Past Events

Britishness, History and Video Games

Research Lunch – Nick Webber

  • 3 May 2024
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

Video games are increasingly prominent within the contemporary cultural landscape. The majority of people now play video games of some kind – on phones, on consoles, on laptops – and as a consequence extensive government policy now exists, in the UK and elsewhere, to regulate video games, support their production and promote them. Politically, they are recognised both as valuable industrial opportunities and also as tools of soft power: video games, it seems, work alongside other cultural forms to construct and represent the idea of the nation.

How, though, do we measure Britishness in video games? The existence of the “cultural test for video games” demonstrates that some games might be understood as more British than others, at least in terms of their eligibility for state support. Such games might be made in Britain by British people but might also offer some form of explicit national representation. British games might therefore also include British themes, or British characters, locations or cultural heritage – and the historical dimension of this representation is important and extremely popular. Historical games represent past events – often wars or battles – and offer a space where histories can be retold, re-examined and reconfigured through play.

This talk will thus explore questions about British video games and history. What is a “British” video game, and why should we care? What does Britishness look like in video games and where does history fit into this? And what do these games offer us that we might not find elsewhere?

Image credit: Still from the game Total War: Napoleon, 2010. Image courtesy of CREATIVE ASSEMBLY, Feral Interactive.

About the speaker

  • Nick Webber is Associate Professor in Media, and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research at Birmingham City University, UK. He is co-convenor of the Historical Games Network, which brings together academics, game makers and cultural heritage workers to explore the relationship between history and games of all kinds. Nick’s research focuses on (video) games, cultural history and identity, and his recent work has explored the historical practices of player and fan communities, the impact of games and virtual worlds on our understanding of the past and the relationship between national cultural policy and video games. He holds a PhD in Medieval History from the University of Birmingham.