Interactive Pasts is a passion project by the VALUE Foundation which focuses on playfully exploring the myriad of ways in which the past and video games are connected. It builds upon the work of the VALUE project (Videogames and Archaeology at Leiden University), which began in 2015 as a volunteer initiative of six individuals with a passion for gaming and knowledge of heritage and archaeology. As our careers have taken us into different organisations, we have renamed the VALUE project to Interactive Pasts.
The VALUE Foundation was founded in March 2017 in an effort to consolidate our work and to provide opportunities to branch out into different projects related to gaming and academia.
Angus “Dr. Random” Mol
Angus or Dr. Random works on a NWO-Rubicon post-doc project at Stanford University’s Archaeology Center. If you ask him to name three random things he likes, he will answer with: “Animals, archaeology and piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, but the latter two only when I am in the Caribbean.” This is where he does his fieldwork, but the broader interests of Dr. Random revolve around how material culture functions as a sort of connective tissue that holds human social networks together. This interest has taken him and his studies far from the shores of the Caribbean Sea: from the Beowulf poem, to Çatalhöyük and online gaming.
Dr. Random’s gaming platform of choice (PC or PS) changes depending on whether his laptop’s hardware is up to date or not. Like his research, his gaming tastes are also best defined as eclectic (although he did get quite hooked on Destiny last year). He loves Kickstarter and similar crowd-platforms and will often divert some of his “lunch money” to a board or video game project. You can check out the list of projects he has funded here. Or check out this post if you want to know more about Dr. Random’s gaming past, present, and future.
Aris “Ymir” Politopoulos
When Ymir was a kid he wanted to become a writer. The grown-ups around him kept telling him that he wouldn’t make money as a writer. However he really wanted to tell stories, and what better story to tell than human history? So he became an archaeologist – which from a financial point of view wasn’t really an improvement.
Ymir is a self-funded PhD student at Leiden University who studies the capital cities of the Assyrian Empire, wondering why they decided to relocate them now and then. His main research area is the Ancient Near East but there are many things he likes to do research on: world empires, systems of equality in early complex societies and the connection between the Mycenaean and the Near Eastern world among others. He also enjoys studying political theory, anarchism, sociology, and urban theories and is always on the lookout for opportunities to work current issues into his research or teaching.
He plays board games, roleplaying games and playing Magic: The Gathering competitively. Video games is where he spends most of his time though, ever since his parents decided to buy a Sega MegaDrive (16-bit). His first PC games were Age of Empires and Baldur’s Gate and there was no return after that. Currently he plays a ton of League of Legends and Hearthstone and any indie games he happens to come across. He thinks Dark Souls and Bastion are the best games ever made. He also likes photography, writing metal album reviews, playing the bass, drinking whiskey, and reading fantasy and sci-fi literature.
Csilla “Caeda” Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke
In university life, Caeda just finished a PhD in the field of museum studies with a particular interest in how museums engage with and involve communities in their work. To most people’s envy, her fieldwork took place in the Caribbean, although she rarely got the time to go swimming (or diving). She is mostly interested in aspects of human interaction and social bonding. Secretly, she views her WoW-guild with a community-studies’ eye, investigating how solving small tasks can build social efficacy towards achieving harder goals. Online communities are proving to be a fascinating dimension of Caeda’s research.
Caeda has been playing games on PC since her parents brought home the first educational floppy disk and CDrom games. Always having to share the computer with her brother, she went through several Sims games, Roller Coaster Tycoons and the epic Star Wars Pod Racer in half-hour turns. When she graduated high school, she discovered World of Warcraft and quickly overheated (and eventually broke) her new laptop – even on the lowest settings. Today, she still plays World of Warcraft (yes, even in this expansion, she’s still raiding) with the occasional relaxing/frustrating game of League of Legends (but only if she can queue with friends). Her character names are derived from Latin words or classical mythology. Caeda is a total noob with a controller and is the ‘mom’ of VALUE, reminding the boys what not to forget at home and ordering the pizza.
Krijn “Megalithic” Boom
Unlike his fellow colleagues in the archaeology business, Megalithic did not anticipate following a career in ‘digging in the dirt’, let alone follow an actual PhD trajectory to become a doctor-digger. Before studying archaeology, he first studied multimedia design and learned the ropes of present day creativity. After that he studied communication sciences for two years. Although that was interesting, it was not enough for him; his soul was restless once again. However, time had passed and after studying for roughly 5 years already, it was now time to make a final decision and truly prepare for the future. Being interested in history, stories and nature, Megalithic chose archaeology as his final call. He is currently involved in a PhD track at Leiden University, part of the European NEARCH project, where he studies new ways of interacting with the public and works as Projectmanager Blended Learning at the University of Amsterdam.
