“tl;dr”: A Public Conversation about Archaeogaming, Archaeology

(Image: WoWHead)

(Image of a Troll: WoWHead)

INTRODUCTION

This past week has been a great example of what open scholarship and pre-publication peer review can be. I was featured in an article, “The Archaeologist Who Studies World of Warcraft”, published on Vice’s Motherboard (science and technology section) on August 13, 2015, written by Kathleen Caulderwood. The story was picked up later that day by Kotaku, with initial commentary by science writer Luke Plunkett. The fact that a “real” archaeologist is attempting to do “real” archaeology in (and of) video games touched a nerve in the reading public, with Kotaku’s article featuring over 51,000 views (as of this writing). The first 24 hours after the story broke, Archaeogaming was visited by over 15,000 people worldwide.

As one can imagine, the response to archaeogaming has been mixed, everything from being revolutionary (or just plain obvious) to being “stupid”. The fact that archaeology has been so widely discussed over the past few days is welcome, so I thought I would put on my peril-sensitive sunglasses™ and have a look at the comments areas for Motherboard, Kotaku, and reddit, the latter two venues serving up the real action. I was curious to see how non-archaeologists perceive archaeology, to learn what they think of the science, and to address here some of the misconceptions on the discussion threads, and to clarify a few points.

At the end of the day, I think archaeogaming held up well to scrutiny. Enough people are willing to give it a chance, and others just need more convincing by way of future research and publication in peer reviewed venues. That’s all forthcoming (including the publications). I’m calling it a win. (Oh, and feel free to leave your own comments and add to the discussion here.)

(Image: Vice)

(Image: Vice)

MOTHERBOARD DISCUSSION

We’ll start with the three comments on Motherboard itself where the story first appeared:

Shurik

You’re attributing all of your images to World of Warcraft instead of the correct games.

Shurik

Oh, and interesting article.

Abdullah Almosalami

The people developing the world of WoW be bragging to other MMOs like “We’ve even got archaeologists on this!” XD

REINHARD:

Archaeologically, there’s not much to glean from the above other than general interest, mild trolling, and the speculation that Blizzard Entertainment might turn the fact that WoW is being studied archaeologically into a marketing ploy. Why not? I’d love to turn that into full access to all things WoW. You know, for science.

(Image: reddit)

(Image: reddit)

REDDIT:

reddit however, gets right to the heart of the matter, with ten comments, sorted here by reddit’s “best” feature:

Claidheamh_Righ

Cultural anthropology sure, archaeology? No.

CommodoreCoCo

Some of this is incredibly interesting and worth a bit of study- the sale of “looted antiquities” in WoW and its effect on economies, internet cultures of the past, how people perceive ancient cultures, how they then recreate those in video games, etc. However, there’s this:

“pottery typologies of the race of Nords in Skyrim”

…like, why? Just go ask the game designers- they already know everything, because guess what, THEY MADE EVERYTHING INTENTIONALLY. That research would uncover literally no knew information. It’s like looking in the trash can to see what your family had for dinner while you were out instead of just asking them, for the sake of calling it “domestic contemporary archaeology.” Yeah, it’s archaeology. So what?

and this, about randomly generated worlds in No Man’s Sky:

“We’re going to have to target them, catalogue them, and see if we can come to any universal truths about machine-generated or artificial intelligence-generated cultures and compare those to what we know of here on earth.”

What. A. Load. Of. Crap. It’s a randomly generated game. There’s already a set of “universal truths,” and we know exactly what they are. They’re called “code.” Somebody wrote it. No matter how intricate and complex it is, someone wrote it, and you can go ask them for an authoritative list of every rule the cultures follow. It’s the academic equivalent of pressing every single button on your computer to see what it does when the owner’s manual is right next to you.

What exactly is he trying to achieve with those things? He seems to have a lot of legitimate, unorthodox ideas, but he’s just laying out bait for his detractors when he talks about that stuff.

Turdcervix

Someone just wanted an easy dissertation that involved playing video games without the hassle of applying for an excavation grant or getting their hands dirty in the field.

