Gaming Artificial Anasazi: Applying immersive game design and storytelling to an agent-based model in archaeology
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Barcelona
Department of History, Carleton University
We present our experience of designing a first-person, open-world video game built over an archaeological agent-based model. This initiative responds to our anxieties regarding the possibility of building a mutually-beneficial relationship between archaeological agent-based simulation models (ABMs) and video games.
We believe that the ABM community in archaeology can use video games as heuristic tools for documenting, exploring, sharing, and possibly improving their models, while game developers would find that archaeological ABMs are powerful procedural generators of contents that are informed by archaeological research.
To implement our ideas in a proof-of-concept, we choose one of the first and most influential ABMs in archaeology, generally known as ‘Artificial Anasazi.’ We explain the process of translating the model from NetLogo to Unity (C#), from obtaining and reviewing the related published materials to expanding the original model. We discuss the issues and challenges encountered.
We present an overview of our consolidated game design and story, commenting on caveats and opportunities of using ABM models for creating feasible and attractive video games. The game, which we tongue-in-cheek refer to as ‘Quantum Leaper,’ is being developed as a side project and remains unfinished and unpublished. However, we are committed to increasingly sharing our progress with both archaeological and game development community. We are open for collaborators, both archaeologists and game developers.
The Desolation of Vixens
Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary
Desolation was a 1984 text-based shooter game that shipped with the short-lived Osborne Vixen, a portable computer. Very limited information is available regarding either the game or the platform, leaving us with little more than the digital artifact; despite that, we were able to reverse engineer Desolation’s data formats and reconstruct everything from ships to level data. We discovered that the game has data laid out in multiple ways, that the level data is very custom-tailored to the format of the extant levels, and the curious but inconsistent use of what we will loosely call “obfuscation” of data. We talk about how we were able to reverse engineer all this and the tools we built to assist, some of which will be of use more generally in the analysis of other games.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is the evidence about the game’s development that we were able to learn from analyzing the code and data. The game data, for example, captures what appears to be evolutionary steps in Desolation’s design. Meanwhile, the code suggests that the game was not only possibly written on a different machine, but was written for a different CPU, and may even hint at the form of the game deliverables. Desolation provides a case study of what we might learn from digital artifacts about the human process of creating video games, even when the games were created 34 years ago – an eternity in computer time.
The International Game Collection: What for?
Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur
In 2016, the German Bundestag approved the funding for the International Computer Games Collection, an association of three public collections of computer games: the collection of the Computer Game Museum in Berlin, the Potsdam University Game Research Center and the USK, the German age rating agency. The project is managed by the Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur, associative partner is the Game Association, the association of German game developers and game publishers. With a total of more than 50,000 titles, and to a large extent compiled through civic engagement in the form of donations, this creates the largest and most important international computer game collection in Germany.
At the end of 2017, the first phase started with the merging of metadata of the collections into one database system. The aim of this first phase is to make the data accessible via the website of the collection computerspielesammlung.de, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek and the European cultural portal Europeana. This phase will be financed by the Federal Government until the end of March 2019.
After importing the cataloging and access information of games from different origins into a central database system, the question for scientific usage scenarios arises. On one hand this collection got a least all games, available on the German market since 1994 physically, on the other hand there is a highly flexible and expandable database system. Keeping in mind that this institution is not a private museum but a public collection, the next step will be developing a documentation concept for Computer game culture and a concept for game preservation.
Synthetic Spaces and Indigenous Identity: Decolonizing Video Games and ROM Hacking Super Mario Bros.
Native American Studies, UC Davis
In her essay “Tradition and Performance”, Stephanie Nohelani Teves details the importance of living Hawaiian tradition and identity, embodied by Kanaka Maoli performers. These performers preserve, shape, and embody indigenous tradition and knowledge, as well as personify what it means to be indigenous in Hawaii in that particular cultural moment. However, can this same embodiment of tradition, knowledge, and indigenous identity be undertaken by a non-human indigenous identity? The topic of the survivance of tradition and indigeneity through the vessel of a synthetic indigenous identity is the topic that will be explored in this paper. Branching from the discussion of Tanya Tagaq’s creation of a synthetic indigenous self through the synthetic looping of her vocals and participating in a one-woman duet with them, this essay will discuss the creation of alternate forms of indigenous synthetic selves through Native produced and developed video games such as Never Alone <Kisima Ingitchuna>, as well as the work I have done with ROM Hacking Super Mario Bros. and my own game design, and their importance to the furthering and shaping of synthetic tradition. This essay, through an examination of Tagaq, Never Alone, and the aims of my own work, will demonstrate that indigenous identity can not only be created through games, but entire worlds and teachings surrounding community, collective knowledge and oral tradition, and Indigenous ways of knowing can be created within this digital medium, and thus embodied by the player.
