Between the Familiar and the Strange: Exploring the Cognitive-Affective Model of Historical Empathy through Multiple-perspective Videogame Play

Liz Owens Boltz

NOTE: This paper was selected by the program committee as a Meaningful Play 2016 Top Paper. It has been submitted to the Meaningful Play 2016 Special Issue of the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS). Due to the copyright requirements of the journal, only the abstract is available in the conference proceedings.


Historical empathy involves an understanding of the context and cultural norms that shaped the actions of historical figures, recognition of the multiplicity of perspectives and lived experiences that exist at any point in time, and an affective engagement with people in the past. Activities that engage students with different historical perspectives have been shown to promote historical empathy more effectively than traditional instruction, but little is known about the effectiveness of videogames in this regard. This case study examined how players demonstrated historical empathy while playing the game Valiant Hearts. Results suggest that certain types of game play may promote particular dimensions of historical empathy more effectively than others, and that some dimensions tend to arise spontaneously while others require prompting.