DibsArchaeo

I don’t know, I think there’s some merit to this idea of studying video games but it’s more on a cultural value. Kind of makes me want to do a study on the phenomenology of MMO’s and interaction between the players themselves, who might not all speak the same language but still work together for a common goal.

CommodoreCoCo

phenomenology of MMO’s and interaction between the players themselves, who might not all speak the same language but still work together for a common goal.

That’s the thing. He’s not talking about about just studying the cultures of players. He’s talking about in game, artificial cultures whose only “artifacts” and “history” are those explicitly programmed by people.

Turdcervix

That would be fine in the context of cultural Anthropology, however, given the goals and methodology of Archaeology, I’m inclined to stick to my initial opinion.

DibsArchaeo

Well that’s what I’m saying, scrap the archaeological aspect and go to cultural ideas and this concept is great.

Curbob

even if the parameters are so wide that there are millions of options for a world or civilization to be created, you could always check the database weekly for new worlds and exactly what that worlds settings are. No research needed, but it would still be interesting data.

Ahhuatl 13 points 22 hours ago

“I’m staking what some might consider to be an insane claim: that there is no difference between cultures in either real or virtual environments”

Except of course that one exists in an entirely constructed world built about the expectations, values, and interests of a specific culture.

kutwijf 1 point 12 hours ago

/r/sociology

REINHARD:

Again, there is some mild trolling, but for the most part, reddit is willing to accept that archaeology in/of video games is legitimate, or at least worthy of picking apart in a rational way. Sociology, anthropology, and archaeology all come in to play, and some of the commentors acknowledge the difference between the cultures of real-world players/developers and those cultures within MMOs. I would argue with one poster regarding the presumed simplicity of No Man’s Sky. Hello Games has created an incredibly complex system that they readily admit to not knowing exactly what will happen within it post-launch. Sure there’s code/algorithms, and we can look at that (and should, if Hello Games will give me/us access to it), but complex systems do tend towards a kind of randomness/entropy, so I’m quite interested to see IF that happens, and if it does, what it means for the material culture inside the game. The game itself is an artifact worthy of archaeological study. And to the fellow who called me out for not wanting to get my hands dirty, s/he should understand that I’ve spent the past 25 years as a dirt archaeologist in Greece, Italy, Kansas, Illinois, and New Mexico. Archaeogaming is anything but easy, and will likely be the hardest intellectual and archaeological project I will ever undertake.

UPDATE (Aug. 17): I was thinking about the “just ask the people who made the game” question in the shower this morning. It’s a valid criticism, but one that ultimately fails. First, archaeologists of the truly ancient world do ask questions of living people. Yannis Lolos conducted “tavern archaeology” in Greece, talking to locals about where certain archaeological sites might be, gathering that intelligence, and then going into Sikyonia to determine where those sites actually are. As far as games go, I (and others who are studying archaeology and video games) have written to game developers, and in some cases have been given access to game developers in exchange for signing an NDA. NDAs don’t really help because they are essentially a gag order (sometimes temporary), so information learned by the archaeologist cannot be distributed to the public through publication, at least not yet. With the question of lore, Emily Johnson’s MA dissertation at York made use of her conversations in online communities focused around the Elder Scrolls universe, and ultimately with some developers. The creators can only do so much, and often rely on the user community to help fill in the holes or connect the dots. Getting an audience with a developer is an exceedingly rare event where archaeologists would love to ask all the questions. Even so, we have to weigh what we are told against the truth(s) held by the games and what they have within. Sometimes it’s better to look at the physical evidence and drawing conclusions from that alone. In the question regarding the act of “looking at the code”, this is also valid, and serves as the epigraphy and palaeography of game studies. It is part of the archaeologists toolkit. In some cases, though, looking at code will be like looking at Linear A: we can see text, but can’t read it.

(Image: Kotaku)

(Image: Kotaku)

KOTAKU:

The Kotaku story generated the most buzz and discussion. Readers were quite passionate about their perceptions of what “real” archaeology is, and about the concept of archaeogaming. Granted, these opinions are coming from reading a brief article, and I hope that those who chose to comment on the story will visit (or have visited) the Archaeogaming blog for a better idea about this subdiscipline of archaeology. Because the thread is so long, I’ve opted to comment after each of the separate threads.

