Video Game Archaeology

I sure hope folks look at this cover image, see black and white shots of Bourdieu and Foucault, a copy of Discipline and Punish in French, and a drawing of Bentham's panopticon and immediately know what is up.

@Syzygy#32636 Thanks! I'm hoping my experience as an actual professor will help me bring home that “professorial” vibe

@Syzygy#32638 Handsome bastard, I'm sure.

@CidNight#32634 I just watched – and I'm keen to continue and follow along with the series as you produce them.

Also, I'm absolutely here for jumping straight to the 401 syllabus

@rejj#32644 thanks!! I’m glad that joke landed haha. I’m already thinking about themes for the undead burg.

I‘ve enjoyed thinking of you as a silent bird who learned to type (and illustrate in aquarelle), but the illusion can’t last forever. Good on you for making this, can't wait to watch!

@captain#32652 i know it's gonna be real weird to see my big dumb face

looks cool I’m looking forward to watching it

Cid is real???

I‘m all for IC users producing vids. Why did you choose to do this/ what made you choose video over a write-up?

The image of archaeological dig with perfectly square grid holes in the ground is apropriate, very video gamey, basically a 16x16 tile hole in the earth, speaking of dark souls, King’s Field has these holes.

Looking forward to future episodes, where we really get into the juicy tidbits

BTW my grammy does archaeology / paleontology ! Also I just rewatched the Super Mario Bros. Movie producer‘s cut, that super counts as video game archaeology. Also my dad is majorly into ethics, I was raised to value ethics.

best quote: archaeology: “some interesting things have happened here, a long time ago” that’s archaology in a nutshell lmao.

Asylum may be a creative translation choice btw since we all know Dark Souls is full of those.

@CidNight#32634 I enjoyed it a lot. It's an interesting angle on video game environments and souls has some good material to work with I imagine. Immediately thinking of the nexus from demons and some of the ruins in the artorias of the abyss dlc. Were I to make a suggestion: mix in more still screenshots of the environments in addition to the gameplay footage; makes it easier to get a sense of the place and understand your descriptions


Indeed I am! I know it‘s probably extremely weird to see a person’s face who is just an avatar on the internet. I‘m already a somewhat public facing person because of my job, so this isn’t too weird a feeling. You'll notice however that nowhere in the video do I say who I actually am. I suspect the internet could figure it out in about 10 minutes if it wanted.

There is something wonderfully video gamey about archaeology. It can feel a little bit like a very slow turn based strategy game. I'm imagining like a nice PS1 era isometric tactics game.

Yes! Some interesting things happened a long time ago is very much archaeology in a nutshell. I'm hoping that I can also teach there that "some interesting things happened here recently" is also an element of archaeology. Archaeology is all about teasing apart and understanding complicated temporal palimpsests (also the name of my grunge band), and recognizing that the whole scope of history of a place is important and interesting.

I'll bet anything asylum was translated from "prison" and the localizers were like "grab that thesaurus, Jerry!"



I watched the rest. VE-RY GOOD

Wow, thank you! I'm blown away by all the wonderful feedback I've gotten here.


Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to guess at your actual position / experience, just this tone of teaching is “T.A.-like” to me and I think that’s best for this context.

No worries on this at all - I actually love this. I've tried to maintain a sort of TA-energy in the classroom even after I stopped being a grad student. I've never wanted to be perceived as aloof or unapproachable to my students. I think that sort of energy will translate much better to this format too.


I detect a familiar defensive posture often taken by linguistics, lol

Absolutely. Just like any social science or humanity, archaeology has to defend itself against accusations of being a "soft" science. The particular history of archaeological thought makes this even more interesting. There's been huge pendulum swings back and forth over the last century, with paradigms being in turn very positivist, and then very critical of scientific approaches. I'm sort of hoping to talk about that a bit in the future. I find it fascinating.


all the language stuff

Wow! This is fascinating. Institute is really interesting, and i can see how that could get localized to asylum. An institute that houses crazy people who might kill you? I guess asylum fits that - if in a stereotypical and problematic way. I do also think its great that it seems to be associated with public institutions as well, which maybe feeds into my theory of the earlier uses of the space.

Returned to finished the video, and enjoyed it very much! Curious to know what other games you might be interested in examining this way, but I won't ask—no spoiling the surprise. You could probably make a hundred videos about Dark Souls all by itself.

From my armchair academic's position I wasn't aware of Bourdieu's Berber House, so thanks for that.

@captain#32770 Thanks so much! As for games, I‘m really open to it. I think there are a lot that it would work for. If anyone’s got cool suggestions I‘m happy to hear them. You’re right about Dark Souls, although I'd really love to do Dark Souls 2 - my favorite.

To be honest I don't know how important or well-known Berber House is outside of archaeology. It's maybe his most important work to archaeologists, but maybe not elsewhere?

Absolutely brutal no holds barred shameless post to push this to the top of the list again. I am a dirtbag.

I am writing episode 2 now! I'm hoping to tighten up some stuff from how I did the first.

I really like the concept you mentioned toward the end of spaces that have clearly been repurposed over years. This is something that these From games do so well in an implicit way (just like much of the lore). This brings to mind the Fallout games and Horizon: ZD, which are much more explicit about it (I don‘t mean to imply an eastern/western developer dichotomy here, but perhaps that’s worth exploring).

Fallout handles this much better, in my opinion, with believable settlements that co-opt older structures and places of gathering--for all its faults, Fallout 4 was at least notable to me because of Diamond City, built on the decaying superstructure of a baseball stadium. Horizon handled this a bit less deftly, in my opinion...I have a lot of issues with that game, not the least of which is the generic approach to building a verdant post-apocalypse.

I've mentioned this on some other thread, but I really would like to explore the palimpsests of video games at some point--not even just in setting/lore, but in actual physical space...I'm thinking repurposed arcade cabs or horribly burned in old CRTs.

@kory#32840 I love how you‘re thinking about this stuff. There are tons of games out there that play with this very explicit archaeological “building upon the old” that you’re referencing. They tend to be games about post-apocalyptic worlds, where the devs want you to see that this used to be us but now it‘s not. Horizon, The Last of Us, Fallout are all cool examples. Hell, Nier is a really interesting example! I tend to agree with you that the subtlety of Japanese developers does this perhaps a little more interestingly. Dark Souls and Nier do the post-apocalypse in light brush strokes. Time depth is important here too, and scale. Nier is really interesting because the time scale is so huge - so really very few traces of the old world exist. Usually just old burnt out skyscrapers. I’ll be honest I have my suspicions about whether even those would last the number of years they‘re talking. Automata is actually worse. The least honest game series on this, by far, is Uncharted. I know that they’re building on the legacy of Indiana Jones and the like, but it‘s pretty hilarious to pick up a piece of paper sitting on a wooden table, and both are supposed to be like 400 years old in a gosh-danged jungle. There’s a chapter in Uncharted 4 I definitely want to do eventually that's the most egregious with this stuff.

I absolutely adore the idea of looking at palimpsests in the physical world of video games. Now i just want to see someone boot Horizon Zero Dawn on an arcade CRT with the Pac-Man map burned into it. They turn to the camera and say, straight-facedly - "Video games have come a long way since Pac-Man."

The tweet that got me thinking about this:

@kory#32844 It's beautiful!