History’s Creed: ARTE Web Series on History in Video Games

Fresh on the heels of our editorial team transition, Play the Past is pleased to announced that the French-German TV channel ARTE is releasing a new web doc series on the treatment of history in video games.

The series, commissioned by ARTE Creative and produced by Tournez s’il vous plait, is hosted by popular French History Youtuber Nota Bene, himself a life-long gamer. History’s Creed breaks down the complex issues of history in video games into ten brief and to-the-point episodes. Each episode is set up around a single theme, and features specific games and development studios, and interviews with experts who comment the issues that each theme seeks to highlight : historical accuracy, historical clichés, truth and propaganda in video games, and educational uses of games, etc.

Now if you are reading this from North America, you may be familiar with ARTE’s online content distribution policy. Most ARTE content is only accessible in countries inside the European Union. But we are pleased to find out, the History’s Creed episodes can be viewed anywhere in the world (as far as we can tell)  and will remain on the ARTE dedicated page until January 28, 2021.

Being produced in France, the series was filmed en français. But the ARTE video player also allows you to select subtitles, and each episode also has French, English and Spanish subtitles available.

You can watch the series’ introductory episode below, and every episode of the series is also available to view on ARTE’s series web page. That said, we at Play the Past would be remiss if we didn’t provide a proper overview of the series to our readership. So we will be presenting the series’ individual episodes – ten in all – in two compilation posts, beginning later this week. We’ll present the first five episodes together in one post, then the remaining five in a post the week following. You’ll be able to view each episode directly from the Play the Past page, and read the summary and “take-away” notes underneath each episode’s video window. And of course, we encourage you to leave your own thoughts and notes in the post’s comments section if you’d like to add the the existing commentary.



In closing, how significant is this ARTE web series? At the very least, we’d like to point out that the commission and production of the series seem to indicate a “mainstreaming” of sorts, of the topics that Play the Past writers and readers have been delving into since 2010, right here on this blog. We’re also pleased to see that the ARTE production team has taken up a critical approach to the treatment of history in video games. For example, they embrace the idea that games can be educational tools, though with caution. The series starts from the premise that games are having a powerful impact on popular perceptions of the past, and that they commonly recycle historical elements into their stories and play spaces. Games also uniquely enable the virtual reconstruction of historical settings, and immerse players into their recreated worlds and events. As such, this is unprecedented in our culture, and we are just begninning to analyze the implications of historical simulation. The ARTE series, in a word, demonstrates how thinking about games has matured, and that we are now in a position to analyze video games on their own terms, as communications media.

So that’s it for this introduction.  Stay tuned for the full series presentation in the coming weeks!

Extra : here’s a France Inter interview with Nota Bene about the series, and the main themes it explores. Available only in French. The interview begins at 5:50.

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