Their Memory: Exploring Veteran's Voices, Virtual Reality and Collective Memory
Abertay University, Scotland, UK
Their Memory explores how game design and immersive technology can be used to enhance existing historical research and expand narratives to bring rich expansive experiences to hard-to-reach audiences. Working with the Veteran’s Charity, Poppyscotland, and Game Development Company, Ruffian Games, the project aims to expand documentary and storytelling techniques for the commemoration of war and conflict. As both world wars have faded from living memory, how we engage with the existing historical narrative and remembrance activities of conflict is being shaped by generations that have little direct experience of war. However, the visual imagery of conflict is more accessible than at any previous period. From news and propaganda presented via print and screen media through to the virtual playgrounds of Battlefield and Call of Duty we are surrounded by war yet know little of its impact on those that served. The project is developing a short thought-provoking, narrative-driven prototype that will enable players to experience the memories of Scottish Veterans, exploring the different conflicts and situations they have experienced. Working with veterans and co-designing with the target audience the prototype aims to present authentic memories in Virtual Reality to create a greater sense of immersion. By experiencing events through their eyes, the player will walk away from the experience with a deeper understanding and sense of empathy. In bringing together cross-sector expertise to research how use immersive experiences the project will help memory-based organisations in engaging with wider audiences, raise awareness and diversify current learning outputs
Raising History and Archaeology Interest through Videogames
Università degli Studi di Padova
The objective of the research described in this paper is to understand if it is possible to make people feel interested about history and archaeology through videogames (specifically for an italian context) and therefore use this instrument for communicative and didactic purposes.
Two methodologies have been used, the first being a survey submitted to various Italian facebook’s videogames communities that got number of answers guaranteeing a margin of error less than 5% on the statistics; the second being a research of the “history key words” of various videogames searched with Google during the last 10 years, comparing the data with the release dates of the videogames in analysis.
The results of the cross-check of the data from the two methodologies are positive about the perspective of using videogames to divulgate history and archaeology in Italy ; they show that nearly the 50% of gamers who played an history related videogame turned out to be so interested in the subject that did personal research about it outside of the context of the videogame.
The data showed some preferences on the historic period Italian gamers are more interested in playing (such us Medieval Era, Renaissance, Sengoku Period and Ancient Rome) and also the genre they prefer when playing an history related game (“RPG” , “Action” and “Strategy” are believed to be the most suitable). This information could also be useful to Italian game developers on where to focus while developing a game with a specific history setting.
Historical Games in GLAMs and Playing Them Today
Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums hold the vital role in games preservation of holding collections of games, both video and analogue. Engaging with these games through play is an important element of the study of games and cultures of gaming. Of course, for most of human history “games” were board games (chess, draughts, Senet, Go, etc), card games (whist, poker) or dice games of various kinds. The digital preservation and distribution of these games can avoid some of the problems that face attempts to preserve and distribute video games (such as copyright management and the complexity of emulating software and hardware). There are still extensive challenges to using digitised examples of board games, card games, and the like for understanding the play of historical games. Two particular issues stand between researchers and access to this source of information – a lack of support for game-specific metadata in large institutions, and absent or incomplete rulesets. Game metadata is often inconsistent, lacking, or unclear, making finding the objects in large datasets difficult. Rulesets are often only partially available, or exist only as images rather than text. This presentation will use the experience of working with Europeana’s collection during the 2016 Europeana Hack Week, and will look at the way a variety of major online cultural heritage institutions attempt to provide access to games, and the ways that they are, so far, inadequate.
Playing (Dutch) Game History. Designing Games with Historical Datasets
Brian de Lint
Andrea di Pastena
Jasper van Vught
Center for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP), Utrecht University
Over the past two decades, games have increasingly been acknowledged as importanttechnologicaland cultural historical artifacts.Consequently, various initiatives have been undertaken to preserve games as part of acountry’s , an industry’s , or a community’s heritage. Moreover, online archives likeMobygames or Boardgamegeek catalogue and categorize both current and past titles togetherwith a wide range of other information such as the year of release, platform(s), or genre. Allthese initiatives are presenting a wide range of information about the complex genealogies ofgame history. However, due to the abundance of information and sorting criteria, these datasetsdo not easily reveal the historical insights and narratives they contain.
