Debugging Game History

From Game Histories

Debugging Game History

A Critical Lexicon

Edited by Henry Lowood and Raiford Guins

Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games.





Essays discuss the terminology, etymology, and history of key terms, offering a foundation for critical historical studies of games.

Even as the field of game studies has flourished, critical historical studies of games have lagged behind other areas of research. Histories have generally been fact-by-fact chronicles; fundamental terms of game design and development, technology, and play have rarely been examined in the context of their historical, etymological, and conceptual underpinnings. This volume attempts to “debug” the flawed historiography of video games. It offers original essays on key concepts in game studies, arranged as in a lexicon—from “Amusement Arcade” to “Embodiment” and “Game Art” to “Simulation” and “World Building.”

Written by scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines, including game development, curatorship, media archaeology, cultural studies, and technology studies, the essays offer a series of distinctive critical “takes” on historical topics. The majority of essays look at game history from the outside in; some take deep dives into the histories of play and simulation to provide context for the development of electronic and digital games; others take on such technological components of games as code and audio. Not all essays are history or historical etymology—there is an analysis of game design, and a discussion of intellectual property—but they nonetheless raise questions for historians to consider. Taken together, the essays offer a foundation for the emerging study of game history.

ContributorsMarcelo Aranda, Brooke Belisle, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Stephanie Boluk, Jennifer deWinter, J. P. Dyson, Kate Edwards, Mary Flanagan, Jacob Gaboury, William Gibbons, Raiford Guins, Erkki Huhtamo, Don Ihde, Jon Ippolito, Katherine Isbister, Mikael Jakobsson, Steven E. Jones, Jesper Juul, Eric Kaltman, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Carly A. Kocurek, Peter Krapp, Patrick LeMieux, Henry Lowood, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ken S. McAllister, Nick Monfort, David Myers, James Newman, Jenna Ng, Michael Nitsche, Laine Nooney, Hector Postigo, Jas Purewal, Reneé H. Reynolds, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Marie-Laure Ryan, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Anastasia Salter, Mark Sample, Bobby Schweizer, John Sharp, Miguel Sicart, Rebecca Elisabeth Skinner, Melanie Swalwell, David Thomas, Samuel Tobin, Emma Witkowski, Mark J.P. Wolf


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262034197 464 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 25 b&w illus., 1 table


Henry Lowood

Henry Lowood is Curator for History of Science and Technology and for Film and Media collections at Stanford University and the coeditor of The Machinima Reader (MIT Press).

Raiford Guins

Raiford Guins is Professor of Culture and Technology at Stony Brook University and the author of Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (MIT Press).


  • Lowood and Guins have crafted an impressive foundational volume, bringing together a highly talented and diverse group of authors. The book's many intriguing essays collectively provide a critical reset that is sure to establish a deeply meaningful new iteration—and wider play—for the young field of game studies.

    Jeffrey R. Yost

    Associate Director, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota

  • Lowood and Guins have marshaled an impressive group of emerging and preeminent scholars from a multitude of disciplines to examine games as art, artifacts, culture, intellectual property, play, technologies, and toys (among other things). A foundational work, Debugging Game History presses start on the critical historical study of games.

    Jeremy K. Saucier

    Assistant Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong