Archaeogaming as Definition and Method: Review of the Archaeogaming Blog

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender requirements in October 2016, and may or may not reflect my current assessment of the archaeogaming blog. That said I’d love to do an archaeogaming blog review in the future, which is why I’m posting my previous thoughts here today! 🙂


The blog I am choosing to review is Archaeogaming, which has been written by Andrew Reinhard since June of 2013 (Reinhard, 2016). Archaeogaming is a blog which I have been regularly reading since November of 2015 after having been introduced to the concept of archaeogaming via the Twitter account of the same name (@Archaeogaming). I have found it influential not only as a student of the social sciences and humanities, but also as a person who really just enjoys playing video games. The most prominent reason for my choosing of Archaeogaming for review beyond familiarity, however, is that I believe the blog has the opportunity to directly influence my final research paper in ANTH 320: Archaeology of Gender via focused reading into the construction of a definition of archaeogaming as practice, as well as exposure to methodology within the sub-field of archaeogaming.

The first post I decided to focus on is the “Archaeogaming Map (Revised)” (Reinhard, 2015). This post was originally published on December 18th, 2015. I chose this post as, in my opinion, it provides the clearest definition of what archaeogaming actually is as a field of practice. The intent of the post is clearly to provide a vehicle for the map itself to be presented. Reinhard explains in the blog post that the intent for the map is to perhaps act as an inspiration for those already in the field of archaeogaming, or as definition for those curious about the field. The tone of this post is very short and to the point compared to subsequent posts considered for this review. This being said this works in the favour of the content as the blog post acts only as a vehicle for the map to be presented, and allows for Reinhard to keep reader focus on the image of the map itself which is a clear description of several archaeogaming topics arranged as heading > subheading > topic (Reinhard, 2015). Additionally, the map uses an appropriate image from a secondary source (the webcomic xkcd), and the secondary source is linked to with licensing information in-post. The word, grammar, and spelling choices of the map are additionally appropriate, and in at least one instance clever (Figure 1).

archaeomap
Figure 1. Close-up, highlighted section of spelling error (perhaps a “grammatical glitch”?) in the archaeogaming map (Reinhard, 2015).

The use of a spelling error in this situation not only forces the reader to pause to reconsider the thought, or re-read the line, but it is also mimetic to the “glitch as artifact” described in the line immediately above. The idea of creating a visual representation of a field of practice is not unheard of, and having the map be so detailed is ideal for an emergent field where many theories, ideas, and methodologies have either yet to be defined or yet to become standard practice. The information within the map presented appears to be accurate based on my own understanding of archaeogaming, however no explicit sources are given. This being said Reinhard makes clear in the blog post that the map is based on lived-experience, and an assumption can thus be made that the Archaeogaming blog itself is the source.

The second post which I decided to look at is “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” which was originally posted on January 25th, 2016. The introduction establishes a clear purpose, and provides tonal reference for the “Achievement Hunter”-esque (Rooster Teeth) body of the post. The purpose of the post—to define “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges”—is explicitly outlined in the title, and in the prompt Reinhard attributes for the post. Tonal reference is found in the use of the Xbox 360-style achievement image at the outset of the post, and subsequent explanation: “Because archaeogaming is so new (at least in the formal, academic sense), we have a number of mountains to climb, or, to keep this on-topic with video games, we have a lot of achievements to unlock” (Reinhard, 2016). The introduction additionally provides background information on the history of archaeogaming as a field of practice, and provides links to other blogs and websites on the subject. While the introduction fulfills the purpose of what the post is about, and some history on the subject, the tone isn’t consistent with the rest of the post. While Reinhard explicitly demarcates where the achievements are to begin the demarcation seems oddly placed at approximately one third of the post in, as having the image at the outset of the post makes it seem as though the entire post will have the achievement-hunting tone. Having the demarcation so late also causes pacing issues as the body of the post thus seems comparatively short to the introduction. In my opinion the post could have been improved—and had more impact—if the tone were to remain consistent, and the introduction be edited for length. This being said even the seemingly brief use of a writing tone which is mimetic to video game play is fun and appropriate considering the topic of the post being “challenges to [your] archaeology,” (Reinhard, 2016) and it works to bring the reader into a state of mind which connects both archaeology as practice and video games as subject.

