Archaeogaming Review: Ocean Archaeologist (Education Terra, 2015)

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This review is by guest-author and professional maritime archaeologist, Justine Benanty, aka “The Diver”, half of the Archaeoventurers team. Benanty focuses on the developing world with strong professional ties to archival research, virtual technologies, underwater heritage management, ethical anthropology, and youth education. Her maritime career has been driven by her ground-breaking work with the Slave Wrecks Project, based in Washington DC.

Ocean Archaeologist is a game app for iPhone by Education Terra (creators of over 400 e-learning apps for many subjects), released on June 13, 2015, for iOS 6.0 and optimized for iPhone 5 and 6 models.

Their description:

Dive into the exciting adventure with Ocean Archaeologist and dig out the next piece of the ancient puzzle at the bottom of the ocean! First you need to discover the remains of the great old ships. Just start digging and try to gather all the parts of a ship. Otherwise, you can’t fix the archaeological artifact. Then you need to restore crashed masts, posts, rudders lines and keels. The number of pieces will constantly increase. And, by the way, some pieces may be unnecessary for the completion. So, you’ve got an excellent chance to train your attentive span and logical thinking while solving the ocean quest. We guarantee that marine archaeology has never been so exciting! Take part in the investigation! Ocean Archaeologist features: Underwater quests against time!; Raising of ships from the bottom of the ocean!; Gather a great collection of artifacts; Establish new records!

This review is for the free version of this game, but it is unclear to me what exactly the difference is between the paid app ($.99) and the free version, as both descriptions are identical on the App Store. My assumption is advertisements vs. no advertisements.

The game has only 5 levels, divided into two half-levels each, based on shipwreck types throughout history: Egyptian reed boat, boat, Christopher Columbus’ carrack Santa Maria, Flying Dutchman, and the Titanic.

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In the first half of each level, the player is given an “excavation site” where he/she must tap the excavation squares as fast as possible, often multiple times, to reveal possible shipwreck artifacts. Each level is timed to create a gameplay atmosphere, so the faster you tap the screen, the better your score.
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Once you have excavated all of the squares containing possible artifacts, the player moves on to the second half of each level, which is about reconstructing the ship. Again, each level is timed so reconstruction should be done as quickly as possible. Since the player uncovered multiple artifacts, but not all of them were relevant to the ship on a specific level, the player must make the determination to use only appropriate pieces. For example, the player may have collected pieces from the Flying Dutchman on the Titanic level, so he/she needs to only add parts from the Flying Dutchman.
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And that’s the end of the game: five levels. The things that irk me about the game, aside from the fact that it had a very short playing time, are the following:

1) It encourages fast excavation, which obviously is because of the timer that most games operate by; however, in a real excavation, one should never rush the process. It’s upsetting that the game masquerades under an archaeological premise and yet follows nothing of proper archaeology.

2) In addition to not following proper technique, there’s no explanation of any archaeological tools or methods in the second half, how one puts together a composite site map. It doesn’t have to get into the nitty-gritty of it, but could have been done more in-depth than just “put the ship back together.”

3) Lastly, there is no historical context to any of the ships exhibited in the game. I only knows about these ship types because of my profession, but (likely with exception of Titanic), I would hazard a guess that most people who played this game didn’t know much, if anything, about the other ship types. That is a serious oversight.
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