Seven years ago, back in November of 2010, we launched this blog. In those seven years, an amazing cast of more than thirty writers from a range of humanities perspectives have written 337 posts about the function of the past, history, and memory in video games. Across those posts we’ve got 1,156 non-spam actual comments. For many of our posts, it’s the extensive discussions that emerged out of them that are the best part. For example, check out the discussion on Seeing Like SimCity. Over these eight years, we have seen posts here developed into book chapters and articles in journals. We have also seen a lot of the blog posts show up in citations in books and articles and on syllabi for courses. In short, we are all quite proud of what this site has become.
There is a good chance that some of the things all of us have written here are the most widely read things we’ve published. For instance, our web stats say that Playing at Slavery: Modding Colonization for Authenticity has had 325,458 unique visitors and that The Presence of the Past in Fallout 3 has had 130,535. It’s fun that a substantial amount of our traffic comes from places like r/gaming where it’s clear that we are reaching audiences well outside the kinds of audiences we reach in publishing journal articles. That is likely particularly evident from comments we get when we try to suggest that a game about Colonization might be Colonalist- like, “What a pile of shit! Do you know anything about history? History is the reality of our past, offensive or otherwise. You need to go back to school kid.” I tend to feel like we are onto something when we can provoke that kind of knee-jerk reaction about “the reality of our past.”
You may have noticed that there has been less regular content up on the site. That is largely because we (Trevor and Shawn) have been running out of steam a bit. We took over as co-editors for Ethan back in 2013, and the five year stint as volunteer co-editors on this particular labor of love has burnt us out a little bit.
With that said, we are thrilled to announce that, as the Play the Past crew of bloggers and writers has grown we have enlisted some enthused authors who are ready to take the reigns as new co-editors. So going forward, Gilles Roy and Peter Christiansen will be your new co-editors. Shawn and I have had a few conversations about ways to ramp things back up with this new editorial team and we are both quite excited to 1) see what directions they take the blog in and 2) to shift back to being regular contributors to the blog.
Shawn and I would love to take a moment here to give a big thanks to Ethan Watrall who conceptualized, designed, pulled together the original authors, and then dragooned us into our roles as co-editors. We would also like to thank the work of all the authors and the readers. We feel like the site has grown into this vibrant and valuable community and we are thrilled to be a part of that. So with that said, we are happy to turn the second half of this blog post over to Gilles and Peter to tell you all a bit about what you can expect over the course of their first year as co-editors.
The Next Year at Play the Past
We (Gilles and Peter) are hoping to keep Play the Past on the same trajectory that its previous editors set it on, exploring interesting and thought-provoking intersections of games and history. This means continuing to have regular posts from our contributors and facilitating the dynamic community of scholars, educators, and writers that has formed around this blog. Part of this goal also entails growing this community and bringing in new participants. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some posts from new guest authors, but we’re also looking for new regular contributors, so if you’re a historian trying to fit videogames into your current line of research, a game scholar musing about the historical insights of a particular game, or a teacher finding new ways to use games in the classroom, send us an email with some of your ideas.
As Trevor and Shawn mentioned, one of the most exciting developments for us over the last few years is seeing how many other scholars have been able to use the work done on Play the Past in their own projects. It’s great to see posts cited in books, journals, and syllabi, so we’ve been trying to make that process a bit easier by improving the discoverability of some of the older pieces in our archives. This includes improving some of the metadata on the articles, like adding tags, some of which can be seen in the sidebar, and also making it easier to find interviews and videos on the site. These are some fairly small tweaks to the site, but hopefully they will make it a more useful tool for our readers and for the broader community that has emerged around the site.
As incoming editors of a project that has a rich history, we are well aware that Play the Past is a treasure trove full of hidden gems. Some articles are outliers, unique experiments in thinking about games and history. Others take up recurring themes on Play the Past, such as how games simulate history, the educational use of games, or how games tell stories about the past.
Part of our mandate as editors will be to help our readers discover the great writing on the blog, and making sure the legacy content and the overall direction of Play the Past remain current, and broad in scope. On the list on new features coming to Play the Past in 2018, we will be introducing new article formats to our readership and community. Two examples are compilation posts that bring together articles from the blog, old and new, on a given theme or topic, as well as roundups on the latest discussion of some relevant topic in academic research or the game industry, as it pertains to games and history.
Before we take up the controller and press “start”, we would like to say a big thank you to Ethan Watrall, Trevor Owens and Shawn Graham for making Play the Past happen, and for their efforts in keeping the blog going through the years. As you all know, many “pet projects” can start strong, only to taper off when interest wanes or commitments change. And so it truly takes dedicated bunch of people to make something so “niche” as Play the Past last this long. The project they initiated back in 2010 has grown and matured into a great community of writers, from diverse backgrounds. It also stands as a unique reference for researchers interested in the latest scholarship on games, and simulation.
We’re looking forward to seeing where this broader community goes in the coming years. Many ideas that began here on Play the Past as brief posts have gone on to become books, articles, and conference presentations. They’ve spawned countless conversations on forums, social media, and other online spaces. For many of us, this site gives us a space to explore ideas that are not yet fully-formed, or to experiment with new directions in our research. Through thoughtful comments from our readers and responses from fellow authors, we’ve been able to improve our own scholarship, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
To you all who have contributed to this project, in big or small ways, we owe a debt of gratitude. And we want to thank you all for entrusting us with the leadership of Play the Past in the coming months and years. You can be sure that we will do our very best to keep this community alive, and thriving.
So that’s it for this announcement. Stay tuned for the latest in History and Games in 2018 and beyond, with Play the Past!