To address this issue, we propose a practice-based method, drawing on critical making and experimental, self-reflexive game design, to interpret (game-)historical datasets by developing, play- testing and remixing multiple game prototypes based on the same material. More specifically, we explore the recently created historical dataset of Dutch games to assess how the prototypes as historiographical ‘lenses’ produce different, interrelated views on game history. We draw on the notions of narrative sensemaking and narrative inquiry to explore how designing and playing the prototypes produces numerous, partially overlapping emergent historiographical narratives. This approach allows for a critical discussion of the “complex course of descent” which has formed the Dutch gaming present, laying bare the accidents, deviations and different emplotments that produce histories of companies, of genres, and of appropriating foreign motifs and themes. Finally, the method promises an exploration of the politics of canonization of (Dutch) games, which still constitute an understudied aspect of contemporary game history.
Read the abstract with all references and bibliography here!
Personal and Social Recent History in Fragments of Him
Breda University of Applied Sciences (NHTV)
In 2016 and 2017 the video game Fragments of Him was released on PC, Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4. The game is a period drama and features a variety of English urban and suburban locations in the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. In this talk, the game’s Creative Director and Narrative Designer, Dr. Mata Haggis-Burridge, discusses the ways in which real locations were chosen from his own history and interwoven with newly created spaces to support the world and story of the game. Factors such as the visual and audio choices of the developers will be explored to show how the locations grounded the game powerfully in the reality of England in these recent decades, suggesting how other creators may use, or be using, similar techniques in their work. The game’s locations reflect the class, age, and personal histories of both the characters and, inevitably, of the writer. The talk explores the boundaries of fiction and autobiography, the use of digitally-recreated spaces as locations for virtual storytelling, and the processes necessary to create an emotional sense of presence in a digitally rendered period drama.
Learning to Preserve the Past: Game-based Cultural Property Protection training
Games are an ideal medium for training the adult learner, because games naturally adhere to the principles of andragogy. I will talk about how games operate as systems, and why they are an optimal platform for the adult learner; and show how game-based learning can be used for very tangible topics such as training on Cultural Property Protection (CPP). I will briefly discuss two game prototypes that we have developed, both of which have garnered a lot of attention from the UN, NATO, the Austrian Military, and the U.S. Military. One is a computer game modeled after a military-style first-person-shooter that teaches military members how to identify and protect CPP in a war zone; and the other is an escape room game to teach proper procedures for the handling and protection of cultural heritage in an emergency situation, which utilizes the latest Augmented Reality software. Both examples show that games have the ability to not only represent the past, but to train people to preserve the past. I want to highlight the many practical applications for games on topics such as Cultural Property Protection training—which would naturally be of interest to your audience.
Life Was Really Hard! Designing and Using Digital Games to Explore Medieval Life in Primary Schools
School of Arts and Media, University of Salford
In the last decades, digital games based on historical themes or settings have become an important form of historical engagement, with a great potential to influence popular conceptions about the past. In spite of the growing interest in harnessing this power for the teaching of history in formal educational contexts, still many questions in regard to the representational appropriateness, educational effectiveness, and practical implementation of historical computer games in school classrooms remain unclear. In this paper, I would like to give an overview of a Ph.D. research set to analyse the potential of digital games for historical education. Adopting a practice-based approach, this research was led by the iterative development of a series of historical game prototypes, designed to explore everyday life in early Anglo-Saxon Britain. At different stages of design, these prototypes were evaluated by historians, archaeologists, and educators, moving at a later stage to their implementation and testing within the history curriculum of a primary school. Drawing from this process, this research has contributed to gain a better understanding of the theoretical issues involved in the design and implementation of historical game based learning methodologies, making empirical connections between educational theory, historical learning, and game design.
World, Rules, and Play: Digital Games and Researching the Medieval World
Department of History, University of Winchester
The potential importance of digital games to popular understandings of medieval history (and history more generally) has been demonstrated exhaustively. These games can get students interested in the period and inform their core understanding of the middle ages. They can be used effectively in the taught environment at every level of study from pre-school to undergraduate. From an educational standpoint, the importance of digital games is fast becoming undeniable: even if games are not to be used in class, an understanding of how they can shape students’ ideas about history is increasingly useful.
