Red Dead Redemption 2 and Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Lyle Ciardi

History is one subject that most people hit the snooze button on when it comes up in conversation. But the fact that history is boring is starting to change based on recent trends in video games. Digital developers are starting to see how implementing history in a game design has become a selling point for many franchises. Even this past summer Epic Games included historic figures such as Vikings and Samurais in the popular battle royal game Fortnite.

Obviously World War II has been popular with developers such as Treyarch and EA who put out titles such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. Within the games the player can unlock outfits and weapons that pertain to the time period as well as the side of the war they are playing for (i.e. Allies/Axis powers). Developers are continuing to release World War II themed gamed as the entertainment community patiently awaits the release of Battlefield V at the end of this month.

In more recent news the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 has peaked interest in a time period that is not often recognized in popular culture let alone video games. The game itself takes place during 1899 at the turn of the century. It sets the scene on the heels of the “wild west,” and the end of the frontier era of Westward expansion. It is during this time that towns began to sprout up that are centered around industrial factories and used electricity. It is also during this time where locomotives are the primary means of long distance transport and the developers embedded the importance of railways into the games makeup. The story mode in Red Dead Redemption 2 follows outlaw Arthur Morgan and his gang of outlaws through a Western landscape where industrialization is beginning to phase out the age of the “cowboy.” The game itself is imbedded with historical facts dealing with the American Civil War, Indian rights, prohibition as well as women’s suffrage. Rockstar Games developed a landscape this is completely interactive.

Obviously, the setting of the Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place on a fictitious landscape that is modeled off the American frontier, which does not make the games historic accuracy completely credible. Yet on the other hand, the developers at Rockstar Games created a landscape to showcase elements of this period of time and packaged them in a way that is appealing to a wide variety of gamers. In the first weekend that Red Dead Redemption 2 was released, it set a record with over $725 million dollars in sales making it the largest entertainment release of all time.

With the shear size of Red Dead Redemption 2’s release, it is a safe assumption that history is still something that has a great amount of curbside appeal when it is packaged and presented in an appealing manner.  Overall, when looking at the bigger picture video games hold a valuable importance to the field of history and in a way they serve as a means of historical interaction that only heighten the interest of the players and make history a part of popular culture.

via Red Dead Redemption 2 and Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Video Games as Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Sean Butler

It has recently been through modern movies, television, art, music and the Internet that has lead society to create an expanding narrative for telling history and that is through video games. Video games have over the years become so ingrained in society that journalist Martha Irvine wrote in 2008, “in a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project ninety-seven percent of young respondents play video games.”[1]

 

Those numbers would be even higher today as many age groups have become more exposed to video games in the case of Fortnite: Battle Royale played by nearly 80 million people in the month of August alone in 2018.[2]

While, history is not a primary concern in Fortnite what is does start to signify is culturally younger groups are looking to new ways to socialize and become interacted with other cultures around the world. These shifting interests is what has led to a constant battling among developers to create newer more interactive video games.

A newer generation of video games is focused on the open-world concept letting players create and experience environments at their own pace. The best way to see this new open-world concept is in the latest Assassins Creed: Odyssey video game. Inside the game a player can experience the visually stunning landscape and hypothetical story of King Leonidas’s grandchildren and immerse themselves into a more historically accurate game based during the Peloponnesian War 431 to 404 B.C.E.[3]Audiences for this game have a greater opportunity to see what life was like in the ancient world and to learn through interactive gameplay the history of places, people, events and religious ideologies in Ancient Greece . What also, sets this game apart in a historical context from the rest is through the game it is the first time in this franchise’s history that you can experience the same story, but through either the perspectives of a man or woman. This is a scenario in which traditional history telling has fallen short as women throughout time have not been given a clear and equal voice.

While video games are becoming more historically relevant to general audiences. The next step is being able to teach history in a classroom setting through video games where culturally outside so many minds have already been immersed into video game life. This is a concept being taught by A. Martin Wainwright in his article, “Teaching Historical Theory through Video Games,” in which, he talks about portraying many issues in history through the lenses of historical video games like Sid Meier’s Civilization IV. [4]Fundamentally video games are enjoyed by millions and has the potential to reenergize the boorish methods for teaching history.

