Sometimes archaeologists get lucky. On September 1, 2015, I blogged about finding my first “gamifact” in Elder Scrolls Online, which you can read here. A “gamifact”, for lack of a better term, is a glitch in a game that disrupts play because of its unnatural intrusion into the virtual world. Gamifacts are often temporary, fixed by patches, with only online documentation to prove that they ever existed.
The following evening I found another one, also quite by accident. I was questing in eastern Coldharbour within the Vile Laboratory. After completing the quest and killing everything that moved, I stepped through the doorway to exit the inner chamber. Instead of more lab, I entered something almost Minecraft-like (image below).
It was as if I had stepped outside into a bizarre, green world with blue skies and passing clouds, Dwemer constructs floating over the landscape. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked forward a step, and the scene changed (image below):
I was back in the lab with the steps and walls present, ambient lighting, and a stone ceiling. If you look at the image at the beginning of this post, you’ll see the actual line of transition between the game world and the gamifact. The animated GIF below shows how the transition looked. You literally have to stand on the door jamb to see it:
Going back into the inner lab and then back out again does not fix the glitch. I checked the forums, and no one had mentioned this particular glitch, although an earlier element of the lab’s quest had been fixed in a recent patch. It’s only a matter of time before this one gets fixed.
I was thinking about gamifacts on the train this morning, wondering why these are important, or if they even are. I drew an analogue to pottery found on excavation. A lot of artifacts are grotty and common, occasionally beautiful, but all convey data to the archaeologist and form what becomes the archaeological record. Gamifacts behave in this way for video games. While odd and at times entertaining, taken together they create a game history, a snapshot in time.
-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming