Authentic-lite rhetoric: the curation of historical interpretations in 'Hearts of Iron IV'

Pennington, M.J (2022) Authentic-lite rhetoric: the curation of historical interpretations in 'Hearts of Iron IV'. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This thesis argues that 'Hearts of Iron IV' (HoIIV) presents curated historical interpretations about the origins of the Second World War. These claims are demonstrated through the concept of authentic-lite rhetoric; public-facing historical interpretations produced by computation and text. The thesis identifies HoIIV’s National Focus Trees (NFTs), diagrams that document the progression of history, as ‘engines of causality’ which simultaneously conceive of a recognisable past and function to statistically support the player. The thesis examines how territorial expansion, economic and industrial development, and political ideology are disseminated to the player through the NFTs of the German Reich, Soviet Union, and United Kingdom. The thesis illustrates how HoIIV’s curated expressions of history present the Second World War as an inevitable conflict. Through systemic and textual abstraction, the NFTs amplify political events, but overlook cultural and social phenomena. The thesis creates a framework for exploring the NFTs through external paratexts, utilising the HOI4 Wiki online encyclopedia as a dominant source base. HOI4 Wiki openly disseminates all computational and textual information associated to the NFTs. By consulting an external object of digital game culture, the thesis examines how the history of the late-1930s is curated by the NFTs and presents an innovative approach for understanding how both game system and text reinterpret history. In this methodology, the thesis demonstrates that historical game studies scholarship can be conducted without direct access to a digital game. Ultimately, the thesis determines that HoIIV’s NFTs present a fractious epoch where totalitarian regimes are more effective in waging war than democratic states. The NFTs characterise democracies as burdened by bureaucracy, while totalitarian nations are regimes of political, military, and industrial dynamism. Through these curated expressions of history, the developer-curators portray the mid-to-late 1930s as a linear passage towards an inevitable global conflict.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: game studies, computer games, wargames, 1930s, WWII, National Focus Trees, wikis, historiography, German Reich, Soviet Union, UK, totalitarianism, democracy
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
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Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2022 16:42
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 13:38
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