Game Issues for Scholarly Discourse or for Public Understanding

Erik Champion (DIGHUMLAB DK and Aarhus University)

Academic discourse presupposes a vast domain of related background knowledge, a certain learnt yet creative technique of extrapolation, and they do not cover the experiential detective work of experts that visit the real site.

Virtual environment technology could perhaps help fill this experiential lacuna, but typically, virtual environments are not complex in their interactional history, the past and the present do not intermingle as they do in real places, the many conscious and subconscious ways that people leave traces in the world are not conveyed in static 3D models. Digitally mediated technology can attempt to reproduce existing data but they can also modify the learning experience of the user through augmentation, filtering, or constraining. Game engines allow cheap modelling packages that include editors, are accessible and engaging for students, contain built in scripts and resources, are optimised for personal computers (and also for consoles), with powerful physics engines. The graphics can include a surprisingly high amount of detail, import from professional or free 3D modellers, and show a large amount of terrain and sometimes even dynamic weather or lighting.

They can also allow modification of the visual overlaid interface, the Heads Up Display (HUD). They often include avatars with triggered and re-scriptable behaviours and path-finding, but they can also feature maps that demonstrate location, orientation, or the social attitude of non-playing characters in relation to the player. However, it is their imaginative use of technical constraints that add to the thematic fantasy, goal-direction and challenge necessary for an entertaining game. How can games and interactive digital media in general help learning about archaeology? I suggest that there are many methods one can use, but that strategies tend to be deductive, explorative, augmented or ambient, counterfactual, instrumental, performative (role-playing), or diegetic.

Video by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, originally posted on his blog.

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