The third post which I decided to look at is “Archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.” This post was originally published on October 25th, 2015. I chose this post as I played 2013’s Tomb Raider, and is one of only two posts which comes when using the on-site search function with the term “gender” as of October 10th, 2016. The post is a summation and analysis of the 2014 Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which is itself an update of 2013’s Tomb Raider. The practice of reviewing games is by no means anything new, but what sets this post apart from other summaries and reviews lies in the focus of the post on archaeology. Reinhard clearly identifies archaeologists as characters, artifacts as in-game items, and archaeological methodology as game-play. In the process of identifying archaeologists as characters Reinhard also makes note of gender representation, and gender disparity within the game-space through the characters of Lara Croft and James Whitman. In focusing on characterization Reinhard notes that the gender dynamic between Croft and Whitman mirrors real-life gender dynamics in archaeological field-sites, and makes reference to the Every Dig Sexism project which “[catalogues] every day sexism in Archaeology and Heritage” (@everyDIGsexism, 2015). With reference to the in-game world and items word choices are appropriate, and work to bridge the virtual archaeological space with real-life terminology and practice. An example of this is defining the game’s use of the term “relic” as “a generic term for an artifact of interest” (Reinhard, 2015).

whitwright
Figure 2. Image of James Wright (r) is not sourced (Reinhard, 2015).
ign-comp
Figure 3. Image is sourced generically to “IGN.com” but no specific web address is given (Reinhard, 2015).

Images are used to positive effect, and at various points in the post. While a “note” appears at the end of the post attributing screen-captures to Reinhard there are two images which are a) not screen-captures, and b) not otherwise annotated to their original source. These images include a comparison of James Whitman, and James Wright (Figure 3) and later on a comparison of graphical output between Sony Playstation console generations (PS3 to PS4) (Figure 4).

Table 1. Archaeogaming 2016 Post Frequency

Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

# of posts

2

0

5

2

4

1

2

0

0

0

/

/

In seeing the consistency with which Archaeogaming has maintained posting updates in 2016, with the exception of June 2016-present day (Table 1), my initial expectation in conducting a close reading was that there would be more posts which would be directly relevant to discussions on gendered archaeology and the archaeology of gender. While many of the posts may be forced to fit into a discussion on gender, few explicitly address gender as either an aspect of gaming or of archaeology. This being said in my general survey of the blog I found that the blog periodically links out to other blog posts on the subject of video games, archaeology, and archaeogaming respectively which are written by women. Of the three posts summarized here, this only occurs in “Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges,” however. Gender is also incorporated via open comment sections. As of October 12th, 2016 the three posts summarized in this review contain open comment sections, and based on my own Euro-Western analyses of the names of the commenters all comments are made by women. Despite the concerns which I have outlined above I believe that Archaeogaming is an invaluable resource of theoretical and methodological archaeological data, albeit more generally within the field of archaeology than specifically within the scope of gendered archaeology or the archaeology of gender.


References

@Archaeogaming. (n.d.). Twitter. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://twitter.com/Archaeogaming

@everyDIGsexism. (2015). EveryDIGsexism. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://everydigsexism.wordpress.com/

Reinhard, A. (2015). Archaeogaming Map (Revised). Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2015/12/18/archaeogaming-map-revised/

Reinhard, A. (2015). Archaeology in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2015/10/25/archaeology-in-tomb-raider-definitive-edition/

Reinhard, A. (2016). About. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/about/

Reinhard, A. (2016). Archaeogaming’s Grand Challenges. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/2016/01/25/archaeogamings-grand-challenges/

Reinhard, A. (2016). Home. Retrieved October 12, 2016, from https://archaeogaming.com/

Rooster Teeth. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2016, from http://achievementhunter.roosterteeth.com/show/achievement-hunter

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Author: B

I'm a 20-something university student with a blog.

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