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GDC + VRDC 2019 Session Scheduler

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A Historian's Guide to Researching Your Historical Game

James Coltrain  (Assistant Professor of History, Historiated Games)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall

Date: Monday, March 18

Time: 3:50 pm - 4:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Summits - Get your pass now!

Topic: Game Narrative Summit

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

This session shares insights from Dr. James Coltrain, a history professor and game developer, on researching and designing
historically themed games. Dr. Coltrain will discuss choosing historical topics, accumulating historical sources, and soliciting help from scholars. He will also discuss using historical thinking to get inside the minds of past people to understand their culture, and uncover fascinating and unfamiliar facts to enrich game stories, characters, and environments. The presentation will draw upon existing games, as well as Dr. Coltrain's work on 'Cassius', an upcoming narrative mystery game confronting the legacy of the American Founding Fathers.


Attendees will learn how to identify workable historical topics, gather relevant primary sources, and seek advice from scholars and public historians. The presentation will also show how to use historical thinking to get inside the minds of past people and illuminate the design of game stories, characters, environments, and mechanics.

Intended Audience

This session is designed for anyone involved in the creative decisions for a historically themed narrative game, including writers and designers as well as concept, environmental, and character artists.