This is a preview of an article you can read on our new website dedicated to virtual reality, Versions.
Destructive treasure hunters like Nathan Drake and Lara Croft tumble through decadent crypts, dismantling rare artifacts in their wake. Their scrabbling work, however incidental, is the antithesis to the careful field of archaeology. Yet, in marketing materials they’re labeled both as explorers and, yes, archaeologists. It’s for reasons like this that I’ve found myself, as a student of archaeology, increasingly disillusioned with the way videogames treat artifacts and history.
The problem is that these types of games tend to disregard preservation. Our favorite protagonists utilize priceless pieces of history as landscape to be clambered over and, inevitably, destroyed. While no one is upset enough to protest, this does seriously misrepresent the actual archaeological process, which is especially disappointing for a medium that presents a potential chasm to fill with exciting, intersectional research. This is the basis of archaeogaming.
Archaeogaming, as defined by scholar Meghan Dennis, is “the utilization and treatment of immaterial space to study created culture, specifically through videogames.” It’s a new field of study that is only now starting to dig its way into academia. Three books on the topic are scheduled to arrive in 2017 alone, the latest of these being The Interactive Past, which was successfully crowdfunded by the VALUE project on Kickstarter.