind that it’d be good to live stream these, if I can get permission…

12- Gaming and Simulation for History: A powerful way of writing immersive, engaging history (wrap up).


  • In-Class Participation: 15%
  • Blogging: 20%
  • Critical Analysis of a game: 25%
  • Group Game Design Document: 30% (Missing the checkpoints results in -2% each time). Each group will present their game/simulation during the last two weeks of class. Each member of the group is expected to contribute to the presentation. Missing the presentation, or standing silent/idle during your group’s presentation, will result in -5% for you as an individual. I reserve the right to grade group work on an individual basis.
  • Individual reflection: 10%

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