First Thread!

magus-21

“As I see it”, he says, “video games are human creations, and are thereby artifacts in and of themselves, but also contain a wealth of story and objects that lend themselves to archaeological thinking.”

I’ve seen this guy’s theory before [meme of image of Mr. Glass from Unbreakable].

BIitzKaiser

one of the best and underrated movie ever

Nimrod

Underrated? I’ve never heard anyone say Unbreakable was anything short of great.

BIitzKaiser

well considering “you know who” directed it, people have been dismissing this master piece

RoTru

Lord Voldemort?

REINHARD: I haven’t seen Unbreakable but now think I probably should. The thread continues to talk about movies and not about archaeology.

Next Thread!

xevioso

I find it interesting, but I don’t buy it. Archaeologists are able to complete their studies with the understanding that in many cases what they find are representative of the cultures they are studying. It becomes very difficult to actually complete research if what you find is an exception to the rule of that culture.

But in the case of Skyrim, and even No Man’s Sky, the design or functionality of the objects discovered have been created either by a team of designers/engineers, or in the case of NMS, a team of 1 designer and a few engineers making the algorithms.

This isn’t archaeology by any means. This is studying game design. Probably a more accurate term would be “Game Design Historian”.

In the case of World of Warcraft, for example, there’s no real difference between looking at the designer’s sketchbooks/initial drawings/paintings on what Ironforge should look like, inside and out, and actually visiting it in the game, as every item is placed their in the predesign process and in the final game.

LithiumFox

While the numbers and coding might be, yes, you have to understand that the end content is how the end user views it. At that point, there are social markers, points of human interest, how humans viewed the stories.

Is Metal Gear, Bioshock, or even Final Fantasy 9 (yes 9, because **** 7) just a bunch of algorithms? or are they stories?

If you view them as algorithms, you’re playing games wrong.

Fieryrebirth

Telling a story seems more entertaining than sending a message, tbh. While, for example, satirical stuff in gaming is no surprise, it’s more often represented as a parody(See: GTA5). If this guy were to go into the lengths to figure out the minds that build these player-interfaced, entertainment marvels he’d probably be better off just another number cruncher.

xevioso

The way the end user views it is inherently determined by the initial design. Ironforge, for example, and the artifacts inside it, are determined almost completely by the design, which is determined beforehand. That’s why in these cases it’s mostly Game Design History.

No Man’s Sky, when it comes out, will be slightly different, in that the shapes of buildings are determined by algorithms, but those buildings have parameters, and the game definitely has a designer.

All the games you mentioned are “stories” but’s that’s not what archaeology does. Stories are of secondary interested; culture and the specifics of how people lived and what they did is of primary importance.

DruVirus

May I ask what your definition of “archaeology” is?

xevioso

Many of these games reflect not just the culture of what exists within the game – but more importantly they reflect the culture of those who PLAY the game.

When we look at for example the roman empire and their gladiatorial games – do we say that they are just the creation of a handful of people who owned the games? That it is all just staged and created and therefor bears no cultural value?

Or does much of it tell a story. A story about the culture of the people that partook in this form of entertainment aswell as a story in and of itself (as many gladiatorial setups were not just fights for the sake of fights – but also a form of theater, reimagining grand battles fought by their empire’s heroes or the ‘villains’ they have slain.)

tkondor

and objects found on archaeological sites were created bu humans too, probably someone even went that far and “designed” them…I have a diploma in history so I can relate to the guy, all cultures were created by man, so if someone invents a culture for a video game/novel/movie in a way that is also the outcome of real world cultures…

Lokezombie

The point of archeology isn’t to look at stories, that’s the realm of literary criticism. The point of archeology is to catalog and study cultural artifacts. As such, it has a more strict set of conditions for what can and can’t be considered archeology (unlike lit criticism, which doesn’t even try to confine itself to talking about stories). If an archeologist is looking at a story, they are not doing it as a story, but are looking only for those cultural artifacts that add to an existing body of research dedicated to building a comprehensive understanding of the culture it was created in. So for an archeologist, it doesn’t matter really if the text they are reading is a story or not. In the same way that this archeologist isn’t concerned about story games only, or even primarily. Only one of the games mentioned is a story driven game, and what he was looking at in that game was the coins, not the story. Again, archeologists aren’t looking at stories, but at cultural artifacts, and even when they are looking at stories, they are looking at them purely as, and for, cultural artifacts.

