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Image: amc, Halt and Catch Fire

Over the past few months I have written a series of posts about the archaeology of the code of Colossal Cave Adventure, arguably the most influential text-based interactive computer game ever, and one of the most imitated. As an archaeologist I was curious to see if I could apply archaeological tools and methods to understanding the underlying code of the game as well as the game’s iterative history, treating it as a code-artifact, drawing from sub-disciplines of epigraphy and palaeography while dipping into thoroughly modern Digital Humanities tools such as R and Gephi.

I have collected the series of posts below that I wrote as I worked my way through the project, attempting to do something new in archaeology, analyzing a game that has become a pillar in Western digital cultural heritage. Note that these posts record my earliest thinking and results, and in some cases the interpretations and conclusions have changed based on comments from outside readers and from my PhD committee at the University of York’s (UK) Department of Archaeology and Centre for Digital Heritage, and my supervisor, Prof. Sara Perry. The final work will be published in my PhD thesis in 2020, pending a successful defense.

  1. Towards an Archaeology of Code: Here I attempt to make the case that examining software code is not unlike investigating ancient writing on clay or papyrus, stressing the need to treat code within an archaeological context using Colossal Cave Adventure as a case study.
  2. Stylometric Analysis of Colossal Cave Adventure: Tools and Method: I outline how I approached my investigation of the game’s code, what digital tools I decided to use (and why), and what I hoped to learn from analyzing multiple versions of the original game.
  3. Stylometric Analysis of Colossal Cave Adventure: Results: I make a first pass at reporting and interpreting the quantitative results of my stylometric and text analysis of the game’s code sets.
  4. An Archaeology of Code: Qualitative Analysis and Context of Colossal Cave Adventure: Archaeology is all about looking at evidence in context, and this post brings in other ways of looking at data that serve as correctives to purely quantitative results.
  5. Stylometric Analysis of Colossal Cave Adventure: Conclusions and Lessons Learned: Here I draw conclusions about my work with the game and its code, as well as about the archaeology of digital things generally. One of the most important things an archaeologist can do upon completing a project is to reflect on the work done and how to do it better/differently the next time.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

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