For ease of access each slide has been posted here, with it’s associated sources and PowerPoint notes. The notes don’t necessarily represent what is to be said verbatim (I prefer to “sparknote” my talking points, whereas CJ likes to script them out a bit more) but hopefully it gives everyone a good idea of what the panel is to contain. 🙂
CJ: Basics of archaeology: Archaeology is the study of human activity in the past, and is performed through the analysis of material remains, including human altered tools, structures, the alterations to the land made by humans, faunal (animal) remains found on sites, and human skeletal remains. Since we are no longer in the past, what evidence remains must be studied in order to understand the past. Data, data, data!!! I cannot make bricks without clay!!!
CJ: In addition, it is important for historical records and/or oral histories to be taken into consideration, as they provide insight into what is already known in the area, the importance of the land to specific cultures over an extended period of time, and help properly guide research. Some specifics do change regarding archaeology, depending on the location. Here in Canada and in many other countries, it is important to have a strong focus on having indigenous involvement. As we are excavating on their known traditional lands, it is important to get their permission before we start excavating, have their involvement, and to always respect their wishes. No matter where archaeology is being done, it is important that it is done legally and respectfully, with the hope of properly representing the past.
B: As some of you may know Never Alone is not a Canadian game, but seeing as it was developed based on a traditional Inupiaq tale with involvement of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Alaska I thought it would be a fitting image for a slide on “context”!
Image source: https://imgflip.com/i/1fd7v7
CJ: And on that note it is always important to remember for archaeology, context is important!!! Not just shiny things.
B: The image shown here is an “archaeogaming map” which lists only some of the possibilities of the discipline. (it’s so many dang things). We’re gonna be looking at, most specifically, reception of archaeology in games, machine-created culture, and material culture and IRL arch of vg hardware each through the lens of “the arch of [x] title”
Image source: http://tombraider.wikia.com/wiki/Lara_Croft
B: Lara Croft debuted in 1996 on the Playstation 1, and has been considered a gaming namestay since then.
CJ: Lara Croft represents in many ways the problematic development of archaeology over the centuries, with antiquarian roots focusing mainly on the exotic artifacts which would be taken and sold or added to a personal collection. In all of the games, Lara Croft calls herself an archaeologist, and in a modern context, therefore should be following the proper ethics, and methodologies that are standard in current archaeology, rather than slipping into looting artifacts without documenting information regarding the context of the sites. This is a trend very common in popular culture, which highlight the adventurous aspects of looking for artifacts and the wealth that may be gained from the journey, rather than following the more ethical and scientific aspects of archaeologists (paper work be damned!).
CJ: This trend leaks into games that are not about archaeologists, but rather treasure hunters. When looking at the Uncharted series, the main protagonist Nathan Drake, his mentor Victor (goddamn) Sullivan, and there other partners in crime, are very openly treasure hunters, going specifically into known and unknown historical sites to loot golden artifacts for wealth. However, by the time of the fourth Uncharted, the line between treasure hunting and archaeology gets blurred. For instance, in a mission flashbacking to when they were kids, Nate and Sam break into an elderly archaeologists house to recover their deceased mother’s journal. However, this archaeologists house contains a lot of artifacts, that have been added to her own personal collection, rather than stored and kept properly at a museum or lab for analysis. To further blur this line, Elena and Nate discuss getting permits to legally treasure hunt, something which is usually obtained by archaeologists with at least a Master’s degree. When the game jumps forward in time, their exploits can be seen on the covers of magazines, making supposed “Archaeological Discoveries”, according to the headlines.
Factoid+image sources: Andrew Reinhardt of archaeogaming.com did an article on the archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition https://archaeogaming.com/2015/10/25/archaeology-in-tomb-raider-definitive-edition/ “All of the relics are photorealistic and reproduced 1:1 from real-life examples. I found the coins to be extraordinary facsimiles with true coloration, aging, and even variable thickness. The more I discovered, the more I learned, much in the same way as in games in the Assassin’s Creed series (I am thinking specifically at the depth of historical content and extras in Black Flag).” What’s the use or purpose of reproduction in games? Is it simply to add realism to the game, or does it act as a teaching tool? Can it be both?
CJ: In cases like the Tomb Raider games and the Uncharted series, many of these artifacts are found completely out of context. This could be explained as the game makers highlighting the exotic and shiny, making the quests and side quests feel more important despite the lack of feasibility of said artifact being found in that specific location. It would also further the level of expertise being displayed by the heroes, as in order to identify and comment on the artifacts would require previous knowledge and learning, making Lara Croft and Nathan Drake look even more like experts (even though they don’t openly question how the items got to that location). It could be touched on how trade networks could have possibly brought the artifact there (if there is any record of it), the likelihood of said artifact actually surviving the elements enough to be preserved as well, and the problems with taking an artifact without documenting the context (and in many game situations, selling said artifacts, as well).
