Group B’s Pechakucha – A Slave in Portus

This is Group B’s short presentation on what our game is about and our thoughts on how history looks/should look in a game such as Minecraft.


Slide 1 – What The Game is About:
It’s about slavery in ancient Rome, specifically in the city of Portus, located on the Italian peninsula. In the game the player is a slave who has just arrived in the city of Portus. He or she was a prisoner of war, whose been shipped to Portus from a distant land. Portus originally was one of Rome’s main ports who saw a lot of slave traffic.


Slide 2 – Gameplay:
The player originally starts out on a ship. After docking the player is guided to the market place to be sold. From then on they are commanded through a series of tasks that require manual labour. Throughout the game the player will be locked into a specific path within the city. They will be unable to have the freedom to explore and move about the city at their free will. We really wanted to make the player feel like they are specifically shackled to a certain task. There is really only one way to win the game and that is by working within the limitations that have been given.


Slide 3 – Limitations:
The game is meant to be frustrating to the player because Minecraft is meant to be an open world game and we are making it have limitations, therefore saying ‘no you can’t do this, you’re a slave.’ slaves in Rome didn’t have any rights. They were told what to do and when to do it. We wanted to game to have a similar feel. While creating this game Minecraft actually limited us. In Minecraft you can break and build anything. The freedom of Minecraft is what made it difficult for us to achieve our goal of truly limiting the player. This speaks to the problems of emulations. It was hard to create out game in Minecraft. It’s hard to create a game with so many limitations in a game that’s meant for free will.


Slide 4 – Historical Representation:
We tried to be as accurate as possible given the medium. Unfortunately without any artistic talent it was difficult to create an exact representation of the city, especially working with world painter. We tried base the representation of our city off of the models of Portus, but getting the scaling of the city just right is very difficult in Minecraft. Luckily we had access to a theme pack that changed the graphics of Minecraft to look more romanesque, which helps deepen immersion.


Slide 5 – Is it Good History?:
The game shows the player what it was like to be a slave in ancient Roman times. Through a counter factual history the player is exposed to something that didn’t necessarily happen, but that might have happened given the conditions present during the period. This might foster historical thought and questioning and allow them to reach their own conclusions concerning slavery in ancient Roman times themselves. Slavery isn’t particularly made well known. Rome was known to have a great military force, but what about slavery?


Challenge 6

Challenge six


Ride through the past


The participants of this event will be drawn in by n email asking them to go on a journey to discover the land of Ottawa.


In this game all the individual has to do is to arrive at a dock on the Ottawa River.

Once on the boat all the participants will be given rings that have the years 1524, 1610, 1613, 1650 and 1670 written on them.


The game will begin when the boat starts to move. As the participants move along the river small boats that have banners displaying key events in Ottawa’s history prior to the 18th century. The goal of the game is to throw the ring into the boat that tells of the historical event that occurred during the year on the ring.


I made the game this way in order to make the participants have to both perform mental work along with physical work.



Final Challenge

Thinking about what I’ve learned in class and what I’ve experienced in games I think there is no definite answer for that is ‘good digital history’ this is because there is no definite answer for what is digital history as it can come in all shapes and forms. So long as the media is engaging the audience it is going what it is supposed to do. Digital history’s job is to try and get the ‘gamer’ or the audience to engage and learn what the game is trying to teach them.
For example the Virtual Paul Cross Game, I didn’t understand it at first but as I clicked and played around with the different locations I understood that I was engaging with different areas and hearing the same speech in different areas. When I looked at the description of the game, it told me that it was a sermon of John Donne in Paul’s Churchyard and that it gave a 270 degree of what the Churchyard was like back then. Even though it wasn’t a high action packed game, the Virtual Paul Cross Game did what it was supposed to do. It helped me interact with the different locations to understand that I was listening to the same speech just in different locations.
Another game that caught my attention was the Building Inspector game. Here we explore a map of historical New York. In this game you can fix footprints and enter addresses. This game needs our help, so that we can help the computer identify the colours, footprints and addresses of the map. Even though we are doing work and helping the computer understand, we are still interacting with history.
That being said I think ‘good digital history’ means that so long as it is engaging with its audience it is doing its job to get the audience to interact and learn in an interactive way.

Final Challenge

Building inspector last challenge   This drawing is inspired by the conversation that my group had in class on thursday.  We talked a lot about what good history meant and the criteria a piece had to meet to be considered “good history”.  I think that ultimately we decided that there was no one definition that was quite right or that would  make sense to everyone.  That is why in my drawing I used the building inspector game that we talked about as a group and drew the same game on both the top and bottom of the page.  The only difference is that there is a check in the top one and an X in the bottom one.  This is to show that the same game is both good history and not so good history.  As to this game we decided that is was good.  It exposes the player to beautiful old maps and engages the public in the process of digitalizing historical materials so more people could have access.  We noted that this was not really a game though it is presented as one.  It is not very fun to play and it is possible to play this game and learn absolutely nothing about history.  I think that the project is great but in terms of what we have discussed in this class it could use some work.  The game should actually be a game for instance.  This new york map project I think we can call good history but it is not a good game and arguably not even really digital history because the player is just showing the computer how to interpret a non digital source.





