Undergraduate students in Dr. Bihter Esener’s “Medievalism in Video Games: Art, Culture and Theory” course (HISTART 393) examined the neo-medievalist tropes in historical video games while they were learning about the visual and material culture of the global Middle Ages this past fall. Moreover, they visited the Computer and Video Games Archive (CVGA) which has a rich collection of video games, board games, and a wide range of gaming consoles from the 1970s to the present day. The CVGA archivist and librarian, David Carter, welcomed the class and introduced the archive.

Students had an opportunity to play the newly released Assassin’s Creed: Mirage game that were preordered by the CVGA in advance for class visit. The historical events in Assassin’s Creed: Mirage are set in the ninth-century city of Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). To analyze the game, students first learned about Abbasid art and architecture and the round city of Baghdad in my seminar. Later, they experienced how certain historical sites, buildings and figures are represented thanks to historical texts and material evidence as well as their creative reimagination of cultural heritage in a historical gaming context.


HISTART 393 students playing Assassin’s Creed: Mirage at the CVGA (Fall 2023).


A Discussion with Dr. Anderson’s Digital Lab for Islamic Culture & Collections

After experiencing the Mirage game, Dr. Glaire Anderson (University of Edinburgh), an expert in the art and architecture of the medieval Islamic world, joined the seminar via video conference and discussed with the students the ways of learning about Islamic art and architecture through historical video games. Dr. Anderson is the founder of the Digital Lab for Islamic Culture & Collections, which makes knowledge about Islamic art and history accessible to general audience. As an art historian, she also is a consultant on the Mirage game. She and her team worked with Mirage’s renowned world-design director Maxime Durand and historian Raphaël Weyland to develop the game’s educational feature, “The History of Baghdad” codex. It is a database that enables students to learn about historical monuments as well as artifacts from a wide range of museum collections and libraries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, The Khalili Collections, the Louvre Museum, the David Collection, and the Institut du Monde Arabe.


Dr. Glaire Anderson’s guest lecture via video conference (Fall 2023).


In Fall 2023, “Medievalism in Video Games: Art, Culture and Theory” course (HISTART 393) is taught by Dr. Bihter Esener in the Department of the History of Art. It is also included as an elective course in the undergraduate curriculum of the Digital Studies Institute minor by the beginning of the Fall 2024 term.


For more information, you may visit the HISTART393 LSA-Course website: https://courses.lsa.umich.edu/medievalisminvideogames/