I don’t know whether this counts or not, as I’m not an archeologist, don’t know enough about the discipline, and so don’t feel I’m qualified to formulate an opinion. I’m just pointing that out. All of those things you were talking about are the domain of literary criticism, not archeology. If you want to view video games in that way, you want to be doing lit criticism on them, not archeology.

archaeocore

There are artifacts within the games, and one thing they (the archaeogaming community) are studying/thinking about is how the relationship of characters and artifacts in games can be analogous to archaeology, and how artifacts in games can condition how modern people relate to real world archaeology.

And yes, the cultural artifacts are important, but what is more important is the context in which the artifacts are found. We spend a lot of time studying the dirt, the fossil pollen record, both culturally acquired and intrusive flora and fauna, the landscape…lots of things besides the actual stones and bones, in order to understand the time and place in which the culture existed. And, honestly, archaeologists are trying to tell factual stories about how people lived in the past, because we can never truly be there and see what happened, or recreate those circumstances.

acanthostega

The point of archaeology is very much wrapped up in looking at stories — culture is essentially a story about a particular time and place, and the artifacts or refuse from that culture are important parts of learning what that story is. For archaeologists (and historians and anthropologists for that matter) coins and other physical items do tell stories — how was the coin minted? Who commissioned it? What was it made out of? What were the trade patterns that enabled this line of production? Who used it? Where was it circulated? Who’s face was on it and why? Finding the answers to these questions can tell you a great deal about the values or daily life of the culture in which they were embedded and what kind of narratives we might learn about them. Stories go way beyond the borders of lit crit.

Dr. Random

Hi!

I am an archaeologist myself who has also worked a bit on video games (there is a post in the grey here somewhere that tells you more about that).

I was wondering what you meant with your first paragraph? Why do you think that we work from the understanding that what we are finding is representative of the cultures we are studying? Most of the time, we know very little of the cultures we are studying, that is why we study their remains in the first place. Also how does this pertain to games? Are games not representative of the cultures they were created in (i.e. I do not mean they are intrinsically linked to real world histories)?

What videogame-archeos often end up doing is going beyond game design (although that in itself is a fascinating aspect of our contemporary culture) and try to look at how players engage with that design. Concerning WoW, one point that one of my colleagues likes to make is that the design (and design history) of cities in WoW is fascinating, but when you start observing how those places are used this provides you with a completely new understanding of how people interact with each other in cities.

Granted, this may not be what you (and the general public) considers to be archaeology (excavation and survey of sites as well as analysis and interpretation of artefacts), but it is comparable to ethnoarchaeology or hypothesis testing using, in this case a crowd-sourced, Agent Based Models

Lokezombie

That’s true, but this has nothing to do with either the comment I was responding to or my comment itself. You are using story here as a kind of metaphor for human activity, the story of a civilization, (which is what I was referring to as the comprehensive understanding of a culture). Fair enough. The commenter was talking specifically about narratives. Stories in the sense of folk tales, plays, novels, movies etc. He was saying that video games like Metal Gear and Bioshock are not just algorithms but stories (as in, works of fiction) so therefore they are good subjects for archeology. I was just commenting that what he’s talking about sounds like literary criticism, not archeology. I don’t think that games being stories makes them any more or less worthy of being studied under archeology, in the same way that the bones and pottery and tombs that archeologists often study don’t need to be stories in order to be interesting to archeologists.

Lokezombie

Once again I have to say nothing to do with either my point or the person I was responding to. I thought I made it very clear in my comment that archeologists can look at stories as, or for, cultural artifacts. That was what a big bulk of my comment was about.

