Journal article Open Access

Toward Archaeological Tools and Methods for Excavating Virtual Spaces

Reinhard, Andrew

The prospect of “digging” as an archaeologist within a virtual world is a paradox: how do we excavate something that’s not really there? In considering the material culture of the immaterial, we must completely divorce ourselves from thinking of archaeogaming as another kind of “dirt” archaeology. We need a new set of tools to use that are the equivalent of the pick, spade, trowel, and brush, but for a space populated by pixels and sprites. Classic, real-world requirements as elementary as measuring become complex within the gaming space. Taking levels, recording GPS points, and even photography operate differently in this new dimension. As archaeologists operating in the virtual world, we not only need to define the questions that need answering but we also need to create a methodology for “excavation” that can be shared across platforms and games of all varieties. This article attempts to articulate the first unified methodology for actual archaeological survey/excavation conducted within video games, defining the tools needed and a new kind of mathematics to understand and explain virtual topography and topology.

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