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Esther Wright  BA, MA, PhD, FHEA FRHistS

Dr Esther Wright



Senior Lecturer in Digital History

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

+44 29208 74742
John Percival Building, Room 4.57, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


My work is situated within the field of Historical Game Studies, and to me, Digital History fundamentally requires that we critically examine how digital representations of the past found in popular visual media have the potential to shape public understandings of history. My monograph, "Rockstar Games and American History: Promotional Materials and the Construction of Authenticity", was published by De Gruyter in 2022, as part of the Video Games and the Humanities series. Based on my PhD thesis (awarded by the University of Warwick in August 2019), the book is the first substantive study of Rockstar Games as a game developer with a long-established project of negotiating and representing U.S. History in their games – in particular, focussing on Red Dead Redemption (2010), Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018), and L.A. Noire (2011).

My work argues for the importance of studying promotional materials, developer branding strategies, and other kinds of paratextual materials associated with the development and release of historical digital games. These materials are important digital sites and spaces through which game developers, like Rockstar, perform the role of historian and manage expectations for "historical authenticity" among players and critics. I use promotional materials to offer more nuanced interpretations of the influence of dominant understandings of U.S. History on game development and marketing decisions. These hegemonies, established by and through the conventions of pre-existing cultural "genres" like the Western and film noir, and popular narratives long-centred on the white and male experience, lead to games that exclude and marginalise other people and identities, and promotional practices that reaffirm exclusionary stories about America’s “real” past.

I have also co-edited (with Professor John Wills, University of Kent) a collection of essays on the Red Dead franchise: Red Dead Redemption: History, Myth and Violence in the Video Game West. The collection was published by Oklahoma University Press in March 2023.

I am co-convenor (with Nick Webber and Iain Donald) of the Historical Games Network, a space for collaboration between academics, museum and heritage profesionals and game makers. 








Book sections



Research Interests: 

  • Digital Historical Games
  • Rockstar Games
  • Digital game promotion & branding
  • Digital sources & preservation
  • U.S. History in popular media
  • Gender History

Public Engagement:


Module Convenor: 

  • HS6202 Making History: Historians, Evidence, Audiences
  • HS6213: Accessible Pasts
  • HS0002: Projecting the Past: Popular Media and Heritage

I also teach on the following History modules:


  • HS1120: History in Practice Part 2: Sources, Evidence and Argument
  • HS6202: Reading History
  • HS6203: Debating History
  • HS1801: Dissertation 

Postgraduate Taught: 

  • HST081: Sources and Evidence: Advanced Historical Research Skills
  • HST082: Space, Place and Historical Research: From Micro-Histories to the Global Turn
  • HST083: Theories, Methods and Practices of History
  • HST077: Gender, Power and Culture


October 2015- August 2019: Ph.D. Department of History, University of Warwick ("Rockstar Games and American History"). Funded by the Centre for Arts Doctoral Research Excellence (CADRE), University of Warwick.

October 2013-September 2014: MA History. Department of History, Swansea University Funded by ESF Access to Masters Scholarship (in partnership with the National Botanic Garden of Wales).

2010-2013: BA History. Department of History, Swansea University

Honours and awards

  • Honourable Mention – British Association for Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) 2019 award for "Best Doctoral Student Article or Chapter" (for "Marketing Authenticity: Rockstar Games and the Use of Cinema in Video Game Promotion")

Professional memberships

Fellow, Royal Historical Society (2022-)

Early Career Member, Royal Historical Society (2020-2022)

Fellow, Higher Education Academy (2022-)

Academic positions

August 2023 - Senior Lecturer in Digital History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

August 2020 - July 2023 Lecturer in Digital History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

January 2020 - July 2020 Visiting Lecturer, Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway University of London

2019 - 2020 Early Career Fellow , Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick

2018 - 2019 Associate Tutor, Department of History, University of Warwick

Committees and reviewing


  • Conference Organiser: The Present and Future of History and Games. 28 February 2020. University of Warwick. Funded by the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick.
  • Monograph proposal reviewer: Routledge (Media, Cultural and Communication Studies); Bloomsbury.
  • Conference Abstract Reviewer: History and Games Conference 2020
  • Advisory Board: Video Games and the Humanities series, De Gruyter.


  • Conference Organisational Committee: Gaming the Gothic, 13th April 2018 at the University of Sheffield. Sponsored by the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities.


  • Conference Organiser (With Hannah Graves, University of Warwick): Hardboiled History: A Noir Lens on America's Past, May 19th 2017. Sponsored by Warwick History, the Warwick Humanities Research Centre, and the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).


  • Historical Game Studies
  • Digital Humanities

Research themes


  • digital humanities
  • Digital history
  • video games
  • historical video games