Playing the Past

Archaeology and video-games play well together

January 27-28, 2019

The value of video games to archaeology and vice versa has been discussed and shown in a number of related fields such as cultural heritage, ethnography, media studies, education and in a variety of archaeological thought and practice. The combination of games and archaeology, also known as archaeogaming, has grown to be a rich and multifaceted aspect in both scholarly discourse and heritage outreach. It functions not only to educate about the past and to recreate it, but also as a tool to think differently and more reflexively about archaeology and the way we engage with the past.

This two-day series of talks combined with a workshop will discuss the state of the field in gaming and archaeology with a specific focus on how interactive, virtual media function as a differential space for theory-crafting, historytelling, and public outreach. As the most popular form of entertainment globally, it is a given that games are instrumental in democratizing access to the past. Yet this often happens outside of the realm of disciplines that normally produce knowledge of the past. In short, any engagement with games includes confronting our materially-constructed and linear versions of the past with those that take place in digital playgrounds. How do games afford experiences of the past and the practice of archaeology? How do game developers craft specific versions of the past through playful, nonlinear and multi-vocal narratives in alternative virtual worlds? How can games produce awareness on past and present matters, create communities,and forge new relations between different people? But also, how can playing with time, materiality, and history in this interactive, digital medium shape the analogue study of the past?

We would like to invite archaeologists, designers, critics and consumers to address these issues and their implications for the future of both games and archaeology. This will take the shape of discussion, play, and, game design — with a workshop on Twine, an easy to pick-up but powerful tool for the creation of interactive stories!

Organizers:  Eva Mol (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University), Carl Walsh (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University), Aris Politopoulos (Leiden University), and Angus Mol (Leiden University), in collaboration with the Brown Digital Archaeology Group, ARCH 0785 Of Dice and Men: Games in Human Societies Past and Present,  and the VALUE (Videogames and Archaeology at Leiden University) Interactive Pasts Project

Co-sponsored by: Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Center for Digital Scholarship, Department of Modern Culture and Media, the Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Culture and Media Studies, Department of Computer Science, Digital Archaeology Group, Program in Early Cultures