And your factual story is actually a metaphor. A story is a narrative, it has a beginning, middle, and end. “Joe went to the store to grab some cake” is a story. I can imagine that archeologists might put stories together out of evidence they find. Maybe they tell a story about the life of a king or some random peasant. But that isn’t the kind of factual story you’re talking about. So your factual story is a metaphor. The commenter was talking about literal stories, and saying this makes them more relevant to archeology (if I understood him correctly). It might provide another dimension of interest to the archeologist, but looking at it as a story and trying to say things about the way that people interpreted the story and what kind of meaning that might have, that sounds like literary criticism, not archeology.

I mean, just read the guy’s stuff. He’s doing archeology on Skyrim for example, a story game. But he’s talking about the currency and how it relates to culture of Tamriel etc. In other words, he’s treating the virtual world of skyrim as if it was a real culture, and doing archeology on it. He’s not studying the narrative itself, but the world within the video game. Same with No Man’s Sky. Archeology studies the material of a culture. Stories are immaterial (unless you include the material they are printed on). Even when it is studying the immaterial, it is “studying the material culture of the immaterial” as he himself puts it.

Kyban

Do you have a Master in Archaeology? (serious question)

xevioso

I have a M.A. in History. So, almost.

acanthostega

Agreed – I meant more to defend the idea that archaeology can and does (and must) tell stories, however you define them. Sorry if I misinterpreted you! I am however really interested in how different disciplinary approaches to understanding culture, society, history, etc. look like when applied to the world-building of a video game, and I think that there is something beyond lit crit that archaeology (or perhaps just an archaeological mindset? is that a thing?) can offer, even if it is of course limited and in many ways profoundly different from most actual archaeological practice.

xevioso

Artifacts and architecture in games like World of Warcraft and Skyrim are tangentially related to our culture. They are, in almost all cases, representative of our culture’s fascination with ancient times and places, and are our attempts at recreating those places in a way we can interact with. Take Skyrim, which is pretty clearly based on a bastardized version of Nordic mythology. Attempting to study how a player “interacts” with a cabbage or a glazed jewel-encrusted flagon reveals absolutely nothing meaningful about the culture of 21st century game players, except that for some games we like things to be as “realistic” as possible.

It DOES show that there were a lot of designers who took great pains to create realistic cabbages and glazed jewel-encrusted flagons, and it’s pretty certain their designs were gathered from their own experiences or perceptions on what a realistic cabbage or glazed jewel-encrusted flagon would look like, even if it comes from looking at paintings of J.R.R. Tolkein, wtahcing movies, reading history books, etc. This is somewhat interesting, but it’s really just Game Design History.

I understand that there have been studies in W.O.W. on how people interact with each other, but this also is not archaeology in any meaningful sense; this is just sociology. There’s no difference in studying how crowds interact in a disaster/when confronted by bees/by a fire in a theater/traffic or when they are bidding on a giant sword in Ironforge. It’s interesting, but it’s Sociology, not archaeology just because it was done online and in an ancient mountain fortress.

xevioso

It’s the study of humans in the past. But its generally understood to refer to studying humans in the non-recent past. Looking at how people interact online in a game that is only a few years old stretches the word to its breaking point.

xevioso

But a video game doesn’t have a “culture”. It has a design. That design includes what people look like, what they wear, what they say, and how they are programmed to interact. People who build video games don’t have a lead Culture designer; they have a Game designer. Those folks may study an actual historical culture, say the Nordic cultures for Skyrim, and then attempt to reproduce it, or they make it up, usually heavily based off of previous works, like how WoW is clearly based off of J.R.R. Tolkein.

This is all very interesting. But it’s not archaeology; it’s Game Design History.

Lokezombie

Yeah for sure. I just wanted to make clear my point wasn’t disagreeing with yours since we were talking about different kinds of stories. I also didn’t want to imply that only lit crit has something to say about stories or video games, only that what the commenter was describing sounded more like lit crit than archeology. But I am equally interested in that believe it or not. And even if it is different, or even if it does go outside the lines archeologists draw around their field of study, using archeological study on video games is still really interesting and can offer valuable insights of its own. Even if it’s just using the methodology of archeological research to better understand video games or to say something new or interesting about them. That’s still cool. I mean, I ended up reading a bunch of articles from the guy’s website so, it interested me at least.