Challenge 3: What makes good digital history?

I choose to write a short essay for this challenge. It can be downloaded as a word document here for easy viewing.

In response to the final challenge I have chosen to write a short essay detailing my own thought on what makes good digital history. I argue good digital history is the product of three factors. First, good history must be the basis of the any digital history production. Second, through knowledge of the digital platform’s features and mechanics allowing for the delivery of historical argumentation. Finally, “good history” must be seamlessly integration into the digital platform exploiting the alternative channels for argumentation provided by the platform.

The fundamental component constituting the “good” in these productions is the historiography behind the injected history. It is from these theoretical outlooks that we can gage whether the history being presented is good to begin with. For example, the classical if outdated outlook of Ranke would place little value on the experiments in contingency presented in games such as Crusader Kings 2 or Europe Universalis 4. From the perspective of Ranke, a “good” digital history would differ little from a narrative driven essay about how things were; games’ fundamental value of player agency would have to be sacrificed to tell some “good” history. I would recommend the Mountain for anyone seeking a game where the player has no agency. Alternatively, one could approach the historical lesson from the perspective of the Annales School; here arguments could be made about long term social development and the impact of geography. Such an argument could effectively be made through a strategy game in which the long term evolution of societies is explored.

To summarize, historiography determines whether the history in a digital project is good; this determination is subjective. The historical lessons must be grounded in some underlying framework by which evidence is collected, interpreted, and presented. One would struggle to find a good digital history which is not rooted in some epistemological tradition. For a modern example, Assassin’s Creed Unity could not be described as a “good” reinterpretation of French Revolution; no evidence is presented to support this counter narrative and no one would claim it to be history. However, a social historian could praise the game for presenting historically accurate accounts of the Third Estate experience of the revolution based on the art design and representation of the common class consistent with historical evidence. Memory focused historians could further view the game as an artifact or representation of modern awareness of the French Revolution. From this perspective, the game’s central player mechanics, press X to kill everything in a cool way, could be viewed as a modern memory shift glorifying violence ignoring the more problematic historical lessons of the Revolution about violence.

Good digital history requires historiography to guide platform selection. Different platforms offer different advantages in terms of available features and mechanics. As mentioned earlier, knowledge of available platform’s strength and having the ability to use them allows for effective history to be presented digitally. For example, look at the twine venue which has been revisited weekly in this class. As a platform, twine allows for the creation of complex narrative structures with give the player agency in determining their path. From the perspective of a historian, exploring alternative viewpoint narratives, contingency, and causation fit this platform best. Everything from a history of high politics to social history could be playfully presented on this platform. For example, World War 1 could be explored within Twine by placing the player in charge of a major power in the later 19th century; players could then be prompt to make various decisions exploring the “powder-keg” explanation for the war. Alternatively, a project such as the Medic game explored in class could be created to explore individual experiences of war.

Good digital history must exploit the various advantages of their chosen platform. Beyond Twine, there is a variety of options available to historian wishing to go digital with their history. Games are only one option. Critical analysis of different platforms, as conducted in week 4, can reveal the advantages of various platforms. Take for example the recently released game Never Alone. This side-scrolling, cartoonish, puzzle game is used to explore the Alaskan Native cultural lore. The social and oral history underlying this game is visually represented and developed further as part of the games narrative. The artistic presentation and the narrative development of the platform visually engage the player in a representation of Alaskan Native cultural. Mechanically, the game primary antagonist is the environment; a deeper understanding of the environment role in playing the culture should develop in an engaged player.

While Never Alone exploits the strength of a side-scrolling, cartoonish, puzzle game to present social history, many other gaming platforms are available. Whether navigating a text adventure or developing a civilization in a strategy game, gaming platforms have a multitude of teaching device, from representation to mechanics. Good digital history recognizes these strengths and exploits them. Games are of course not the only digital option. If player agency is not applicable to the desired lesson or experience, the digital realm offers a variety of option ranging from visual, audio-visual, audio, and non-interactive digital text. Many of these digital options compare to traditional education tools such as lectures or texts. Take for example the successful Crash Course series on Youtube which has provided a free historical education in American and World History. These digitized traditional lectures take advantage of the Youtube platform by being visually interesting prompting engagement while also democratizing historical understanding by being free and available to anyone with an internet contention.

