Playing the Past

Archaeology and video-games play well together

January 27-28, 2019
Center for Digital Scholarship, Rockefeller Library, Brown University

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! The Twine workshop has limited space available – to sign up, please email: [email protected]



Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab
Center for Digital Scholarship, Rockefeller Library, Brown University

10.00- 10.30 AM
Carl Walsh and Eva Mol (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)

10.30- 11.30 AM
Angus A. A. Mol and Aris Politopoulos (Leiden University and VALUE Foundation)
The Past at Play: Archaeology in and of Digital Playgrounds

11.30 AM- 12.00 PM
Emily Booker (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)
From Bioshock to Horizon Zero Dawn: Ruin-Player Interactions and its Impact on Public Perceptions of Archaeology

Break 12.00- 1.00 PM

1.00- 1.45 PM
Teddy Pozo (Modern Culture and Media, Brown University)
The History and Geography of Queer Game Studies: Recovering and Imagining LGBTQ Spaces in Video Game Design

1.45- 2.30 PM
Carl Walsh (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)
Of Dice and Men: Playing the Past and Education

2.30- 3.15 PM
Christian Casey (Egyptology & Assyriology, Brown University)
Assassin’s Creed as Time Machine

3.15- 3.30 PM
Coffee break

3.30- 4.15 PM
Aris Politopoulos and Angus A. A. Mol (Leiden University and VALUE Foundation)
History… One Turn at a Time: A Critical Review of Sid Meier’s Civilization

4.15- 4.40 PM
Focus Vision Media
New interactions with Virtual Scholarship: Massimo Riva’s Italian Shadows Demo

4.40- 5.30 PM
Eva Mol (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology, Brown University)


Sidney E. Frank Digital Studio
Center for Digital Scholarship, Rockefeller Library, Brown University

10:00 AM- 3:00PM
Twine Workshop with VALUE
*limited space available, to sign up, please email: [email protected]
Organized by Angus A. A. Mol and Aris Politopoulos of the VALUE Foundation

Game design Jam using Twine. Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. It is an easy and popular tool for making interactive fiction games from scratch. Utilizing HTML, JavaScript and CSS, game makers can create interactive stories about every subject they want, and take players on text-based adventures.

Interactive Historytelling with Twine

This workshop will provide an introduction to working with Twine 2 ( Twine is a tool for the creation and publication of interactive narrative games. A good way to think of it is as the digital evolution of the “choose your own adventure” book. An oft-used platform for innovative indie and concept games, Twine also works well for creating interactive history. By allowing the creation of, for example, branching or multi-perspective histories, Twine can provide a new tool to think with for researchers, for teachers to engage students, or to present archaeological knowledge to larger audiences.

In this workshop we will provide an introduction to Twine, where we will discuss how to design interactive narratives, write and link passages, do basic styling and coding, and publish twines. After this, the workshop will take the shape of a mini-game jam where participants will work in teams on the creation of a Twine. At the close of the workshop we will play through and discuss the Twines that have been created during the day.

Twine 2 is free, browser-based, and outputs .html files, so all someone needs to work with twine is an updated browser. Participants of this workshop should therefore bring their own laptops.

Looking for some inspiration or wondering what Twine games are like? We suggest trying some of these before the start of the workshop:


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