Category Archives: history

Writing “The West” in Westworld

“You’re in my dream. I designed every part of this place. Not a theme park, but an entire world” 


So, let’s talk about Westworld. There’s only two episodes left of season one, and a quick Google search will tell you more than you need to know about the number of loose ends and untied threads that are keeping viewers interested. It’s become one of those shows that thrives off of the mystery, and explicitly fuels the collective investigatory powers of the internet with their sights set on decoding the mysteries that it continues to offer, while it seems to be hiding many of its secrets in plain sight—for those quick enough to catch them and post them to Reddit.

What I want to talk about is one thing in particular that Westworld seems to be hiding in plain sight: that the show appears to be exposing the ways in which, until now, “the West” was written under a very specific kind of control, and about and for particular characters.

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Mafia III: A new kind of video game history?

Video game promotion is one of the things that most interests me: how what a game could or should be is communicated to those who are even vaguely interested before the game even hits shelves. There’s lots of different things that usually get mentioned— its story, how the game pushes the medium forward…basically, what’s new. But sometimes game promotion heavily relies on telling people what’s old; more specifically, what’s historical. 

And if there’s two things that Mafia III has promoted more heavily than anything else  it’s the game’s unique narrative perspective (contained in its supposedly next generation open-world), and its attention to historical detail and authenticity.

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The Childhood of a Leader: a composite ‘history’ of twentieth century fascism

I go to the cinema as often as I can but of late I rarely get interested or excited enough about a film to remember what I’ve seen a few days later, let alone want to blog about it (Case in point: Saw Woody Allen’s Cafe Society on Wednesday, was charmed enough at the time, but had forgotten about it by this weekend).

It’s something of an exception then to see a film that genuinely makes me leave the cinema wanting to talk about it, let alone wanting to go home and furiously Google it. The Childhood of a Leader is one of those films.

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Fallout 4’s Nuka World, and Video Games Doing Cinema

In many ways, this is a part II to a previous blog on Fallout 4‘s Nick Valentine, and how codes and conventions of well-known, distinctly American cinematic genres—in that case the crime/noir/detective film—are often used as access points through which many video games reinterpret and represent the past. Here, I want to briefy talk about the new (and final) addition to the Fallout 4 universe, the Nuka World DLC pack, and how it similarly pays reference to the western genre (something that I’ve been looking at in my current PhD research too).

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But first, I want to start with my first impressions of the DLC more, since I’ve more or less ended up entirely hating all of the others.

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Seeing and Hearing the Past in Video Games

Videogames with historical (or counter-historical) settings often mimic and recreate popular media images of the ‘real world’ as the basis for their virtual environments. Of course, this is a necessity for texts which consciously try to build highly detailed, immersive and interactive virtual landscapes, depicting ‘the past’, in an effort toward facilitating ‘authentic’ player experiences.

But though a technologically advanced and unquestionably postmodern medium, many contemporary video game creators also recreate and utilise ‘old media’ materials, placing these texts and items in-game to be collected or accessed by players.

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Clearly, I’m a collector (Fallout 4)

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Synthetic Memories: Fallout 4’s Nick Valentine

“Well, that’s some real solid detective work”

                                           – Nick Valentine, ‘Getting a Clue’

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In a recent review of Black Mass published in The Independent, the writer argued that ‘Hollywood was always going to make a film about the life and crimes of James “Whitey” Bulger’. Hardly an entirely new ‘story’, it’s already been the inspiration for Showtime’s Brotherhood (2006-2008). Now the story of the ‘notorious US mob boss’ who ran South Boston with the Winter Hill Gang has also made its way (allegorically) into the Boston depicted in Fallout 4, as have the codes and conventions of the detective/mobster genre, through the storyline of Detective Nick Valentine and his pre-war mobster nemesis, Eddie Winter.

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Follow the Past, Find the ‘Future’: Fallout 4’s Freedom Trail

This blog post follows from the previous, general look at the use of the past in Bethesda’s Fallout series, and more specifically, the repeated reference to and use of American historical memory as the foundation for alternate-history narratives. Here, one Fallout 4 quest is discussed at in more detail, ‘Road to Freedom’.

Chris Sullentrop of Kotaku already blogged about ‘Approaching Fallout 4 like a tourist’,  and how this one quest in particular allows the player to ‘role-play’ as one. But there is arguably more to the use of these historic sites than giving players the chance to be tourists.

(Trying to keep spoilers to a minimum, but obviously, for this quest in particular, they’re unavoidable). 

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