Gaming archaeology

I received a message the other day from a rather frustrated 3d-worlds-for-communications designer, who had been taking CAD meshes of archaeological sites and making them ‘real’ using the Unreal engine. He’d been presenting this work to heritage & archaeology folks, and found that nobody was interested in acutally having 3d reconstructions that could be immersive (ie, via an avatar). I wasn’t at that particular conference, but I can well imagine that kind of response. Nobody ever likes changing direction; there are sunk costs, reputations, all sorts of reasons why things continue on in the direction that they’re going.

With archaeology’s natural affinity for exploring and understanding the social impact of built spaces & constructed landscapes, with its tools for exploring the visual symbols and markers of cultures, it seems to me that archaeology would naturally adopt digital immersive worlds as a new tool. I guess that’s not happening though (although I hope to be proved wrong!).

In other, related news…

In this week’s Escapist, there’s a great article about the intersection between video games and research, especially that which is going on at UCL. In the article, there’s also a discussion of movements in games towards non-linear stories, something of which historians should also take note.

Finally, there is another entrant into the burgeoning field of augmented reality, of playing video games in real world places, called Locomatrix. This last has clear application for archaeologists, for them to make what they do accessible & valuable to the public. Locomatrix is based in the UK. I’d love to see somebody make a game featuring a county sites & monuments record with their GPS-based play. They will be having a contest soon:

We will shortly announce a university challenge with a prize of £2,000 for the best game created by a university department. We will also be sponsoring an investigation into outdoor games specifically for girls.

2 000 quid is an awful lot of coin… c’mon UK archaeologists, let’s see what you can do!