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Simulational Realism—Playing as Trying to Remember

Summary

In this text, I describe a specific way of addressing the past in video games which are set in historical times but at the same time deliberately undermine the facticity of their virtual worlds. By grounding my argument in analyses of two blockbuster productions—Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft, 2007) and Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision, 2010)—I introduce and define the notion of “simulational realism”. Both games belong to best-selling franchises and share an interesting set of features: they relate to historical places, events, and figures, establish counter-factual narratives based around conspiracy theories, and—most importantly—display many formal similarities. Like most AAA games, Assassin’s Creed and Black Ops intend to immerse the player in the virtual reality and, for this purpose, they naturalize their interfaces as integral elements of reality. However, in the process of naturalizing simulation, objectivity of the past becomes unthinkable.

In my considerations, I situate this problem in two contexts: 1) of a cultural and epistemic shift in perceiving reality which was influenced by dissemination of digital technologies; 2) Vilém Flusser’s prognosis on the effects of computation on human knowledge. According to Flusser’s theory of communication, history—as a specific kind of human knowledge—emerged out of writing that was always linear and referential. Consequently, the crisis of literary culture resulted in the emergence of new aesthetics and forms of representations which—given their digital origin—dictate new ways of understanding reality. As history is now being substituted by timeless post-history, aesthetic conventions of realism are also transformed and replaced by digital equivalents.

Following Flusser’s theory, I assert that we should reflect on the epistemological consequences of presenting the past as simulation, especially if we consider the belief shared by many players that games like Assassin’s Creed can be great tools for learning history. I find such statements problematic, if we consider that the historical discourse, grounded on fact, is completely incompatible with the aesthetics of sim-realism which evokes no illusion of objective reality.

Open access
The Building and Renovation History of Vilnius and Kaunas Churches: Dendrochronological Dating and Historical Sources

Abstract

We present the application of dendrochronological dating of the renovation and construction works of churches in the Kaunas and Vilnius regions of Lithuania. The model for the estimation of the missing rings of Scots pine was used in Lithuania for the first time. We have assessed 18 timber cross-sections from nine churches, which were used for the constructions from the second half of the 17th to 19th c. The oldest wood samples were dated from St. Michael’s Church in Vilnius (1668±4) and St. George, the Martyr, (Bernardine) Church in Kaunas (1693±3). The aim of this study was to compare the results of the investigation of timber samples from 9 churches with archival sources and literature data and to reveal the renovation history of the buildings. The study of written historical sources has revealed a lack of recorded building and reconstruction phases of the churches. This fact was later confirmed by the results of dendrochronological dating. The dating of the timber revealed undocumented reconstruction dates in Zapyškis church (1791±3), St. George, the Martyr, (Bernardine) Church in Kaunas (1711±4), St. Anne Church in Skaruliai (1693±3) and Vilnius Cathedral (1814±4).

Open access
The Counter/Actual: Art and Strategies of Anti-Colonial Resistance

Summary

The article explores how a number of artists have employed the counter/actual as a form of past-talk in a conscious intervention into socio-political and ethical issues arising from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I argue that such uses of the counter/actual more effectively foreground the injustices arising from the occupation while not only problematising the process of representation but also deconstructing the ways in which histories are intimately intertwined with relations of power and practises of legitimisation; they do not simply reproduce “the (f)actual” but work to repossess the past from the dominance of hegemonic interests.

Open access