The early modern period was a time of upheaval and change, of crises and ambivalence, of violence and oppression. Yet it was also a time of religious, political and cultural change relating to attitudes, world views, lifestyles, languages, social practices and the material world, a time of new developments in science and flourishing art. Events of global relevance, such as the Reformation, colonial expansion, wars such as the Thirty Years War, revolutions in France, Haiti or the United States, conflicts in Europe, Asia, the Americas have changed the world irrevocably. The early modern period drastically and fundamentally changed people's lives and lifestyles, and these changes still reverberate today. In our culture of remembrance and popular culture early modern themes are very present, as also in syllabuses and courses at schools and universities.
General interest in the era remains very high, and so it is not surprising that the early modern period has found a firm foothold in popular culture. Learning about the past – whether consciously or in passing – is increasingly becoming part of our leisure cultures. For this reason, it is highly relevant how these intrinsically motivated learning processes influence prevailing views and images of the past. Games, as an important medium and popular form of processing and conveying history, play a central role in this process. Games with a historical setting have been bestsellers for quite some time. There is a persistently high number of game titles that take up and stage historical content, and an equally high demand for them. At the forefront of this trend are games about the early modern period, many of which have been booming for years: Assassin's Creed, the Anno series, Nobunaga's Ambition, and Pentiment, to name a few. For both producers and consumers of such games, it is undisputed that examining early modern history in games represents a relevant object of current popular and historical culture and in particular one that extends beyond the European, Anglo-American framework.
In striking contrast to this presence and significance of the early modern period in games and popular culture, however, is the considerable void and backlog in research on the early modern period in games and its mediation through games. This is a shortcoming precisely because it seems intuitively plausible that these games help shape the image of history and that an educational mission should go hand in hand with this. Some young players only learn about the early modern period and events such as the French Revolution through games, which are available in considerable numbers and cover many different facets of the era.
The observation that something is missing, then, concerns not so much the quantity of relevant game titles as rather the engagement with them – both in popular cultural and historiographical discourse. Indeed since the 1980s, a large number of games staging the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries have flooded the market and not fizzled out. However, in contrast to the epochal terms such as "Antiquity" and "Middle Ages" or topics such as the Nazi Period, World War I or World War II, which are also very present in popular cultural discourse, discussions about early modern content are still difficult to identify among players or producers, perhaps because the conceptual tools for this seem to be lacking. In the academic world, this phenomenon is reflected in the fact that there are still only few long-term impulses from the ranks of early modern historians to deal with the early modern period in games. This raises the question of why this is so and what can be done about it.
This conference wants to start filling this void and build on the successful conference "Frühe Neuzeit und Videospiele / Early Modernity and Video Games" that took place in 2013. On the one hand, the field is to be reassessed: What has already been achieved, what still needs to be done? What new challenges have arisen in the last ten years? On the other hand, the focus will be on individual representations, treatments, or phenomena from the broad field of "The Early Modern Period in Games" in order to highlight methods, problems, or starting points for further research and to create incentives, especially for early career researchers. Thirdly, the focus of the conference is centrally extended by the aspect of mediation work and cooperation. In our view, the key to intensifying early modern research on games and anchoring it sustainably in research lies in the mediation work on games and the early modern period in universities and schools. What do we learn and teach about the early modern period through games? How can games be used in university and school? What opportunities do games offer for scholarly communication on the early modern period? Finally, the key question: How can the dialogue between research, education and game development be strengthened? The last question is central and transversal to all other questions, because one thing is clear: there will continue to be games on the early modern period.
We welcome proposals for submissions on the following topics (abstracts of max. 300 words) or self-selected sessions (max. 100 words plus paper abstracts) by July 7, 2023:
- The early modern period in games - What’s there, what’s not?
- Games on the early modern period in Teaching and Schools
- The early modern period from a developer's perspective
- Theories and methods of analysis (preferably with concrete case studies)
- Thematic foci such as religion, fantasy, magic, LGBTQ+, postcolonialism, digital humanities and inclusion