History and Human Agency in Videogames


  • Vinicius Marino Carvalho


history, game studies, videogame, historical theory, agency, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, micro-macro problem, covering law problem


This paper attempts to examine the way historicized videogames model human agency. It is argued that the perceived biases in historical representations attributed to an excess or lack of agency are not exclusively caused by limitations of the medium or pervading values in the game design, but also by the inherent complexity of the concept of human agency and its contended status in historical theory. The first part of the paper will offer an overview on the many ways agency has been discussed in both game scholarship and historical and political theory. The second part will mobilize this theoretical apparatus in a case study of history and human agency in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015) I contend that the game s handling of the two topics supports an unconstrained vision of society focused on the micro-level of social interaction, setting it apart from most of the strategy and roleplaying games. I conclude by pointing to guidelines by means of which The Witcher 3 can serve as a counterpoint to the prevailing simulations of agency in games, and how its achievements can inspire future titles interested in modeling fundamentals of historical theory in novel ways.