Teaching History in/with/via Video Games

Prompted by Lee, I’m collating here materials that I’ve put out there regarding my teaching/thinking related to video games & history and archaeology. The list below is in no recognizable bibliographic style (mostly because I’m tapping this out and can’t be bothered this AM).

2006 The Year of the Four Emperors – CivIV scenario that started it all http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=171164

2012 Stranger in These Parts http://playfic.com/games/shawn_graham/stranger-in-these-parts—v01

2009 Kee, Graham, et al. Towards a Theory of Good History Through Gaming. Canadian Historical Review 90.2 http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/can/summary/v090/90.2.kee.html

2010 My Glorious Failure playthepast.org http://www.playthepast.org/?p=352

2010 Kee, Graham, and Vaughan The Haunted School on Horror Hill: A Case Study of Interactive Fiction in an Elementary Classroom http://www.graeworks.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/haunted_school_on_horror_hill.pdf

2014 Kee, Graham Teaching History in an Age of Pervasive Computing: The Case for Games in the High School and Undergraduate Classroom Pastplay http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12544152.0001.001/–pastplay-teaching-and-learning-history-with-technology?g=dculture;trgt=div2_ch13;view=fulltext;xc=1

2014 Graham Rolling Your Own: On Modding Commercial Games for Educational Goals Pastplay http://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dh/12544152.0001.001/1:6/–pastplay-teaching-and-learning-history-with-technology?g=dculture;rgn=div1;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=Rolling+Your+Own%3A+On+Modding+Commercial+Games+for+Educational+Goals

2015 Pulling Back the Curtain- Writing History through Video Games Web Writing http://epress.trincoll.edu/webwriting/chapter/graham/

I think that’s everything.

Syllabi, websites, random presentations etc

Playing Pedagogy: Videogaming as Site and Vehicle for Digital Public Archaeology http://digitalarchaeology.msu.edu/saa2015-session235/papers/playing-pedagogy-videogaming-as-site-and-vehicle-for-digital-public-archaeology/

An introduction to writing history through videogames (for High School students) https://github.com/shawngraham/highschoolhistorygaming/blob/master/readme.md

HIST3812a 2014 version, Minecrafted History worlds: https://github.com/shawngraham/hist3812a

HIST3812a 2014 version, playable syllabus http://hist3812a.dhcworks.ca/teaser/

HIST3812a 2014 version, course blog http://hist3812a.dhcworks.ca/

HIST3812a 2013 version, http://www.3812.graeworks.net/

Field Notes from a Virtual Unconference

archaeogaming-mission-control

The view from my computer getting #archaeogaming up and running. Hi Angus!

 

I’ll write something with a bit more substance and reflection in due course, but we’ve just ended the first ever archaeogaming virtual unconference.

Total bill:

  • catering: $0
  • space rental: $0
  • airfare: $0
  • hotel: $0
  • registration fee: $0.

Time spent:

  • me, in planning things out, setting up tech, writing about it: approximately 4-6 hours

Platforms:

Things that worked really well:

  • Having a schedule built before hand, to give people not only structure but sense of what the day is about
  • Great facilitators in Andrew and Tara to keep conversations flowing, to close or open sessions on the fly as needed

Things that could’ve been better:

  • Timing of the schedule. I closed one session out rather early
  • Time slots don’t have to be all the same length; early in the day might’ve been better to have shorter sessions, etc. Something to think about.

Things that were *really* awesome:

  • The nearly 30* people who participated at various times during the day! I can’t thank you all enough for coming out and contributing, however you did that.

Thank you!

 

*about 25 at our busiest. I’m an optimistic rounder. Most folks were grad or undergrad students I think!

 

Somewhere in the desert…

A lost village

At the upcoming SAA in San Fracisco, Andrew Rheinhard and I are participating in a forum on digital public archaeology. Our piece, ‘Playing Pedagogy: Videogaming as site and vehicle for digital public archaeology’ is still in a process of becoming. Our original abstract:

While there is an extensive literature on the pedagogical uses of video games in STEM education, and a comparitvely smaller literature for langagues, literature, and history, there is a serious dearth of scholarship surrounding videogames in their role as vectors for public archaeology. Moreover, video games work as ‘digital public archaeology’ in the ways their imagined pasts within the games deal with monuments, monumentality, and their own ‘lore’. In this presentation, we play the past to illustrate twin poles of ‘public’ archaeology, as both worlds in which archaeology is constructed and worlds wherin archaeological knowledge may be communicated.

We had initially thought to write a game to explore these ideas, and so our entire presentation would involve the session participants playing it. But writing games is tough. In fact, it would be hard for one to top the game made by Tara Copplestone for the 2014 Heritage Jam, ‘Buried’. However, another venue presents itself. Andrew recently proposed to the makers of No Man’s Sky that he be allowed to lead an archaeological expedition therein.

“What!” I hear you exclaim. Well, think of it like this. We’re used to the idea of reception studies, of how the past is portrayed in games, movies, novels. We’re also used to the idea of games as being the locus for pedagogy, or for persuading, or making arguments. What happens then, in a game like No Man’s Sky, where the entire world is generated algorithmically from a seed? That is, no human designs it: it emerges. Rather like our own universe, eh? Such procedural games are quite common, though none perhaps are as complex in their world building as Dwarf Fortress (which evolves not just the world, but also culture & individual family/clan/culture lineages!)

