Since Carmen Sandiego scavenged her first priceless cultural artifact in 1985 – wherever she happened to be in the world – legacy has played an enticing role in video games. This early childhood computer game Where on earth is Carmen Sandiego?was a surprise hit that spawned an entire franchise of follow-ups, as well as a popular children’s TV show (and a A cappella hit song).
However, how cultural heritage is represented in games has evolved a lot since then. The deluxe version of Carmen San Diego contain pixelated photos National Geographic. The replica of ancient Greece built for Assassin’s Creed Odysseymeanwhile is so immersive that a non-combat discovery tour Version was released in 2019 and allows players to walk on an active and largely untouched Acropolis. And you don’t even have to murder a single person.
Now rare objects from one of China’s most remote cultural sites will appear in the mobile multiplayer game battle of kingsand take in the wonders of Dunhuang, a Silk Road city on the edge of the Gobi Desert known for its brilliantly painted murals of Buddhist cave temples, while you wait for your dinner delivery. In the game, players build an empire and wage war against opposing kingdoms. a new episode, Dunhuang Civilizationcontains a map of the ancient city for players to explore, as well as iconic elements of the murals, such as the flying mythical figures that are well known apsara.
“Players will experience something special and very authentic that is close to what is seen on the cave walls,” said Han Jing, co-founder and CEO of Artistory, the cultural IP company that brokered the licensing deal battle of kings and the Dunhuang Inspiration initiative, led by the local culture and tourism authority.
players in the caves
Since battle of kings Reportedly played by 300 million people worldwide, the project could also raise awareness of the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is well known in China but may be unknown to a Western public. “It’s fantastic to be able to bring Dunhuang to people outside of China so they can learn more about the site,” said Natasha Dyson, co-founder and director of licensing at Artistory. “And I hope that the stories, the images, and the designs will draw inspiration from cave art battle of kings to expand their audience.”
According to Han, “allowing players to experience real living history and culture can’t be matched like anything else, and we’re seeing other museums and cultural institutions looking for opportunities in the gaming world.”
Dyson adds that games are part of Artistory’s digital licensing plans for museums, along with digital collectibles, NFTs and augmented reality experiences. However, she admits that developing a new video game takes a long time. “There’s a lot of research, a lot of work, a lot of design from both sides before we start.”
This level of engagement might be what makes cultural authenticity in video games so appealing. Ubisoft, the maker of the Assassin’s Creed series, for example, employs a full-time historian, Maxime Durand, who works with a team of archaeologists, researchers and consulting specialists to bring historical depth to their games.
“Interestingly, players often want to learn more about this world because they feel part of this virtual world, and video game designers play with that need: they distribute virtual books for players to collect, which provide a brief overview of events from the real world Life or historical battles… They write in abbreviation scenes to visualize the historical context of an event, and some games even have extensive Wikipedia pages about the game world and its history,” writes scholar Tine Rassalle in an article on “Archaeogaming.” popular term for the transition between archeology and video games, in a recent issue of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology. “In other words, they fully immerse the player in historical information, but do so in a non-linear form that allows the player to choose what to spend time on.”
While there is an obvious appeal for gamers to discover history through heritage, what do museums, heritage sites or historians gain from collaborating with companies that provide these forms of entertainment? “We can use these games as entry points to talk to students and the general public about archeology and the issues with looting and the black market,” suggests Rassalle, or work with companies to dispel the myths about what archaeologists do and do how inheritance should be treated in the real world. The truth is, a whip and a fedora aren’t really of much use in the field.
Some researchers even use gaming technology to aid their studies of antiquity. For example, David Hixson, an anthropologist at Hood College in Maryland, turned to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine software framework to create a three-dimensional reconstruction of the ancient Mayan city of Chunchucmil. For Hixson, one of the main benefits of working with the Unreal platform was online connectivity, “which means that two (or even 32) people who are miles apart could load up the map of Chunchucmil at the same time and meet there to see each other.” taking them in is a tour together,” he wrote in a memoir about the project. “That makes it an ideal platform for interactive learning.”