I’m very happy to welcome everyone to the official launch of Play the Past – a project that has been brewing under the radar for longer than I care to admit. At its core, Play the Past is a collaboratively edited and authored blog dedicated to thoughtfully exploring and discussing the intersection of cultural heritage
The imagery of the Roman Empire is a familiar setting for many modern games. Something about the gladiators, the warfare, the togas, and the architecture fascinates us. What is this play in the past actually doing for us? Is it merely entertainment or something more? In this series of posts,
I think historians and sociologists of science might be surprised to learn that video game designers spend a considerable amount of time and energy building playable models of the history of science and technology. In game design circles these systems are commonly referred to as “Technology Trees”. Below is an example of one of these trees from Civilization ll.
Instead of teaching students to ‘read’ landscapes, might ‘playing’ landscapes be better at generating meanings that go deeper? Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, in ‘Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals’ (MIT, 2004) situate meaningful play as a relationship between “player action and system outcome”, where both are “discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game” (empahsis in the original; 34). Discernability in a game relates to being able to actually perceive whether an action had some sort of outcome; integration means that the action has consequences for later stages of play (35). I’m suggesting then that the game of reading landscapes would not stop at just reading some aspect of past human activity in the landscape. Rather, it would be framed as part of some game whereby it competes with other readings of the landscape, where the story of the landscape emerges from game play, through some process of physically annotating & crafting competing visions of the palimpsest.
In short, an augmented reality game.
One of the things that fascinates me most about the epic traditions of the world is the way bards naturally sing their tales within cycles. The Greek word κύκλος just means “circle,” and the cycle with which I’m most familiar—the ancient Greek one—is usually just called the ἐπικὸς κύκλος “epic
Over the past 5 years Firefly studios has designed two city building games, Stronghold 2 and CivCity: Rome (hereafter CC:R) that offer thoroughly engrossing gameplay while also presenting some interesting models of human behavior. As a gamer, I’m more interested in the former; as a teacher who works with simulation