During all these years of studying, there was of course ample time to do ‘other stuff’. That other stuff for him mainly involved hours of gaming – be it on the computer, Xbox, Playstation or other gaming devices (he actually started out gaming on a NES, which he still has). Megalithic does not have a favourite genre of video games; it just depends on his mood. He likes both multiplayer and single-player games but since his free time has decreased considerably the last years, he now has a slight preference for the latter. Some of his favourite multiplayer games are World of Warcraft, Battlefield 3 and Destiny; the last title still actively playing on his PS4. Single-player games he likes are Big titles like the Anno, Fallout and Uncharted series, but also some indie-games like Limbo, Never Alone and Axiom Verge. While “it’s even more real when it’s digital”, as Dr. Random always says, Megalithic is also a fervid board game geek: playing games such as Warhammer 40K, Twilight Imperium and Imperial Assault.
Vincent “Jaromirr” Vandemeulebroucke
Jaromirr is the odd duckling in VALUE, or what one could call the honorary member. But he realizes all too well that that doesn’t mean he’s less valuable. He works with SAP, plays ice hockey and loves driving his 1987 BMW M535i dubbed “Gandalf”. But probably his biggest constant in life, is his passion for video games. Although he has no academic background, let alone an archaeological one, he does have a very solid gamer background, which means he can add something important to what VALUE does: the perspective of the masses.
He got his first console, a Sega Master System II when he was only 4,5 years old, an occasion that sparked his most likely never ending enthusiasm for video games. Soon followed a Gameboy, a (back then epic) Pentium 133 and eventually the big one, the Playstation. There was a brief but very serious switch back to PC gaming because of Soldier of Fortune II, in which he joined various high level clans, but consoles have definitely always been his favorite. Fast forward to today, Jaromirr has owned 3 PS1s, an N64, 3 PS2s and 2 PS3s (all KIA from wear and tear). From Tomb Raider to Assassin’s Creed, from Gran Turismo to Need For Speed, from Rainbow Six to Call Of Duty, and about every NHL game released… The list of games he has played would fill an entire A4, front and back. In June 2013, after resisting for years he finally gave World Of Warcraft a shot. He made a lot of new friends and eventually even met his better half in WoW: his Warrior mentor, Caeda, whom he later married (in real life, not in game). And there sat the PS3, all dusty, so it was sold, the console days were over. Or so he thought. Then one day VALUE came along. Megalithic brought his PS4. With Bloodborne. After 2 years of controller draught he gave the first boss a shot, and after 3 tries it was over. That same week Jaromirr had his own PS4. With Bloodborne. Since then about 250 hours were clocked on what he says is, in all those 26 years of gaming, the best video game he has ever played. He still plays WoW of course, raiding three times a week, and he also does some sim-racing, but the console has yet again claimed a solid spot in his heart where it will probably remain forever.
Bram “Protosmoochy” van den Hout
Historian by day, space marine/medieval commander/Chosen Undead/city planner/hitman/explorer/ace pilot and much, much more at night. Protosmoochy has had two constants in his life, his love for everything history and video games. Luckily for him, there were many games that brought both worlds together. When he started his History education at the university, he even planned to start a Historical Advice company to help developers with the historical side of video games. But his interests are far broader than just historical games: between first carefully stepping through the dungeons of Prince of Persia and the visual marvels of the present day, he’s played hundreds of games in just about every genre, from FPS to platform, and from RTS to Simulations. Name a game, and he’s either played it or heard of it. But above all, his favourite game of all time is without a doubt Dark Souls, a love that he loves to share with others. When he’s not writing about pirates and/or the Dutch United East Indian Company, he spends his free time playing pc games with his friends. When nostalgic he digs up and dusts off one of his old consoles, chants a dark prayer to the Gods of Electronics and boots up one of the classic Nintendo or Sega games. At times, he and his friends gather for board games and splitscreen games, but online multiplayer is a lot less hassle. Proudest of his level 1 playthrough of Dark Souls, his rocket-jump skills in Quake and that one time when he won his first Starcraft match.