However, explorations into the historical research applications of these same games are remarkably sparse. Studies tend to focus on the impact of history on games or on the ability of games to present a historically accurate depiction of the medieval world. The potential impact of games on academic history is often ignored.
This paper critiques and extends the work of Spring, McCall, and Carvalho to argue that it is not only possible to represent historical research through digital games, but that the very nature of these games implies and demands the presentation of historical data, development of analysis and arguments, and ultimately the discussion and adjustment of these arguments. Leaning on Game Design and Game Study theory and using examples from games such as Assassin’s Creed, Crusader Kings II, and Mount and Blade, the piece will demonstrate the utility of digital games as historical research tools and outputs.
Learning by Gaming: The image of history in games and its potential for teaching history
It seems to be evident that no other school subject has a potential library of video games as plentiful as that of history education. Popular and widely successful games like Call of Duty WW: II or Battlefield 1 are only two examples of the booming of historical settings throughout the genres. We as teachers can or even must use games in today’s classrooms, for subjects like “World War” become a part in pop culture and influence the image of history in the everyday life. With this realization comes the responsibility for us teachers to use this fact as a potential. Via video games, we can easily reach most pupils of the digital age – so what are the best ways to do so in a productive way that furthers their historical understanding? In my presentation, I will explain how to identify a game that is suitable for history education and how to best process it for creative and critical usage in the classroom by working with its historical narration. The historical narration always expresses the underlying awareness of history and thus allows the students to develop a critical perspective not only on different epochs and events, but also on their modern interpretations. To do so, it is important to use this medium as intended by the producers: by interacting with it as a player. Only the perspective of a player (supported by a didactic preparation) grants a direct access to that historical image and its production, thus enabling a media-critical thinking.
Interpreting the Fictional Past: How Fans of the Elder Scrolls Games Deal with “The Battle of Red Mountain”
MA student of New Media and Digital Culture, Utrecht University
Though an interesting and relevant question by itself, we should not only ask how games deal with the past, but also investigate how their audience deals with it. How does the fandom of games deal with the history that is presented to them in those games? I explore this question for one particularly prominent fictional historical event: the Battle of Red Mountain, introduced in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind . By studying fan-written texts and forum discussions relating to this event, housed in fan-made archive The Imperial Library (https://www.imperial-library.info/), I aim to uncover how the fictional past is archived by fans, and how fans use pseudo-academic research and fanfiction writing to interpret that past. For this effort, I will use the Derridean conceptualisation of the archive, while taking Steedman’s critique of Derrida’s account into consideration as well. To understand the fan-scholarly practice of interpreting the history of the Battle of Red Mountain, I adopt Hills’ theory of “archontic fandom” (Derrida’s ‘archontic principle’) and other theories of fan-scholarship and fanfiction writing. I find that certain interpretations of the fictional past hold more prestige within the archive than others, and argue that these endeavours constitute a “performance of fan expertise” which is expressed in the form of fan-scholarly historiography as a way of obtaining and asserting knowledge-based authority within the fandom.
Gaming the past: Video Games and Historical Literacy in the College Classroom
California State University
This paper explores how two historians and their students use video games as a pedagogical tool to understand and interpret the past. A tool that provides their students with a new set of skills that when combined with traditional historical and interdisciplinary methods offer a new window on history education. Anyone who has spent any time in a history classroom recognizes the lasting impact these games have on shaping students’ understanding of the history we teach. Students bring to our classrooms notions of history rooted in their experiences with games like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Civilization, and other history based games. However, there is a disconnect between those histories and the historical process. To combat these issues, historians have moved to skills based curricula but have ignored the role video games play in student prior knowledge. The influence of these games, which feature conflicting interpretations about historical agency, masculinity and western centric narratives, speak to the necessity of studying them and using them as pedagogical tools. Here we explore two ways of using history based video games in university level curriculum. First we explore the creation and teaching of a games specific course where students learn how to “read” and write history video games and gives them skills to challenge the historical narratives within them. It also explores the obstacles faced in bringing this course to a department that was resistant and how students have reacted to the course. Second, we explore video games as a primary writing/assessment tool in a lower division history survey course. Here, we explore how we use the game engine twine to get students more intimately involved in the historical process of analysis and narrative creation while providing the students a sense of agency.
