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Abstract

A growing body of scholarship in recent years has been dedicated to how video games represent the medieval past. Several game theorists and historians have put forward claims that historical video games make arguments about the past through their designs to the general public. This study focuses on how the process of representing medieval marriages and betrothals through game mechanics in Paradox Interactive’s Crusader Kings II influences players’ perceptions of the purposes behind medieval European marriages and betrothals between aristocratic families. Examining the language and context of histories published prior to the release of Crusader Kings II reveals some historians’ arguments about why aristocratic marriages and betrothals occurred. Purposes of alliance, political stability, and establishment of peace are some arguments that surface. Using a ludic analysis, it becomes clear that the first two purposes can be represented in Crusader Kings II’s mechanics, but the establishment of peace cannot. Contextually and linguistically analyzing Crusader Kings II’s players’ stories reveals they consistently return to the reasons of alliance and political stability but omit the reason of establishing peace. Players recount the game’s implicit argument that it has made through its mechanics’ representation of medieval marriages and betrothals. This study helps better understand how historical video games argue about the past but also reveals how that form of argument influences players’ perceptions of the past. It also helps better understand how interactive media is being used as a conduit to present historical ideas, such as representing medieval marriages and betrothals through gameplay mechanics.

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