With both game and non-game historical platforms, good digital history requires historians have some level of competence in the digital platform being utilized. A central lesson to this class has been the general developing of this competency within our utilized platforms. Whether it is the trials and tribulation of <> or uploading a map to a Minecraft server, some level of platform competency is needed. For a Twine based game the tools are very easy to learn, but can have a major impact of the effectiveness of a narratives presentation. One could build a history game on a platform equivalent of Assassin’s Creed, but the level of competency needed would be extremely high. As discussed in this class, platforms can often be borrowed through modding to tell compelling history; modding skills however are needed. Indie development is an area which historian could more readily emulate to present history.

Seamless integration of history and platform requires the historian to not lose the message in the process of digitization. For non-game digital projects the creator must ensure the purpose of the project is presented clearly or instructions as to how to engage the content are provided. The virtual Paul’s Cross Project is a strong example of a digital history project explaining their purpose and guiding the subject through the experience. For digital projects in the form of game, historian must be aware of their message being lost in the process of making the game. For example, if the creators of Never Alone were designing the game with the intention of having the player deeply engage the Alaskan Native social history, one could critique their game for leaving most of the historical content as external links to sources outside the game. A similar critique could be level against games which hide history as side-quest non-essentially to completing the game. The message can be lost if the history is marginalized by the game; the game Nothing to Hide is a strong example the message or argument being clear and not overshadowed by the game.

Seamless integration of the “good history” within suitable digital platforms is the final component of good digital history. This requires the history and underlying historiography be considered when selecting the platform. As detailed earlier, different platform structures provide different channels for argumentation. Good digital history requires historiography to guide platform selection. This process begins with good history as subjectively defined the historian. Knowledge of available digital platforms and competency are needed. Historians must then match history to platform and develop their project.

Final Challenge

By: Mikhaila Pryor, and Jenny Code- 2/3 group B

Good history can be many different things. I think Good history is delivered in a way that is engaging- so that you absorb information instead of memorizing it. In Creative fictional writing there are terms called ‘showing’, and ‘telling’. The concepts are key to writing a successful pieces:

Telling: the process of informing the reader of a certain topic or event
Showing: the process of being descriptive, and indirectly telling the reader what is going on, through indirect forms.

In order to create a successful story line both are needed. This goes for games as well. Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, does a very good job of including multiple elements in different forms, for example there is written background knowledge about the time, as well as a paradata document explaining what they are trying to accomplish. In the actual digital history aspect of the piece, it includes multiple ways in which the reader/ viewer can access a certain experience, acoustically, and visually.

The acoustic aspect of the piece is very interesting because it allows the listener some information about what it is trying to do as well, it offers the audience the opportunity to experience St. Paul’s courtyard at different times of the day, with different background noises, you might typically hear in seventeenth century urban England. Enclosed with this section are different versions of the church. There are maps, drawings, an blueprints of the church square which adds another historical aspect.

According to Claudio Fogu, in his paper, Digitalizing Historical Consciousness, good history is shown in a way that is non-linear, and allows for layers of history to emerge, as the audience goes through the piece. Virtual Paul’s Cross Project does this effectively in that with the acoustics it allows for variables. It has the courtyard at different times of the day, with different proportions of people, so that you can distinguish the different aspects, as well as use your imagination, and allow historical thinking to occur. The most important aspect that makes a piece ‘good history’, is triggering historical thinking.

There are two videos that are not on the website directly, but the links are given. Both videos do not have any audio, but they do however give visual models of what the church yard looked like during the Gunpowder Day sermon, and what it looked like without people. The recreation of the event and area can be used as good architectural history specifically, because the visual mainly seems to focus on the architecture.

The recreation of this event visually and acoustically is important for historical thinking because in London in 1622, and for during this time period, the church played a very prominent role in people’s lives. Sermons typically attracted many people. The visual videos do in fact allow the viewer to get a sense of how many individuals actually attended the Gunpowder Day sermon. Acoustically, the audios available allow the listener to hear some of the common things that would have been heard during the sermon.

The churches prominent role in society is shown in the St. Paul’s Cross project especially when they discuss the preacher, John Donne, who performed the sermon in 1622. During this time the Church of England ruled. Donne typically preached King James I apologies or defended him, which suggests that he was involved in political affairs. This short piece on Donne explains that the crown and the church were particularly well involved at the time, but the people of England felt more trusting towards the church. Donne was asked by James I of England to preach during the sermon. Everything that was said by Donne was recorded, which later became the MS Royal. 17.B. XX. During the fall Donne preached that James I was a “good king,” and professed that people should show him their allegiance. Signifying that without preachers within the church, the monarch would probably have many issues dealing with their subjects. People commonly had their confidence in their religion during this time period, which is explained during the St. Paul’s Cross Project.

In order to improve this project I think it would be beneficial for the audio and visual to be combined in order to get the full effect of the sermon as well as the different times of day that can be heard acoustically. But overall having the visual and acoustic separated can be beneficial to those who are hearing or visually impaired. Indicating that this project can be served as good history for majority of its viewers or listeners despite their impairments.