REINHARD: This was the discussion I was hoping to see happen, an intersection of non-archaeologists and archaeologists discussing the definition of archaeology, and if archaeogaming is indeed archaeology or something else. I personally disagree that what I (and others) are doing is lit-crit or a history and analysis of game design. The commentors seem to ignore the fact that ancient crockery was also designed by somebody and then put into production, and that changed. But I understand the point that a human designer made the decision to change a pot’s shape, not an actor within a game. I’d like to predict, though, that in the future we will see games where the cultures presented within a world actively take part in upgrading their technology without any outside assistance. I believe that we are on the cusp of very real, machine-created culture.

Next Thread!

Aznablesange

Please find this robot, pretty please?! [Image of a Gundam robot]

*It’s the Zaku-II from Mobile Suit Gundam, but in Turn-A Gundam, the franchise’s distant finale, the humans of Correct Century can find and dig out Zaku’s from certain places. The Zaku pictured here is drawn in Turn-A’s artstyle.

ProzacElf

Is it actually called Turn-A? I had always thought it was the universal quantifier.

Aznablesange

It’s an upside down A in the titlecard.

Jilkon

Hint: the moustache is the upside-down A. There’s also a robot called the Turn-X which takes the price of “stupidest attempt to make something sound cool”.

ProzacElf

The upside down A is also a mathematical symbol known as the universal quantifier. It roughly signifies that all the items in a set share one or more properties, which I thought tied in with what little I know about Turn-A. But if it’s commonly called Turn-A I’ll go with that.

Aznablesange

In the TVTropes page for Turn-A Gundam, the quantifier is, by fan speculation, a way to merge the different timelines of the Gundam universe into one.

For example, one can say that the Universal Century moved onto the Reguild Century, where Reconguista of G took place, then onto the Future Century, where G-Gundam took place, until the Correct Century kicks in and ends the franchise.

Any other timelines, from the After Colony (Wing), Cosmic Era (SEED), Anno Domini (00), Advanced Century (AGE) or even the Post-Disaster Era (Iron-Blooded Orphans), could slip in between the UC and the CC, though there is no official word on the order of these timelines.

ProzacElf

I’m not a very big fan of Gundam—-Wing was the only series I watched in full. That being said, I really do like the art and some of the ideas put forth. I just always assumed that they used the symbol for a reason rather than it just looking cool.

REINHARD: Nothing really doing re: archaeology or video games, but it’s an interesting discussion on iconography in the Gundam universe.

Next Thread!

klmekaro

“Archeogaming”?

There was a small potential for this being respectable until .. I don’t even know why… someone decided to call it that. It’s still archeology people. It’s still archeology.

Danjal87

Because people are still in the mindset of dismissing a lot of things that do not conform exactly to the expected standards.

“eSports aren’t resports” and the like.

Andrew Ward

E sports aren’t real sports.

Danjal87

Its okay, athletes aren’t real professionals either… Just because you can run fast or are strong doesn’t mean you’re actually performing a skill.

Thats what it comes down to right? 😉

Its like playing with your pet dog and having them run after a ball!

klmekaro

I used to share that mindset until I was playing Chess with my son on a giant chessboard at Scout Camp (think Harry Potter sized) and I realized that if sitting on your butt and playing a game of Chess can be a sport then I guess a video game can be as well.

REINHARD: A possible conversation about archaeology devolves into a brief disagreement about sports and esports. I agree that archaeogaming is archaeology, but I needed to find a way to disambiguate it in discussions on archaeology in/of video games.

Next Thread!

cew-smoke

Okay, let’s just be honest here. Dude is trying to get a grant for playing video games. You know what I say to that… “Bravo, you marvelous son of a bitch!”

archaeocore

Several people already have (note: I am not one of them, I am a lowly bureaucrat archaeologist).

