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By Dr. Random

… when you have just become a dad.

Our baby girl was born 7 weeks ago and, as with all newborns, she doesn’t leave mom or dad with much time on their hands. Ninety percent of my waking hours I spend staring in awe at the new family member and the family member who brought forth the new family member. The remaining 9% I  spend staring in awe at the volumes of milk that get  transformed into poo and helping out as best I can to facilitate this process. And then there is 1% brainpower left to funnel into other pursuits. In my case this frequently means playing a game, with an archaeological twist, of course!

The other members of VALUE are busy excavating, thesis chapter writing, and with a host of other things, so there isn’t much gaming and posting taking place for now (with the exception of our new newsbulletin!). I don’t have time to play a game and write an extended Games We Dig either. So, instead of a real GWD, this is a list of the 7 archaeo/babygames since I became dad 7 weeks ago.

#1 Overwatch

Overwatch_cover_art_(PC)A game by Blizzard, who also developed some other games you may have heard of or even played. Turns out they can do hero-shooters too. This one is a bit like Team Fortress (or so I am told) and features heroes with heroic abilities that help them to heroically shoot or hammer the crap out of other heroes. The skill ceiling is high but the level of entry is low. I like it, because it is (1) colourful and cheery and still shootey and (2) even if it is shootey an older hand (and eye coordination) like myself can feel like he is contributing when I take a more supportive rather than a pew-pew hero. I main Reinhard (no relation to), a bad-ass Teutonic tank, and Mercy: think Valkyrie but then of the loving-healing kind.

Why is it an archaeogame: Blizzard have done a very… interesting job at cultural appropriation and essentialism (see also Field Report issue #1) and then, in my opinion, doing something positive and funky with it. Look at the Egypt level (Temple of Anubis): the fight (for the attacking team) starts out outside a stereotypical Near Eastern city, after taking the rough and tumble through a market and small city streets to an Egyptian pyramid-shaped temple that bleeds technology if you scratch at its surface.

Why is it a babygame: Overwatch’s popularity and quick loading times means you will be playing within minutes if you look for an (unranked) game. Matches are short but sweet, so if you have half an hour to burn you can play about 2-3 of them. To be fair: the dangerously high levels of Oxytocin that are involved in baby cuddling meant I was not really be able to commit virtual violence and only played support.

#2 Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted 4Just like in our family, Uncharted 4 is spiced up by the arrival of  a new family member: Samuel Drake, Nate’s long lost brother. The addition of Sam provides yet another deep angle to an IP that has always been strongly character relation driven, especially for what is essentially archaeo-pulp. When it comes to the running, gunning, climbing and looting, the game is much the same as the previous ones, which suits me just fine.

Why is it an archaeogame: I already outlined my thoughts about the Uncharted series in a previous GWD and Caeda will write on Uncharted 4 sometime soon, so let’s just leave it at: pirates, pirate maps, pirate puzzles, pirate paintings and pirate gold and which archaeologist doesn’t like pirates?

Why is it a babygame: I used to finish all the previous entries in the series in just two or three sessions and help myself to a heap of multiplayer after. This time I played in short bursts of about 15 minutes to an hour and I found that Uncharted is as good as a serial as it is as a movie-marathon. Uncharted is also, played on Normal difficulty, not much of a challenge, so even if I was a little distracted most of the time II breezed through it. Then there is the epilogue. [su_spoiler title=”spoilers” style=”simple” icon=”arrow”] It is very inspiring that even a full-time looter like Drake can turn his life around and find tenure, while bringing up a daughter in an island paradise. [/su_spoiler] There is hope for me yet!

#3 Civilization Revolution

Civilization_Revolution_Game_CoverWith all that footage of Civ 6 popping up I was just aching for a shot of Civ… But if I start up a game of Civ 5 it will take me ages to take my civ through the ages for which there is no time while baby hasn’t come of age (I know, archaeopunning is best left to professionals). The answer comes in the form of Civilization Revolution, available on a number of handhelds and consoles (I played in on IPad). Fewer options and complexities, but the same gameplay and alternative history in the making. It’s a few years old already and I think there is also a second iteration, but I never played that.

Why is it an archaeogame: Yep, we’ve talked about that one too. In this GWD to be precise. You read that, while I am just gonna play one more turn…

Why is it a babygame: Turn-based games in general are pretty good for pick up and play-gaming. Add in Civ Rev’s portability and you have a game that you can play at your own (baby’s) convenience. You feel like an epic father when you wipe the smile of Napoleon’s face with one hand and your baby’s bum with the other (okay, that didn’t actually happen).

