Building Cities, Building Games: Developers’ Inspirations and Intentions
ASOR Annual Meeting
Archaeology of the Near East and Video Games workshop
Chicago, Illinois, USA
November 17-20, 2021
December 9-12, 2021
Learn more here:
In 2012, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli unveiled a bold exhibition of fourteen classic video games in the Applied Design gallery of the museum. This was the first time video games had been displayed as art, and the first time that they were broadly received in academia. Since then, video games have seen a rise in academic attention, and only recently academic interest in them exploded with the trend termed “archaeogaming”.
Archaeologists “academicizing” video games set in antiquity—certain of which have been around for 30 years—have mostly concentrated on the accuracy of the representation of antiquity, up to and including how any inauthenticity in its representation in pop culture damages the field. Such interpretations ignore probably the most important component of games: the developers themselves. These interpretations presuppose both that the mainstream audience is absorbing games (or movies & tv shows) as documentary, and that the game developers intend to present their creative projects as fact rather than as inspired by antiquity.
This talk is based on interviews with the developers of the city building games Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Sumerians, chosen particularly because they focus on the development of civilizations over time and therefore required more in-depth examinations of the anthropological aspects of Egypt or Mesopotamia. I discuss the developers’ inspirations, intentions for the games’ receptions, and views on the academic topic of and approaches to archaeogaming, as well as consider how the topic may be better served in academia by acknowledging developers’ roles.