Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




Media Arts

First Advisor

Heidi Rae Cooley


This thesis investigates historical representation in video games and argues that two types dominate: 1) a semantic approach that engages players with the past via visual expressions; and 2) a cause and effect simulation approach that positions players in the context of historically situated possibilities. However, The author posits that the expressive power of video game worlds and mechanics afford deeper potentials for historical engagements. The author pursues a game design approach that takes seriously representations of the past and player inquiry at the forefront of the experience.

The historically contextualized video game is frequently discussed in the context of documentary discourse. However, the author posits that this is an insufficient label and suggests the descriptive term historiographic. The author explains that, in contrast to traditional documentary media that privilege preservation, games are interactive experiences that offer to players a space of possibility in which to investigate and interpret micro-historic behaviors, actions, and events.

In pursuit of historiographic game design, the author concludes with a discussion of her prototype video game, Resurrection Man, in which players perform the task of a slave purchased by the Georgia Medical College in Augusta to procure fresh corpses from a local cemetery. The author/designer discusses the alpha and beta versions on this concept and explains specific design choices to demonstrate how video games function as historiographic media in order to educate and inform players of a particular historic instance.


© 2014, Jessica Ethel Tompkins