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#4 Pokémon Go

The hype of this summer that has finally convinced the masses to abandon the actual for the virtual reality. If you haven’t played it yet, you have surely been annoyed by someone playing it. Nuff said.

Why is it an archaeogame:  Sorry to keep on repeating myself, but we covered this one too. Read all about why we think Pokémon Go is a stellar example of a game that can and should influence archaeological and heritage thinking and vice versa here.

Why is it a babygame: Why not take baby on its first Pokéhunt? Although… being engulfed in Pokéreality is probably not a good idea, while caretaking. My secret: I walk the dog for extended periods of time.

#5

Rimworld_steam_store_headerAnother summer hit, this time from the Steam best-seller list. Rimworld is a game with the simple yet strangely appealing visual style of Prison Architect and a narrative driven by an AI storyteller. You take control of a group of people that find themselves stranded on an alien world, although it is not populated by aliens, but by other humans like yourself and a bunch of Earth animals. Build a community and see it come undone by tribal raids, heatwaves, diseases, manhunting wild boars, and the occasional psychotic breakdown of one of your community members. The daily rhythm of the game is easy to get in sync with. Deceptively so, and managing the community’s resources and relations quickly becomes quite a captivating time sink. When things go to hell in a handbasket, like they are bound to, this does not feel like defeat, but rather as a pleasantly cathartic end to a tragic story.

Why is it an archaeogame: In humanity’s far future, there are still future ancient ruins and the corresponding future ancient evil to be found. But that’s not all,  I will tell you about why this is a game that is particularly interesting as an original take on in the process of colonization in a near future post.

Why is it a babygame: Space-bar pausing, baby! In addition, unlike baby, your people will do most things by themselves and the game can therefore be played mostly with the mouse.  Once again it is possible to support baby and play a bit. Also, since your community will be in ruins no matter what you do, it isn’t so bad if the cause of that is a lack of attention by its overlord.  

#6 Numenera

Because I am a malicious carrier of the tabletop RPG-virus, I have tried to get other members of VALUE to try them out. This happened last Thursday. Megalithic, Caeda and I played Monte Cook’s Numenera and we had a blast. What is Numenera you ask?

NumeneraWhy is it an archaeogame: Numenera takes place on earth 1 BILLION years in the future. This period is called the Ninth World and the actual world is littered with the artefacts and ruins of the eigth worlds that went before it. For society think Middle Ages, for technology think: ultra advanced stuff that is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from magic, which is how it is treated by the denizens of the Ninth World. As the heroes of the game, you collect the artefacts of previous worlds, called Numenera, and explore the ancient ruins of past civilizations. In short, in Numenera you basically play a bunch of heroic archaeologist’s. I really want to bring this game to a Streaming the Past before to long, let’s see if that works out!

Why is it a babygame: Tabletop RPGs are social games and, if all agree on a loose playstyle, they don’t have to take a lot of focus. This makes it possible to create a whole world or play the hero with a baby on your lap. Truth be told: in this case mum was so sweet to take care of baby for the evening so I and the rest of VALUE could explore the Ninth World.

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#7 Babygamification

Newborns are a TON of fun, even if they themselves aren’t even aware of the fact that they are. I can recommend any one of these mini-games:

  • Crapshooting: Babies can produce poop geysers with quite an epic reach. I managed to hit the wall all the way from the other side of the room! Bonuspoints if you can hit a pet with it!
  • Milkbottle speedrun: Bottle empty? Uh oh! If you don’t manage to re-insert a new flow of milk before baby starts wailing, you lose a life. Lose three and you have to make tea for mum.
  • Five-digit Tetris: Annoyingly, babies have five fingers on each hand and babysweater sleeves are like mazes. The game: five teenieweenie digits enter and five come out, if four or less come out that means permadeath by the hands of an enraged family member.
  • Sleep Quicktime Events: Babies have their own circadian rhythm, which often does not align well with your own. If you start treating your own sleep like quicktime events that end when someone or something presses baby’s buttons, you may get some nice powernaps out of it… or not!
  • Lullaby Karaoke: Who knew I could sing? Well, unlike Singstar baby will still award me points if I am out of key as long as the pitch is sufficiently high. Baby’s favourite song so far: Bohemian Rhapsody!

Why is it an archaeogame: I am sure people have been playing games like this for ages, right? “Cave-wall poopflinging”? “Hush, baby, don’t you cry, otherwise the sabretooth tiger will come by?” No? Ok then… let me get back on babygaming-archaeogaming when the kid is a bit older.

Have some creative ways of turning newborn and what they do into games? Have some games you can recommend when strapped for time and hands? Let us know via Twitter or Facebook!