Fiction Dressed in Facts: The Reception of Assassin’s Creed: Origins Narrative
Michelle Hui Yee Low
Methodist College Kuala Lumpur
Set in 49 BCE Ptolemaic Egypt, Assassin’s Creed: Origins (AC:O) invites the gamer into a fictional three-dimensional world dressed in pharaonic and hellenistic Egyptian history, led by two individuals’ lust for revenge and power, and desire to restore ma’at in Egypt. As the last medjay of Egypt, Bayek’s goal is two-fold: i) avenge the untimely death of his son; Khemu and ii) restore ma’at in Egypt by assisting Cleopatra VII as she seeks to reclaim her power as the rightful pharaoh of Egypt. As the game narrative develops, we see Bayek’s lust for revenge and Cleopatra’s lust for power overshadow the former’s honourable responsibilities as an Egyptian medjay. This is evident in both the main and side quests which require Bayek to commit unethical acts such as trespassing and looting. Furthermore, the game remains true to the myth surrounding Cleopatra VII as she is represented as a woman who seduces men to fulfil her lust for power. The objectives of the paper are as follow: i) to identify and evaluate the game’s narrative aspects such as its beginning, its characters and events, and its ending; ii) to explore the necessity of marrying ‘history’ – the tumultuous reign of Cleopatra VII -and ‘fiction’ – an origin story for the Assassin’s Creed franchise; and iii) to consider how the first two objectives have made this archaeogame an appropriate medium to expand the field of Ancient Egypt Reception Studies.
Ancient Greece and Rome in Fighting Videogames
University of Kent
The golden age of beat-em-up videogames, in arcade and console gaming in the 1980s and 1990s, has a large but neglected cast of Greek and Roman warriors. Gladiators and centurions represented Italy and Greece in worldwide tournaments such as Fighters History, reflecting the fantastical impressions of casual cultural tourists. There are traces of classical antiquity in the major franchises Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Tekken, and above all SoulCalibur, in which the Greek Sophitia is the chosen warrior of Hephaestus. Yet a range of marginal games are devoted entirely to ancient Rome or Greece, especially mythological-themed brawlers such as War Gods, Mythic Blades, or the notorious Bikini Karate Babes and Warriors of Elysia. At times the ancient world is literally a mere backdrop, as the Parthenon or Colosseum is incongruously overlaid with more contemporary spectacle. But this genre transforms this cultural background in surprising ways, exposing what it really means to audiences whose attention is focused on the foreground.
Video Games for the Palaeolithic: A Case Study of Echo: The Secrets of the Lost Cavern
Bond University, Australia
District Museum in Toruń (Department of Archaeology), Poland
Numerous games explore archaeological and historical cultural heritage in ways analogous to historical fiction in literature and film, but few reach as far back as the prehistoric periods. The Stone Age remains virtually unexplored, except for the fantastic distortions of various “cavemen vs. dinosaurs” games. While the recent Far Cry: Primal (2016) set in the Mesolithic has received some scholarly attention, the earlier title, Echo: The Secrets of the Lost Cavern (2006/2010), set in the Upper Palaeolithic period, has not been examined. Like Primal, Echo did not attempt to innovate in gameplay, but instead capitalised on its unique prehistoric setting as a selling point. The game was presented not as fantasy but as (pre)historical fiction, emphasising the veracity of its depiction of the prehistoric Lascaux Cave. This paper is a collaborative examination of Echo, conducted by a games developer/scholar and an archaeologist/museum curator specialised in the Stone Age. The paper investigates the depth and quality of the archaeological heritage content in Echo, examining how this content is aligned with archaeological knowledge, and how its presentation works in terms of virtual world-building practices. Echo demonstrates that, while any reconstruction of the Palaeolithic will be necessarily speculative, modern interdisciplinary research enables partial reconstructions of even such distant timeframes. Although partially outdated by progression of video game technologies, Echo remains a noteworthy point of discussion for the question of how archaeological heritage be transmitted, explored, and popularised through virtual worlds.