One idea is to consciously approach games from the perspective of an archaeologist, so examining games like WoW where “artifacts” are expressly represented and interacted with within the gameplay and storylines. Or a game like No Man’s Sky, where in some sense all players are potentially “archaeologists” who might discover and try and learn about lost worlds and vanished cultures.

Dr. Random

It’s damn hard getting grants as an archaeologist. There is a very slim chance that gaming and archaeology will be picked up by any type of funding agency.

In fact, Andy Reinhardt (I am not him, but know him a little)‘s project is based mostly on passion, as is the case for most archaeo’s studying videogames. As Archaeocore has already laid out below, studying virtual worlds and particularly how people (love to) engage with them is a fascinating topic for an archaeological study

cew-smoke

Well, and let’s be honest, if an archaeologist from the future was studying humans of this era, more could be learned about the way they lived based on virtual worlds than say stumbling on a tomb somewhere in Eqypt. Which has little to nothing to do with who we are now.

REINHARD: I like how this thread focuses on treating games archaeology. In a sense, when we play games set in a vast virtual space, we are all archaeologists, and are at least playing at archaeology. The final comment is quite resonant: we can use games as artifacts to understand our culture as it is now. Brilliant.

Next Thread!

neptune432 [commenting on the lead image in the Kotaku story]

Ahh yes, the world’s oldest virtual dick. A historic find!

Greg the Mad  neptune432

Pity it had to be Japanese. Then again, what else would be the first virtual dick be?

Guy Incognito

Some sort of tentacle?

REINHARD: Low-level, racist trolling with a nod to tentacle porn. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Next Thread!

Tekton

“I’m staking what some might consider to be an insane claim: that there is no difference between cultures in either real or virtual environments.”

There aren’t, because virtual environments are always products of real ones, in one way or another. No matter how fantastical we might THINK something might be, it always has basis off of something real – or rather, something that we had personal experience with and exposure to.

mr.black

Yep. Do we still cling to that 90es notion of virtual being something completely detached from “real”? Wake up, people, GitS is still the distant-ish future!

REINHARD: This is a great take on virtual v. real environments, and I think supports my theory of the blurred line between the two.

Next Thread!

mr.black

That’s all well and good, but I personally found reading about septim coins underwhelming. There’s… nothing. Quick review what Skyrim is, it’s basic premise and basic historical facts. One could at least start a game-design debate about coins being weightless, not just say they were and move on. Do other games do it the same? Was any game in ES series where that wasn’t the case? What does this tell us if some coins do have weight, others don’t…

Then more – what do all the books say about septims, and/or about the economy of the made-up, but extremely rich in detail world Nirn (where Tamriel, the continent, is, of which Sky, Obliv and Morrow are provinces)? Did the economy change over the games and how? And is it explained in-game within books/lore?

Then, what about clutter objects? How do they change over the games? Do some stay the same? Vanish from game to game? Re-appear? What about plants?

Etc. There could have been so much more.

Lily412

I know this wasn’t your point, but yes, coins had weight in Morrowind. It was a huge pain in the ass.

mr.black

Oh yeah and he didn’t mention Morrow even once!

Lily412

Seriously, if he wants to be a game archaeologist for Elderscrolls, that is the game to do it in. So much to discover (like an actual sunken statue) and to explore. Morrowind is huge and it’s all so interesting.

REINHARD: I think Mr. Black is absolutely correct in his assessment of my post on Skyrim numismatics. This is part of the ongoing debate on blogging-as-final-publication, and blogging-as-mental-sandbox. Comments like these are actually helpful to me in reassessing my thinking, as I prepare to revisit topics for ultimate dissertating and/or formal publication. To be fair, I’ve only spent a few hours in Morrowind, and there are two games before that as well.

Next Thread!

Lozzle

Well culture is a human creation, it be in a virtual space or real world, it’s really not insane.

Fatee

“… video games are human creations, and are thereby artifacts in and of themselves…”

I’ll use that line for porn next time.

I’m a pornachaologist.

REINHARD: I’ve taken a couple of hits about the archaeogaming neologism, but so be it. And there are archaeologists who focus on the sexual history and artifacts of the past, including “naughty pots.” Pornarchaeologists are real!

