Tag Archives: video games

Wanna learn about ABM? There’s an app for that

You can now procrastinate for hours learn about agent-based modelling by playing a computer game!

Yep, life research doesn’t get any better than this.

Our colleagues from the Supercomputer Centre in Barcelona and Simulpast have released a game! Evolving Planet has an archaeologically inspired plot, easy to grasp interface and cool graphics making it an absolutely outstanding procrastination tool (what do you mean ‘stop wasting time playing computer games’? I’m doing research here!).

You steer a group of bots trying to achieve tasks such as obtaining resource, arriving at a specific location or influencing another group within precise time brackets. You can give them certain qualities (ability to move faster, a boost to fertility, etc) but the internal workings of the bots are set in stone (well, code), which is a nice way of showing the methodology behind simulation. By manipulating the bots characteristics, what you are in fact doing is testing different behavioural scenarios: would a bigger but slower group be more successful in dispersal? Can you achieve the goal faster with a highly militaristic group or with a friendly ‘influencing’ group?

I breezed through the ‘dispersal’ part but struggled in several of the later missions indicating that the game is very well grounded in the most current research. However, archaeologists who do ABM (of dispersal…) on a daily basis are probably not the target audience since the whole point of the game seems to be helping non-modellers understand what the technique can and what it cannot do and what kind of questions can you approach with it (+ having some fun). So get your non-coding friends on board and hopefully, they won’t get an idea that all we do whole day long is gaming. And even if they do, they’ll join rather than cut our funding.

Evolving Planet can be downloaded from the apple and android app stores for free. For more information: http://evolvingplanetgame.com


Image source: Evolving Planet presskit . http://evolvingplanetgame.com

CFP: Interactive Pasts conference, Leiden April 4-5 2016

People play video games, archaeologists included. People are spending more and more time in the virtual worlds presented by video games, raising the question of how our digital past is to be studied or curated. And video games are often constructed within historical frames, whether characters are fighting dysentery on the Oregon Trail or fighting mutants in a post-apocalyptic Boston. Video games offer a window into historical process and narrative-building that more passive media cannot.

There is a growing contingent of archaeologists and historians who are using and exploring video games as both media for portraying the past (or pasts), as well as a valuable source of information on the digital lives of humans in the more recent past. Greater historical detail in games also suggests a role for archaeologists in the development of games.

Enter Interactive Pasts: a conference bringing together these disparate interests. From the website:

This ARCHON-GSA conference will explore the intersections of archaeology and video games. Its aim is to bring scholars and students from archaeology, history, heritage and museum studies together with game developers and designers. The program will allow for both in-depth treatment of the topic in the form of presentations, open discussion, as well as skill transference and the establishment of new ties between academia and the creative industry.

If you’re already going to be on the road for the CAA conference in Oslo, this conference conveniently begins right afterwards in Leiden. Abstracts are due on the 31st, and more information can be found here.