Game Bits

In Game Bits, the members of the Past at Play lab present a bite-sized exploration of games that are historical with a twist!

Episode 1: Hades


In this episode of Game Bits, Aris Politopoulos tells us all about the game Hades.

In Hades, you play as Zagrius, son of lord of the underworld, Hades. As Zagrius, you try to escape the realm of your father, meeting numerous other Gods on your way up who are all eager to tell you their stories and, at times, aid you.

Step into this engaging re-imagining of Greek Mythology and see its tales through a new lens. But be warned: if you die on the way out, you have to start all over again…

You can play Hades for yourself on Steam!

Episode 2: Spirit Island


Spirit Island is one of Angus Mol’s favourite games, and this particular gem can be played online and as a board game, as well as solo or co-op!

In Spirit Island, you play a narrative opposite to most God-games. Where usually you colonise the land and build a civilisation, this game defines itself as a “Settler Destruction Game”.

You play as Spirits working together with the native people to scare the invading colonists off your island using the prowess of nature.

Play Spirit Island on Steam, or buy a copy in your local game store!

Episode 3: Pokémon GO!


It is time for our very own Sybille Lammes to highlight one of her favourite games for fun and against boredom: Pokémon GO!

Though most of you will know the game, Pokémon GO! uses your geolocation to move your avatar through the world, and allows you, the player, to catch, collect and battle creatures known as pokémon as you travel.

However, Pokémon GO! has some serious roots in Japanese collecting culture, and further relates to the past by highlighting cultural heritage as item drops or gyms! Who knew, right? Watch the video for more!

Episode 4: Journey


In this video, student assistant Lotte de Groot highlights one of her favourite indie adventure games for how it engages with knowledge lost to time.

In Journey, not a single word is spoken, and yet you learn about the history of your civilisation of which now only ruins in the desert remain. The entire game is spent quietly traveling toward a mysterious mountaintop that calls from the horizon, reading ancient murals (if you can find them) and receiving visions during meditations.

Step into a world that has been consumed by time. Make the Journey, escape the demons of the past, reach apotheosis, and then..? Well, then it all starts all over again, because history is never over!

Play Journey yourself on Playstation or Steam!

Episode 5: Valiant Hearts: The Great War


Time for something way more serious: war. Yes, we’ve talked about colonialism and that’s pretty bad, but student assistant Lenneke de Lange will tell you just how horrifying the first world war exactly was.

Because this game isn’t about shooting nazis or communists, but about the stories of innocents caught up in an all-consuming war. In Valiant Hearts, you follow several individuals whose fates become intertwined as they are willingly or unwillingly caught up in the fight.

Follow in their footsteps and play through the tragedy of warfare, experience the horror of no-man’s land, and feel the loss of friends and family taken by circumstance.

War is no game, even when it is. Play it yourself on Steam!

Episode 6: Detroit: Become Human


I hear what you’re thinking. “Detroit? But isn’t that a futuristic game about robots?” And you would be right! Detroit: Become Human is absolutely a game set in a dystopian future where android servants rise up against their masters.

And that’s exactly where its link to the past lies. Because the separationist world this story takes place in, the servants being treated as less than human – we’ve been there before. A history of slavery, apartheid and structural oppression underlies much of our society today.

The genre of sci-fi dystopia is often used to highlight issues in our current society, and Detroit: Become Human is no different. Write your own story in this sociocritical role-playing game and experience the consequences of your choices.

You can play the game yourself on Playstation and Steam!

Episode 7: GTA San Andreas


We’ve talked about colonialism, war, and structural oppression, which means that we might as well continue our roll making videos about sociocritical games.

The GTA series has been made infamous through its violent gameplay and the assumption that this leads to violent children. In this episode of Game Bits, Lenneke picks apart this assumption and shows us that GTA: SA is about more than a glorious life of crime.

We ask ourselves and our viewers to consider the problematic relationship between impressionable players and violence that takes place within the game and therefore within the magic circle. Actions in-game take on a different meaning because they take place within the game. Similarly, GTA has very strong satirical and sociocritical undertones, but these do require a player to pay close attention to the environment.

What do you think? Is it possible to find a good balance between entertainment value and a critical message? How much satire can you use before it becomes impossible to identify as satire? And what can we do to ensure the magic circle remains intact and respected by players?

Let us know in the comments!

That’s all for now!

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