Videogames as Playful Time Machines
While you are reading this, Romans are fighting the Mongol Horde over who gets to control Machu Picchu, a group of Norse warriors has just raided an English monastery, and someone is rebuilding the Notre Dame, block by block. This is not make-belief, but real experiences being had right now through the magic of playful time machines like Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Minecraft and other games that allow us to play with the past. This lecture will discuss some of the scientific and societal issues that arise because of the fascinating and multi-faceted presence of the past in contemporary video games. What makes these time machines tick? What pasts do they allow us to experience and in what ways? How can we leverage the potential of play with the past to positively impact the present? We will look at these questions through my research at Leiden University on historical games and the popular scientific outreach that is done at the VALUE Foundation. We will also put past-play into practice: the final part of the meeting will consist of a Let’s Play where we will jump into one of these playful time machines and jointly discuss and explore its past!
Angus Mol is an assistant professor at the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities. There he teaches and learns from a new generation of students. Together they explore the ever growing potential afforded by and challenges posed by computational approaches and digital media. In his research he focuses on the historical embedding of digital culture and the digital embedding of historical studies.