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“Laura's Adventure Into Archaeology”

Some of my first memories of video games are watching my father play Age of Empires. Over the years particular games have deepened my understanding and interest in ancient cultures. They contributed not only to my love of Archaeology but my decision to study Forensic Science at college and Archaeology and Anthropology from University of Manchester.

This love of Archaeology stems from a wide variety of games. From first steps in Tomb Raider treasure hunting to the latest historical recreation of Assassin's Creed, something about finding ancient objects and piecing together history excited me.

I'm glad I had these experiences, not only because of the enjoyment they brought but how they introduced me to new things and influenced my decisions. Three years after choosing to student Archaeology and Anthropology I graduated and worked in the field. Games weren't the only reason for my choice, but they were a big part of my fascination and inquisitiveness of this topic.
 

Outcome
Completing an Archaeology and Anthropology degree from University of Manchester.


This outcome arises from the following 5 milestones over the span of 15 years, from 7 - 22 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Laura Hefler
Stage of Life: 7 - 22 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Role-Play, Shooting, Simulation, Stealth and Strategy
Platforms: GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
 

 

Digging Into History

Age: 7-years-old / 01/01/2002 / 20 years ago

Play Styles: Child Watching Game (Onlooker Play)

Platform: PC

One of my earliest gaming memories is watching my dad play Age of Empires and Age of Mythology. I wasn't able to play myself as I was quite young, but I loves to watch him play and was intrigued by the ancient cultures on the screen.

I have a vivid memory of asking him questions about the different settings and groups of people we were playing as and fighting in the game. It brought the ancient world to life (albeit for entertainment and with a focus on warfare).

Seeing the Middle Ages depicted in this way got me wanting to know more. I wanted to find out if the history that was unfolding in the game was actually what happened in real life, like men getting into Troy in a wooden horse. I scoured my school library for books on the era and devoured the Horrible Histories series.

Laura started to build an interest in history, rather than feeling that it was something distant, it was something interesting that she felt excited about.

Activities: Laura found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Age of Empires IV:

The Horrible Histories books are a good way to engage youngsters in history.
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First Steps In Tombs

Age: 8-years-old / 01/01/2003 / 19 years ago

Play Styles: Child and Parent Play Together (Cooperative Play) and Child Plays Independently (Independent Play)

Platform: PlayStation 2

As a young child I enjoyed exploring the world of Tomb Raider although I didn't even know what archaeology was. At times I would get help from my dad, but mostly I was keen to play these games on my own even if that meant I didn't progress very quickly.

As a young girl, there was something thrilling about being Lara Croft, the intelligent adventurous female protagonist. She captured my imagination and made me want to do the things that she did.

In particular, the puzzle aspect of the game where you have to put together the different pieces of histories to unlock doors or trigger traps stood out. The combination of real history with fantastical magic and riches captured my imagination.

I remember making up games with my sister when we toured ancient sites on holiday, imagining the clues and mysteries that we could solve or which architecture we could climb if we were Lara Croft.

Laura started building an understanding of what archaeology entailed (and how real archaeology was quite different to the rush-in and destroy approach of Tomb Raider games).

Activities: Laura found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Tomb Raider:

After visiting many ancient sites in the game, I had the chance to visit the Aztec pyramids when I was about 15. This cemented my love of the ancient world.
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Horrible Histories
FILMS AND SERIES

The Horrible Histories films and series are a great way for kids to extend gaming in historic places to understanding the wider picture.
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Decoding Fantastical Discoveries

Age: 13-years-old / 01/01/2008 / 14 years ago

Play Styles: Child Plays Independently (Independent Play)

Platform: GameCube

I was always a fan of the Metroid games in general. Digging around, fighting aliens was a lot of fun - and Samus was another female protagonist I found inspiring. But it was the Metroid Prime series that really caught my imagination.