The Adventuring Anthropologist: Notes from a Study of World-Building in Skyrim
Bond University, Australia
Virtual archaeology and anthropology are concepts that need little introduction in the context of the Interactive Pasts conference. In the past, several scholars have discussed, either as playful experiments, or as educational exercises, the application of archaeology and anthropology to virtual worlds, including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). Such studies typically explore the contents of the game worlds in question, for example examining their internal consistency from an archaeological perspective. In this paper, the author reports on a study of Skyrim where the aim was not an analysis of the game world, but rather of the game’s world-building methodology and toolbox. The study employed an autoethnographic approach taken from the ethnography and anthropology toolkit. An autoethnographic journal was employed to track and analyse the author’s virtual visit in the world of Skyrim, noting the places, people, and worldly elements encountered along the way. These results were subsequently expanded using additional resources to document parts of the game not encountered during the study. The world-building role of the disparate world-building elements was examined to provide guidelines and recommendations for future cultural heritage projects. The autoethnographic approach was found to be well suited to the study of such game design elements. Indeed, a core world-building approach in Skyrim appears to be the conveyance of lore (world information) in a manner that forces the player to take on the role of a participant observer within the world.
Mi Rasna, enhancing historical and cultural heritage of central Italy while playing like an Etruscan
Entertainment Game Apps
EGA – Entertainment Game Apps has just released (for Android and soon for iOS too) a new strategy game ‘Mi Rasna’ (in English, I am Etruscan), with the aim of broadening and promoting the knowledge about the Etruscan heritage in Italy. For ‘Mi Rasna’, an expert in the Etruscan period was given the task to explain all the different aspects of this ancient civilization included in the game, such as social structure, military, economy and religion. Players will be a local judge, who is in charge of managing the local community. Landscape is a 2-D reconstruction of the areas in Tuscany, Latium, and Umbria, where Etruscan settlements were located. The mission at EGA is to create an entertaining experience for players with the fidelity of reconstruction of the settings, both from a historical and from an archaeological point of view. The historical setting of the game offered the chance to focus on a specific geographic area, and to engage the Ministry, (which gave permission to reproduce some of the most relevant artifacts coming from museums and archaeological parks to be embedded in the game), local authorities and cultural associations. Moreover, since part of the budget at EGA is devoted to creating projects that require scholars and experts in archaeology, history and art history to investigate and promote the territory where the game is set, part of the ‘Mi Rasna’ income will be granted to support archaeological excavations, research and refurbishment projects that will enhance the Etruscan heritage in Italy.
The American Story: A Look at US History in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Dim Bulb Games
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game about traveling and telling stories, set in the Great Depression United States. It has sixteen different characters with their own stories, each of whom was written by a different person. I will discuss the research process involved in gathering the many narratives that went into the game, why we chose those particular periods of US history, and using the past as a lens for discussing present-day themes.
League of Legends ,in spirit, started as a mod for Blizzard’s WarCraft III, in the form of DotA, the first MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). Now, League of Legends is a game enjoyed by millions of players, in 23 languages, from all around the world. Even though the MOBA genre does not lend itself to deep, immersive storytelling or worldbuilding, (with the basic gameplay experience being a 5v5 player-versus-player 40-minute match) over the years, and after several attempts, Riot Games have created a world for the characters and their stories to live in. This has been a challenge on many fronts, but one in particular has been to make sure that the stories we tell are culturally resonant (or at the very least, not offensive) all around the globe.
This is a process that the localization department has been very involved with, as it is our role to adapt the game in a way that it feels native, authentic and excites players, no matter where they are from. This is a process that goes far beyond just translating the game. I would like to share some of our successes, failures and things we have learned on the way while trying to collectively create a fantasy world, full of different cultures that is for our world, full of different cultures.
The Legacy Hub Archaeological Project in No Man’s Sky: Final Report
University of York
On 11 August 2017, an extinction-level, cataclysmic climate change event reset the biomes of every planet in the universe, forcing an exodus of thousands of people to the stars. In their haste, they left behind their built heritage along with messages to future travelers, digital memento mori of an earlier civilization of citizen-scientists. As soon as these settlers claimed new worlds and built new habitations, their old settlements became invisible to them, but not to others, creating a kind of ghost archaeology in the synthetic world of the video game No Man’s Sky. This event marks the first time a digital climate change event affected a wholesale evacuation of an entire population from one place to another, leaving behind both patterns of settlement and abandonment, and archaeological puzzles.Over a three-month period, I spent several hours a day conducting fieldwork in No Man’s Sky. This included aerial reconnaissance, photogrammetry, fieldwalking surveys, and even excavation. I created a new kind of time-based map. I found a new facet to landscape archaeology in digital environments. And I learned that the community of players who occupied what was once called the Galactic Hub (now the Legacy Hub) is just as human and concerned about the past as anyone whose heritage falls under the archaeologist’s eye. With the arrival of the game’s newest update, “NEXT”, my work became a salvage operation racing against the erasure of a past, human civilization. This final report summarizes my findings, and looks to a future of real archaeology of synthetic space.
