Barry Atkins
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Replaying history
Reading Close Combat

This chapter explores two distinct characteristics that can be found in a game such as Close Combat. Firstly it looks at it in relation to the more general sub-genre of game-fictions, the real-time strategy game, to which it belongs. Then it considers it in terms of its reference to other historical texts that focus on military matters, and other texts sometimes labelled ‘counterfactual’ historical works. In looking at this game-fiction as a specifically historical text, the chapter concentrates on the ways in which Close Combat attempts to negotiate two ambitions that would seem to be incompatible with one another. On the one hand, Close Combat attempts to address the desire for a level of scholarship comparable to that which informs the conventional historical work — it must be ‘accurate’, its attention to detail must satisfy an audience already likely to be conversant with the period in which it is set, its reference must always be to the historical record. On the other hand, this is not a narrative history or a historical documentary, it is a game-fiction. It depends on its ability not only to reflect or iterate historical detail from a supposedly ‘objective’ position (with its fixed distance reflecting that adopted by a certain type of military historian who concentrates on the details of the hardware over the human story), but for its most basic readability on its potential for departure from the historical record.

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More than a game

The computer game as fictional form


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