Not only did they take the space exploration into 3D but investigation and discovery of the different planets and alien's history was possible. These weren't empty chambers you battled through, but the ruins of an imaginary ancient civilisation.

I spent hours (much longer than I needed) scanning every artefacts I found to piece together the lore and history of the game. This combination of action and archeology was perfect for me. I loved the web of side-quests that slowly built the codex encyclopaedia of information.

It was hard work, but while friends raced through to complete the game, I took my time with my methodical and meticulous approach to (eventually) find everything.

Laura increasingly liked the idea of being someone who knew about archaeology and valued the detailed work of piecing things together.

Narrative Archaeology

Age: 21-years-old / 01/01/2016 / 6 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 4

As I continued with my studies, now at university, I enjoyed the whole series of Uncharted games (although they couldn’t really hold a candle to Lara Croft). It was while I studied different motivations for archaeology and something about Uncharted's strong focus on story clicked for me and informed my direction of study in the field.

This not only meant following the characters on the ups and downs of their adventures, but placing the culture, treasure and artefacts they found in a narrative. You stand in the shoes of a treasure hunter but then get to make sense of the things they find.

This idea of piecing together the stories told by ancient objects, and the value of also filling the gaps creatively made a lot of sense to me. The Uncharted games were all about the "what if" questions of archaeological finds. Of course, in the game the "what if?" was about fortune and supernatural powers, but the premise was the same. Objects were important not just for their age or atomistic implications, but also for how they enable us to construct important and fascinating tales of where we came from.

This was underlined when I had a chance to take part in the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project, a long running investigation of the archaeology and history of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Western Scotland. This was somewhere I had visited in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Finding objects as part of this trip reminded me of the game and the questions that the game would raise about items values or curses.

The experience of playing the treasure hunting in the game along with the real world archeology combined to create an experience that focused Laura on the value of narrative.

Activities: Laura found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Uncharted 4: A Thief's End:

As part of a course, Laura joined the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project, a long running investigation of the archaeology and history of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Western Scotland.
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Virtual Inspiration For Real History

Age: 22-years-old / 01/01/2017 / 5 years ago

Platform: Xbox One

Both while I was studying and afterward, I've enjoyed playing the Assassin's Creed series. It has developed a more serious and more accurate approach to history and archeology over each release. The games are, of course fictionalised but the most recent releases also work hard to also be factual.

Playing the earlier games as I worked through my degree was fascinating. The subjects and areas I was studying were being well represented in the adventure I was playing. It was also fun to recognise what was (and what wasn’t) accurate enriched the experience of playing the game.

Then, after I graduated from my degree, playing these games would remind me of a part of my course or Archaeological sites I'd visited. I enjoyed visiting ancient Egypt as part of Assassin's Creed Origins and it was cool to see African archaeology and history represented accurately. Then playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, I would look up pictures from a trip I took to Greece with my brother. It was at the Knossos archaeological site where it was first believed the Minotaur's labyrinth was based in.

Through her degree, work on sites and time in video games Laura gained a wide range of archeological skills she could now apply to a variety of subjects.

Activities: Laura found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey:

After Laura graduated, she visited the Knossos archaeological site in Greece with her brother. Which reminded her of playing the game.
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Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Laura completing an Archaeology and Anthropology degree from University of Manchester. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Laura also changed in the following ways:

  • Disposition: Laura started to build an interest in history, rather than feeling that it was something distant, it was something interesting that she felt excited about.
  • Experience: The experience of playing the treasure hunting in the game along with the real world archeology combined to create an experience that focused Laura on the value of narrative.
  • Identity: Laura increasingly liked the idea of being someone who knew about archaeology and valued the detailed work of piecing things together.
  • Knowledge: Laura started building an understanding of what archaeology entailed (and how real archaeology was quite different to the rush-in and destroy approach of Tomb Raider games).
  • Skill: Through her degree, work on sites and time in video games Laura gained a wide range of archeological skills she could now apply to a variety of subjects.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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