Tradigital Intergenerational Narratives: First Nations Games as Living Archives
This paper will examine the relationship between games, story and interactivity in the context of First Nations people in Australia. Games like The Last of Us and God of War have demonstrated the importance of player decision-making and behaviour within the gaming universe. As an educational tool, such games accentuate the potential for retelling stories of the past and from particular cultural and intergenerational perspectives. I have been working closely with First Nations communities (Boonwurrung) in Melbourne to discover ways in which traditional stories can combine features of interactivity to facilitate cultural learning. I am exploring the question of what it means to produce knowledge for and with community, both ‘inside’ in the local context of First Nations knowledge, and ‘outside’ the community to engage a wider audience. My project explores the limits and possibilities of building what I am calling a ‘tradigital archive’ that places cultural content and knowledge in the hands of First Nations communities. This decolonising approach to games development and design seeks to create and facilitate a framework that allows for intergenerational knowledge transmission; one that is both respectful of the collective power of the communities and the individual histories involved.
Inclusive Gaming at the Museum: Can app games help us with becoming a more inclusive place for visually impaired visitors?
Stiftung Neanderthal Museum
The Neanderthal Museum is currently launching a project to make its permanent exhibition accessible for blind and visually impaired visitors. With a scheduled start in January 2019, the project will include research on the usability of apps and serious games for inclusion in the museum. A sub-goal is to design an inclusive text adventure in the form of a museum app game that combines beacon-based indoor orientation with audio elements as well as touchable exhibits and labels (similar to GPS-based apps like BlindSquare and text adventures like CrisisLine). The app game should enable all our visitors to visit and enjoy us independently from any helpers. Alongside the creation of this app, we also aim to update our museum building with a tactile guiding system, tactile museum plans and accessible infrastructure. In order to create a viable and helpful product, we are in close contact with our local organizations for blind and visually impaired people. They already took part at creating the project’s concept and will be further included in the creation of the game as well as in the regular evaluation of its prototypes.
Fork in the Road: Consuming video game cartographies
Florence Smith Nicholls
Whether as an interface, an orienteering reference or the primary game space itself, maps can form an integral part of video game play experience. Video game cartography also extends to analogue maps of virtual game space, as merchandise and as self-purposed gameplay aid. Archaeogamers studying video game space can also create their own cartographies as an archaeological record, which themselves could then form the subject of archaeological study.
An understanding of the visual vocabulary of maps and their role as potentially unreliable narrators of space is key to the practise of archaeogaming, just as it is to archaeology. Taking inspiration from Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology (2006), the production, reproduction and consumption of video game cartography in archaeogaming will be questioned and queered. Through several case studies, this paper will explore the potential and paradox of video game cartography as both the object and product of studying video games.
To Fell a Digital Tree: Perceiving History and Environment in First-Person Survival Games
George L. Vlachos
European University Institute, Florence, Italy
Since the release of Minecraft in 2011, the number of first-person survival or sandbox videogames making their way into our PCs or consoles has been on a sharp rise. In an attempt to trigger a debate regarding impressions of historical research in videogames, this essay will focus on three separate but intertwined subjects. Firstly, it will focus upon analyzing the gameplay feel of titles such as Stranded Deep, The Forest and Ark: Survival Evolved. Secondly, it will discuss about how the environment is scripted to be perceived in those games. Even more importantly, it will emphasize on how the environment is situated in these games in order to be utilized, manipulated, administered and managed by the player, the primary objective of whom is survive by exploiting the space around him. Such interaction, this essay will argue, forces the player to experience firsthand the economics of the environment, which subsequently pushes him to view nature not as a still landscape but as a dynamic system, or even better, as an ecosystem. The last subject in this endeavor –and closely related to the previous one- will be to correlate this digital interplay between the environment and the player with the spatial turn in history as well as the rise of environmental history as a distinct and, nowadays, popular field.