Wilfried Elmenreich is Professor of Smart Grids at the Institute of Networked and Embedded Systems at the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt. His research topics are smart grids, swarm systems and self-organizing systems. He is involved in the master program on Game Studies and Engineering and participates regurlarily in short game projects.
Martin Gabriel studied history at the University of Klagenfurt and received his PhD for a thesis on irregular warfare during the 1878 occupation of Bosnia-Hercegovina. He has been a lecturer in Modern History at the University of Klagenfurt since 2012. His research and teaching focus on global history, colonial violence, social structures and ethnicity from the 1500s to the 19th century.
Global History, Facts and Fiction in Early Computer Games: Hanse, Seven Cities of Gold, Sid Meier’s Pirates!
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
For many years, historiography has ignored the importance of computer games for the general perception of past events, focusing instead on “conventional” receptions in film or literature. Mainstream historiography propagated the thought that computer games could not meet academic standards. On the other hand, there had been early computer games using historical events as background. Meanwhile, it is logical to also keep in mind the motives of designers for producing games set against a (quasi-)historical background: Historic settings are attractive for designers because they provide an already existing logical framework for a game, while making costly license fees obsolete. In this work, we analyze three games set against the background of – what Europeans call – the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. The game Hanse is a game featuring elements of the 14th century Baltic trade. Seven Cities of Gold deals with European conquest in the Americas (during the 1500s). It is a real-time strategy game focusing on exploration. Sid Meier’s Pirates! can be seen as a microcosm of the power struggle between European countries in the Early Modern Caribbean. It gives the player a sketch of complex economic or strategic issues where pirates (buccaneers) were operating under different circumstances to support the ambitions of colonial powers. The games were released between 1984 and 1987 for various platforms. Among the systems that have seen releases of all three games, the Commodore 64 versions have been used to analyze the games because of high market share and successful preservation of games. The games were in general very successful and well-received. From a technical perspective, it can be seen that those games did not max out the computer’s capabilities, but rather attracted the players via the interesting setting and the historical connection.