What might histories of games tell us not only about games, but also about the people who play and design them?
We think that the most interesting answers to this question will have two characteristics. First, the authors of game histories that tell us the most about games will ask big questions. For example, how does game play and design change? In what ways is such change inflected by societal, cultural and other factors? How are games changed/different when they move from one cultural or historical context to another? These kinds of questions forge connections to other areas of game studies, as well as other areas of history, cultural and technology studies.
The second characteristic we seek in “game-changing” histories is a wide-ranging mix of qualities partially described by terms such as diversity, inclusiveness, irony and so on. Histories with these qualities deliver interplay of intentions, users, technologies, materials, places, and markets. Asking big questions and answering those questions in creative and astute ways strikes us as the best way to reach the goal not of an isolated, general history of games, but rather a body of game histories that will connect game studies to scholarship in a wide array of fields. The first step, of course, is producing those histories.
Game Histories is a series of books that we hope will provide a home – or maybe a launch pad – for the growing international research community whose interest in game history rightly exceeds the celebratory and descriptive. In a line, the aim of the series is to help actualize critical historical study of games. Every book in this series will exhibit acute attention to historiography and historical methodologies, while the series as a whole will encompass the wide-ranging subject matter we consider crucial for the relevance of historical game studies. We envisage an incredibly active series with output that will reshape how electronic and other kinds of games are understood, taught, and researched while broadening the appeal of games for the allied fields such as History of Computing, History of Science and Technology, Design History, Design Culture, Material Culture Studies, Cultural and Social History, Media History, New Media Studies, and Science and Technology Studies.
The Game Histories series welcomes contributions in, but not limited to, the following areas:
Henry Lowood is curator for history of science & technology collections and film & media collections at Stanford Libraries. After receiving a PhD from UC Berkeley in the history of science and technology, he has combined interests in history, technological innovation and the history of digital games and simulations to head several long-term projects at Stanford, including How They Got Game: The History and Culture of Interactive Simulations and Videogames in the Stanford Humanities Lab and Stanford Libraries, the Silicon Valley Archives in the Stanford Libraries and the Machinima Archives and Archiving Virtual Worlds collections hosted by the Internet Archive. He led Stanford's work on game and virtual world preservation in the Preserving Virtual Worlds project funded by the U.S. Library of Congress and the Institute for Museum and Library services and the Game Citation Project also funded by IMLS. He is also the editor or author of numerous publications on the history of Silicon Valley and the development of digital game technology and culture. With Michael Nitsche, he co-edited The Machinima Reader (2011) and, with Raiford Guins, Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon (2016), both for MIT Press.
Raiford Guins is Professor and Chair of Cinema and Media Studies in the Media School and Adjunct Professor of Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has written Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (MIT, 2014) and Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control (University of Minnesota, 2009). Guins has also co-edited several collections including The Object Reader with Fiona Candlin (Routledge, 2009) and Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon with Henry Lowood (MIT, 2016). Guins is a founding editor of ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories also with Lowood and Laine Nooney. His writings on game history appear in the following journals and magazines: American Journal of Play, The Atlantic, Cabinet, Design and Culture, Design Issues, Digital Culture & Education, Game Studies, Journal of Design History, Journal of Visual Culture, and Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture.
His latest book, Atari Design: Impressions on Coin-Operated Video Game Machines, was published in Bloomsbury's Cultural Histories of Design series in 2020.
Bay Area Video Arcades, Photographs by Ira Nowinski
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Courtesy of Stanford University Libraries