[1]Martha Irvine, “Survey: Nearly Every American Kid Plays Video Games,” ABC News, September 17, 2008, https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=5817835&page=1.

[2]Ben Gilbert, “‘Fortnite’ Just Had Its Biggest Month Ever, with Nearly 80 Million People Playing in August,” Business Insider, September 21, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-people-play-fortnite-stats-2018-2018-9.

[3]Paul Tassi, “Here’s Why There Are No Assassins In ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,’” Forbes, June 12, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2018/06/12/heres-why-there-are-no-assassins-in-assassins-creed-odyssey/.

[4]A. Martin Wainwright, “Teaching Historical Theory through Video Games,” The History Teacher47, no. 4 (2014): 579–612.

via Video Games as Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

DaCNet 2: Day 2

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Day 2 opened with, “Corpses in Cabinets,” my own panel, which included fantastic women scholars from around the world, but also FROM MY HOME STATE!

Imagine my surprise when I realized the first speaker, Melissa Schrift, was from East Tennessee State University, 2 hours from my hometown. How cool to travel all the way to England to meet someone from home who is doing super cool, and in some ways similar work, to my own. Melissa spoke on, “Race, bodies and spectacle in 19th century living exhibitions,” which was super exciting for me, since a large part of my dissertation and previous work was on freakshows and exhibitions of people with disabilities or difference. One of her case studies was that of Charles Byrne, “The Irish Giant,” whose body is still on display and causing controversy at the Hunterian in London. I spoke next on human remains in museums, then Jenny Bergman and Kicki Eldh presented “Death –a concern?” about human remains in Swedish museums.

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Last, but certainly not least, curators Katherine Baxter and Ruth Martin from Leeds Museums and Galleries presented, “Displaying the dead: public reactions to human skeletons in museums.” I loved this one! They shared the museum’s human remains policy as well as photography policies. Leeds Museums have also integrated these big questions of museums displaying and photographing the dead into their exhibitions to involve the museum stakeholders and visitors in the process. Note to self: I have GOT to get myself to the Leeds Museums and want to chat more with Katherine and Ruth on their work.

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I am not exaggerating when I say this conference was basically made for me. The next session I attended was “Bodies on View,” which included a paper on TLC and other television programming (which I’ve written about before as the modern freakshow) and reliquaries and “bone churches.” First up, Agata Korecka tackled “Death, dying and light entertainment” through medical reality television. Shows in the UK like Embarassing Bodies, or US-based shows like My 600 Pound Life, and a variety of other programs depict people with medical issues for entertainment or education. Sometimes, the subjects of those shows die, such as in the case of Robert Buchel, who died soon after filming. Korecka examined public reactions to the show during the airing, and then after the announcement of his death during the program. Kelsey Perreault ended the session with, “The Church of Bones and the human rights of the dead.” She explored a church in that displays the bones of various individuals in patterns across the chapel, and the treatment of these bones as a dark tourist destination. One audience question was about the gift shop offerings and commodification of the dead. Perreault also addressed questions about “protecting the dignity of the dead.” So good!!

20180907_161715My last session of the day was “Digital Reimaginings” with Kelly Richards and Matt Coward. Kelly did an amazing job discussing “Reimagining the personification of Death in popular culture” with a talk that included comics, movies, and other popular culture and their depictions of death. Her multimedia presentation included some fantastic video clips (Bill and Ted! Mighty Boosh!!) and she even finished the session with a great rebuttal of some quite strange questions.. Wonderful job, Kelly! Matt ended the conference with a bang, discussing death and video games. I learned about some new games I want to play (Graveyard Keeper!) and now have a different perspective of seeing death spaces in video games, as well (not cool to ransack graves, God of War).

And just like that, DaCNet 2 was done. I hope to see a lot of the same folks at the14th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal in Bath next year. Until then…