What then does such  xenoarchaeology look like? How does that intersect with digital public archaeology? Well, if archaeological method has any truth to it, then in these worlds we might be faced with something profoundly alter, something profoundly different (which also accounts for why the writers of Star Trek placed such stock on archaeology)

We’ve got a month to sort these thoughts out. But it was in this frame of mind that I started thinking what archaeology in Minecraft would look like, could look like, and what it might find. Not in Minecraft worlds that have been lovingly built from scratch by a human. No, I mean the ones grown from seeds. It’s quite interesting – since no computational process is actually truly random, if you know the seed from which all calculations and algorithms are run, you can recreate the exact sequence that gives rise to a particular world (in this, and indeed in all, computational simulations). There is quite a thriving subculture in Minecraft it turns out that share interesting seeds. And so, as I searched for seeds that might prove fertile for our talk, I came across ‘Double Village’ for Minecraft 1.64. (See method 5 for spawing worlds from seeds). If you’ve got Minecraft 1.64 you too can join me on my expedition to a strange –desert land….

—-

The texts all say the same thing. Set the portal to ‘Double Village’ and soon you’ll find the exotic and lost desert villages. I put on the archaeotrancerebretron, grabbed my kit bag, and gritted my teeth. My companions all had theirs on too. We stepped into the charmed circle…

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573581542267731969

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573582113112473600

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573581686191038464

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573584791406272512

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573582307669442560

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573587137360175104

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573587336455282689

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573587430969905153

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573598369534320640

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573673000379248641

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573677008279965697

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573685264633229312

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573685400318902272

https://twitter.com/electricarchaeo/status/573686108220997632

#hist3812a video games and simulations for historians, batting around some syllabus ideas

I’ve been batting around ideas for my video games class, trying to flesh them out some more. I put together a twine-based exploration of some of my ideas in this regard a few weeks ago; you can play it here. Anyway, what follows below is just me thinking out loud. The course runs for 12 weeks. (O my students, the version of the syllabus you should trust is the one that I am obligated to put on cuLearn).

What does Good History Through Gaming Look Like?

How do we know? Why should we care? What could we do with it, if we had it? Is it playing that matters, or is it building? Can a game foster critical play? What is critical play, anyway? ‘Close reading’ can happen not just of text, but also of code, and of experience. It pulls back the curtain (link to my essay discussing a previous iteration of this course).

Likely Topics

  1. A history of games, and of video games
  2. Historical Consciousness & Worldview
  3. Material culture, and the digital: software exists in the physical world
  4. Simulation & Practical Necromancy: representing the physical world in software
  5. Living History, LARPing, ARGs and AR: History, the Killer App
  6. Museums as gamed/gameful spaces
  7. Gamification and its bastards: or, nothing sucks the fun out of games like education
  8. Rolling your Own: Mods & Indies
  9. The politics of representation

Assessment

Which Might Include Weekly Responses & Critical Play Sessions:

  1. IF responses to readings (written using http://twinery.org)
  2. Play-throughs of others’ IF (other students; indie games in the wild)
  3. Critical play of Minecraft
  4. Critical play of ‘historical’ game of your choice
  5. Critical play of original SimCity (which can be downloaded or played online here). We’ll look at its source code, too, I think. Or we might play a version of Civilization. Haven’t decided yet.
  6. Critical boardgame play
  7. ARIS WW1 Simulation by Alex Crudas & Tyler Sinclair

Yes. I am going to have you play video games, for grades. But you will be looking for procedural rhetorics, worldviews, constraints, and other ways we share authority with algorithms (and who writes these, anyway?) when we consume digital representations of history. Consume? Is that the right verb? Co-create? Receive?

Major Works

  1. Midterm:IF your favourite academic paper that you have written such that a player playing it could argue the other sides you ignored in your linear paper. Construct it in such a way that the player/reader can move through it at will and still engage with a coherent argument. (See for example ‘Buried’ http://taracopplestone.co.uk/buried.html). You will use the Twine platform. http://twinery.org
  2. Summative Project: Minecrafted History
    1. You will design and build an immersive experience in Minecraft that expresses ‘good history through gaming’. There will be checkpoints to meet over the course of the term.Worlds will be built by teams, in groups of 5. Worlds can be picked from three broad themes:THE HISTORY OF THE OTTAWA VALLEY
      THE CANADIANS ON THE WESTERN FRONT
      COLONIZATION AND RESISTANCE IN ROMAN BRITAIN  (…look, I was a Roman archaeologist, once…)
    2. You will need to obtain source maps; you will digitize these and translate them into Minecraft. We will in all likelihood be using Github to manage your projects. The historical challenge will be to frame the game play within the world that you have created such that it expresses good history. You will need to keep track of every decision you make and why, and think through what the historical implications are of those decisions.
    3. The final build will be accompanied by a paradata document that will discuss your build, details all sources used (Harvard Style), references all appropriate literature, and explains how playing your world creates ‘good history’ for the player. This document should reference Fogu, Kee et al, and the papers in Elliot and Kappell at a miminum. More information about ‘paradata’ and examples may be found at http://heritagejam.org/what-are-paradata Due the first session on the last week of term, so that we can all play each others’ worlds. The in-class discussion that will follow in the second session is also a part of this project’s grade. Your work-in-progress may also be presented at Carleton’s GIS Day (3rd Wednesday in November)
    4. (These worlds will be made publicly available at the end of the term, ideally for local high school history classes to use. Many people at the university are interested to see what we come up with, too. No pressure).

So that’s what I’m thinking, with approximately 1 month to go until term starts. We’ve got Minecraft.edu installed in the Gaming Lab in the Discovery Centre in the Library, we’ve got logins and remote access all sorted out, I have most of the readings set … it’s coming together. Speaking of readings, we’ll use this as our bible:

Playing with the Past

and will probably dip into these:

Play the Past

PastPlay

… sensing a theme…