What these games do do well is exhibit a lived in and altered landscape and world. The ancient architecture that has been worn down over time and has become partially covered in vines; the broken crates left from ship wrecks; the journal entries left behind. The impact of humans (in the context of the story) on the spaces explored by the protagonists is well illustrated in these games, and by having the protagonists explore the land for optional tomb challenges and artifacts, surveying is being performed by the player. However, it must be taken into consideration that when a game designer creates a piece of architecture in a game, it is usually to look impressive and cool; meanwhile said architecture in the real world may have served a function dictated by the cultural group in order to serve a purpose. This is an example of phenomenology, as an expected experience was desired in game, whether or not it was meant to be a similar experience to the original piece of architecture in the original context.
Image source: http://taracopplestone.co.uk/buriedindex.html (screen clipping taken from game start page)
B: On the topic of “identity”–For those a bit confused “ergodic literature” is like a choose your own adventure. Buried was made in Twine, and is a great example of a game by an archaeologist attempting to accurately capture what it means to be an archaeologist or to edugame on archaeology as a practice (one of several on Tara Copplestone’s website, which I highly suggest everyone check out)
Server link: https://pottercraft.enjin.com/
B: Minecraft employs an automatic cartography system, making an archaeological exploration of new worlds easy! Cartography is one of the many tools employed by archaeologists when on-site. New updates also allow players to barter with cartographers, which is a type of in-game ethnography.
Cool ass tag: https://archaeogaming.com/tag/no-mans-sky/
B: Field journaling is the process of…. Journaling while in-field. Journals usually take the form of description of whatever you’re finding, some drawings/pictures/images of what it is you’re describing, and maybe some personal reactions to what it is you’re describing. The purpose of this type of journaling is to make a record of what it is you’re seeing. Everyone’s memory will falter and fade, so having a description available at a glance can be invaluable!
B: Let’s Plays can act as a type of field journaling, so long as a record is kept. So while something streamed wouldn’t be considered a field journal, if there’s something you can reference multiple times then it’s fulfilling some basic requirements! A number of Gramma Shirley’s videos fulfill all the needs of field journaling, but especially her exploration videos. She’s an accomplished Skyrim ethnobotanist, finding and maintaining a record of a number of in-game flora. Also she’s really lovely ❤
Extra info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari:_Game_Over
B: In June 2013 a team of archaeologists excavated an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill where Atari games where games were thought to have been dumped following the video game crash of the 80s. “[…] Andrew Reinhard, Richard Rothaus, Raiford Guins, Brett Weber, and William Caraher. We’re a collective of Punk Archaeologists.” Excavation worked as the basis of Atari: Game Over which can be viewed on Netflix (even the Canadian one!) [self reminder: Crash was from 83-85 btw]
Image source: http://www.onlineeducation.net/videogame_timeline
B: [briefly explain what in the heck “stratigraphy” is WITHOUT mentioning the “law of superposition” UNLESS it’s called “the law of socks”]
CJ: Andrew Reinhard has definitely posited that not only are retro video games artifacts, and that retro gaming is re-engagement with that artifact, but also that the arcade’s themselves were a cultural space that represented a past cultural activity involving those video games. In fact, gaming itself became a cultural melting pot of sorts, with those of the gaming community (a culture in itself) playing games from North America, Japan and later the UK; those countries companies engaging in partnerships and sharing ideas; all of this showing a cultural evolution and cultural diffusion between these various communities.
CJ: In addition, which retro IPs making a come back, such as Pokémon being re-invigorated with Pokémon Go, it allows an opportunity for the Cultural/Heritage organizations to team-up with Niantic (the company behind Pokémon Go) to hold Pokémon events at museums and known cultural areas, with the hope of gathering public interest in culture/the past. Sometimes reinvigorated IPs can be problematic however; as while the Crash Bandicoot remastered trilogy is great fun, the more racist overtones are more evident than previously remembered. Not only in regards to Aku Aku (which may or may not be problematic, being a generic voodoo sorcerer mask), but when an obviously Australian Crash fights and defeats the indigenous leader, Papu Papu, who was only sitting in his hut at the time, the colonial overtones are very apparent.
- #archaeogaming on Twitter
If you have a link to add to this, PLEASE contact me @mxmoireabh! Thanks! 🙂