The SEGA and Microsoft History of India: The British Raj in Videogames

Mukherjee Souvik
2016 DiGRA/FDG ’16 – Proceedings of the 2016 Playing With History Workshop

This paper addresses the treatment of colonial history in videogames, particularly in empire-building strategy games such as Empire: Total War and Age of Empires 3. The aim is to address the lack of plurality in the portrayal of history in videogames and also to bring up postcolonial theory as yet another point of departure via which it is possible to explore the potential of digital games as a medium for promoting diversity and a more nuanced and representative way to think through history critically. To do so, a framework of postcolonial historiography, which has been in place in other related Humanities disciplines for decades now, has been introduced and employed to challenge historical notions that promoted an orientalist mono-narrative to describe the histories of erstwhile colonies such as India. Through the portrayal of the British Raj in videogames, this paper makes a broader point about the need to reflect postcolonial and plural voices in historical commentary in games.


‘Remembering How You Died’: Memory, Death and Temporality in Videogames [Extended Abstract]

Mukherjee Souvik
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Death is an intrinsic part of gameplay. On considering the role of killing, dying and negotiating the 'undead' in videogames, one cannot be faulted for noting in them an obsessive engagement with the act of dying. It is almost a prerequisite that the player's avatar has to 'die' many times in the process of unravelling the plot. Instead of the traditional tying and untying (desis and lusis) of narrative plots, held sacrosanct since Aristotle, videogame narratives are characterised by 'dying and undying'. The sense of an ending, as literary theorist Sir Frank Kermode calls it, is constantly frustrated by its absence in videogames. Western conceptions of ending, whether Hellenic or Judaeo- Christian, are based on telos and a linear temporality. In a culture where death is a grim finality and where resurrection is only possible by the divine, videogames seem to shockingly trivialise death by adding to it the perspective of multiplicity. Videogame theorist, Gonzalo Frasca, observes that from the perspective of real life, this reversibility can be seen as something that trivializes the "sacred" value of life. This paper argues against such a conception and in doing so, it shows how videogames point to a different but equally serious view of death and endings that has so far been largely ignored due to an occidental bias.