Serious Games for Archeaology & Imagining The Past

Ruth Tringham and her team at Berkeley continue to do extremely interesting work! I’ve just come across this course description for ‘serious games for archaeology‘, a course that asks probably *the* most important question when it comes to the content of historically-themed video games:

[…]We will explore and learn to critically analyze existing games that deal with archaeology, history, and the past. How, for example, does the game “Colonial Williamsburg” that MIT is developing differ from more popular games such as “Civilization”? We’ll discuss why it is that the commercial game producers are not interested in the educational value and content of their games.[…] (emphasis added SG)

That’s the nub, right there. Why does it matter that the Taliban can be swapped out of Medal of Honor without any consequences to game play? These are questions that historians and archaeologists need to address. In a similar vein, that was the motivation behind our paper from this past summer on a theory of good history through good gaming.

Players of history games are interested in the past and in the big questions that drive historical scholarship. In this way, games have the potential to draw players into the discipline if we can discover the best way to express history though simulation. But what research do we draw on as we study how to accomplish this transformation? This essay is the product of a meeting of historians, educators, and gamers who joined previously separate lines of inquiry to identify literature and models that we believe form the foundation for developing a theory of good history through gaming.