Next Thread!

dragonfliet

It’s cute, I guess, but I put little to no stock in “academics” that don’t have a terminal degree, who aren’t publishing anything peer reviewed, and who are having a pretty serious misunderstanding between the words archeology and sociology. You want to study the things that people have been doing in the last decade or so? Sociology. Want to study things 60+ years ago? Anthropology (and its included subfield of archaeology).

The exploration of games is an interesting and vibrant field worthy of study and fostering many incredible people who are doing so. That being said: archeogaming is not that field, and this guy is not the person to “break” it. Well, my humble opinion, at least.

REINHARD: Fair enough, I guess, but the commentor seems to have a prescriptivist lock on what archaeology actually is. I’d like to hear more on how this person might legitimize archaeogaming. For the record I’ve had one chapter published on Classics and video games that was peer reviewed (“Latin via Gaming”, which can be found on my academia.edu page), and have a handful of other articles appearing in journals such as the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology later in 2015 and 2016. I should also add that I have presented my preliminary work to audiences of archaeologists, including the 2015 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting, as well as to media archaeologists, game historians, and the like in both Umea and Gothenburg, Sweden, also in 2015.

Next Thread!

Corel D’artagnan

Theres one major difference between culture in “real” and virtual envirnoments tbh. The speed at which it develops and decays is vastly higher in virtual envirnoments. Otherwise i agree with what he said.

REINHARD: Yay! And that’s a great comment about time in the real and in virtual worlds. I need to pursue that.

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Cartoonivore

Bet he got that sweet ass skeletal raptor mount. I just don’t have the patience for that….

REINHARD: Sadly, no. I rage-quit WoW when Mists of Pandaria was released. No raptor for me.

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The_9th_Sage

I feel like a bunch of people are just saying…’PFFFT, this isn’t archaeology!’. Even if you don’t think it is, it’s still pretty interesting to think about fictional worlds in this way I think.

REINHARD: I like it when people are willing to consider something new. Beat up on it, sure, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.

Next Thread!

JediaKyrol

Anybody else around here that goes through games, looks at ruins, and then tries to sketch out how they would have looked when newly constructed?

REINHARD: This is a great question, and I’d like to know the answer.

Next Thread!

jedbeetle

Is anyone excavating the Internet itself?

REINHARD: Even if this comment was a rhetorical one, there are Internet historians out there doing a different kind of digging.

Next Thread!

Paul-Whirt

Searching for patterns in auto-generated content…

thatfastbluehedgehog

…Of which there will be, Humans are skilled at finding patterns even when none exist. So as a result, true randomness when generating content is entirely pointless. You’re better off creating a pseudo-random generator with some guidelines. It’s half the work and gives you more control so users won’t end up running into planets sitting inside of stars or anything else that would break the user’s immersion and enjoyment.

An example of a game that appears to be random but isn’t, Minecraft. The world generation is pseudo-random and dictated by a set of guidelines. So while it seems like everything is random, it’s not. We just think it is.

REINHARD: This is a good definition of “procedural” as it applies to games. I do think that a lot of what “real” archaeology is is pattern recognition. There’s nothing really random in dirt archaeology either, so again, I see a lot of parallels between the archaeology of meatspace and the archaeology of virtual space.

POST-SCRIPT: The excavation in meatspace of actual video games was not mentioned once, even though this is a very real part of archaeogaming.

POST-POST-SCRIPT: If you’ve made it this far: thank you! Feel free to leave constructive comments below. Let’s keep the dialogue going.

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3 thoughts on ““tl;dr”: A Public Conversation about Archaeogaming, Archaeology

  1. I had to give up commenting on the Kotaku thread because the dude wasn’t listening and was trying to tell me, a real-life archaeologist, what archaeology is and what archaeologists do. Sure, it’s important to recognize the public perception of “what is archaeology”, but at some point engagement (particularly in a comments thread) is a waste of my time because it’s being dismissed outright.

  2. Pingback: Interview with Andrew Reinhard of Archaeogaming.com

  3. Pingback: Friday Quick Hits and Varia | The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

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