Last fall, Paizomen published several academic blog posts as part of its new blog post initiative, which aims to contribute to the rising trend of research into the intersection of classical antiquity and video games, as well as to make insights from this growing body of research accessible and available to a wide audience. I’m pleased to announce that this year we will be doing a second run of blog posts! Like last year, submissions are open to anyone who is interested, whether they are scholars, students, or game designers.
Different from last year’s series, however, both (!) of this year’s blog series will have a particular theme, each with an individual purpose in order to provide a specific addition to the growing field of research. In short, series #1 will make a first attempt at a multi-scholarly discussion of a single antiquity game, while series #2 aims to push the field in new directions by explicitly drawing attention to games that have received little to none so far.
Series #1: Entering The Forgotten City
While book-length discussions of a single media text (either a monograph or an edited volume with contributions by multiple authors) have been popular in other branches of classical reception studies, such as film reception (e.g. Winkler 2006; 2015) and television reception (e.g. Cyrino & Augoustakis 2022), the study of classical reception in video games has not seen the same form of attention devoted to a single game text. Book-length analyses of a single game certainly exist in game studies – such as Corneliussen & Rettberg (2008) on World of Warcraft (2004-, Blizzard Entertainment), Keogh (2012) on Spec Ops: The Line (2012, Yager Development) or Aguirre Quiroga (2022) on Battlefield 1 (2016, DICE) – and we therefore believe it is time for the video game branch of classical reception studies to evolve in the same vein.
In collaboration with Dr. Maciej Paprocki (@maciejwpaprocki) – who authored one of last year’s blog posts – Paizomen hopes to lay the foundations for a multi-authored (and multi-perspectival) game discussion like this, by focusing this first series of blog posts on one specific game that has received critical acclaim and already some initial scholarly attention (Serrano 2021; Vandewalle 2021; Vandewalle, Jones & Cameron 2021): The Forgotten City (2021, Modern Storyteller). The Forgotten City is a Skyrim-inspired first-person mystery game that brings a modern player-protagonist to a Roman city through a time portal. Once arrived, the player is drawn into a sinister mystery that, after a certain time, takes on mythological proportions. The game is especially noteworthy for its emphasis on moral reflection rather than violence.
We especially invite contributions that explore the multicultural aspect of the game by, for example, discussing the interaction between the Roman storyworld and the Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian elements in the game. Other topics may include:
- the game’s art and architecture;
- its mythological themes (the mythic foundations of the Golden Rule; Hades and Persephone; katabasis; Underworld myths; etc.);
- time travel and modern perspectives on the ancient world;
- the absence of violence in a Roman antiquity game;
- its Ancient Aliens-like reception of the gods;
- its production and reception.
Submissions or ideas for this series may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Blog posts can range from 1,000 to 2,500 words and are preferably written in English. While we don’t want to impose a very rigid deadline, we would invite contributors to submit their idea or blog post before June 30th.
Series #2: The Hidden Gems of Ludic Antiquity
Within antiquity game studies, much attention has already been devoted to large ‘triple-A’ titles such as the Assassin’s Creed (2007-) or Civilization (1991-) series (cf. McCall 2022) while other, lesser known games have often been left unexplored. Exceptions of course exist; Ross Clare’s recent monograph (2021), for example, provided in-depth analyses of very ‘niche’ games such as Melos (2015, Skarn) and Helena’s Flowers (2015, Heiden). Based on its table of contents, we may expect the forthcoming volume by Jane Draycott & Kate Cook (2022) to go even further in this direction. Work by Dunstan Lowe (2009, 2012, 2021) and Christian Rollinger (2020) must similarly be credited with drawing attention to a large amount of games regardless of their popularity: Lowe’s most recent book chapter (2021) has for instance offered the first in-depth look into classical antiquity (or classically inspired) fighting games, thereby offering the spotlight to a genre previously unstudied by classical scholars. Yet, much more work still remains to be done, and it is our hope that Paizomen may help in this regard.
This second blog series will, therefore, revolve specifically around what may be considered ‘hidden gems of ludic antiquity’, that is, those (non-triple-A) games which have received little or no academic attention but beg for scholarly discussion. We encourage authors to really dig deep and write on games that others have not talked (extensively) about yet. Authors are invited to submit a blog post proposal discussing any aspects related to these games, but could for example be interested to focus on:
- any textual aspects of the selected game(s), such as the simulation of history, the representation of socio-demographic groups, mechanics, narrative, dynamics, game characters, etc.;
- references to ancient literature in games;
- ‘indie’ ways of approaching the ancient world (versus triple-A);
- educational applications of antiquity games;
- scholarly involvement in the production of antiquity games;
- fan communities;
- explorations of the ancient world in virtual reality.
We also invite authors to reflect on why their chosen game(s) has not received elaborate attention so far. For example, is it part of a (sub)culture of gaming that generally does not receive attention? Additionally, while the website is currently set up as a database of Greek and Roman antiquity games, authors may also submit blog posts on games that focus on other cultures.
Submissions or ideas for this series may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog posts can range from 1,000 to 2,500 words and are preferably written in English. While we don’t want to impose a very rigid deadline, we would invite contributors to submit their idea or blog post before June 30th.
It is our humble hope that the field of antiquity game studies may develop further through these discussions. However, we also do not want to exclude any other potential authors who would like to write on a different topic than the two proposed above. Therefore, there could be a possibility to write and publish a blog post on a different topic in a potential third series (a more ‘miscellaneous’ collection, perhaps) if authors would like to do so. If this is the case, please let me know at the above email address and we will discuss this option further.
(And yes, work has started on the next update to the database!)
Aguirre Quiroga, S. (2022). White Mythic Space: Racism, the First World War, and Battlefield 1. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.
Clare, R. (2021). Ancient Greece and Rome in Videogames. Representation, Play, Transmedia. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Corneliussen, H.; Rettberg, J. W. (eds.). (2008). Digital culture, play and identity: A World of Warcraft reader. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Cyrino, M. S.; Augoustakis, A. (eds.). (2022). Screening Love and War in Troy: Fall of a City. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Draycott, J.; Cook, K. (eds.). (2022, forthc.). Women in Classical Video Games. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Keogh, B. (2012). Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line. Marden: Stolen Projects.
Lowe, D. (2009). ‘Playing with Antiquity: Videogame Receptions of the Classical World’ in D. Lowe & K. Shahabudin (eds.), Classics for All: Reworking Antiquity in Mass Culture. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 64-90.
Lowe, D. (2012). ‘Always Already Ancient: Ruins in the Virtual World’ in T. S. Thorsen (ed.), Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age. Trondheim: Academia Publishing, 53-90.
Lowe, D. (2021). ‘‘Transcending History and the World’: Ancient Greece and Rome in Versus Fighting Video Games’ in C. S. Ariese, K. H. J. Boom, B. van den Hout, A. A. A. Mol & A. Politopoulos (eds.), Return to the Interactive Past. The Interplay of Video Games and Histories. Leiden: Sidestone Press, 89-101.
McCall, J. (2022). ‘History Games’ in P. Grabarczyk (ed.), Encyclopedia of Ludic Terms (Spring 2022 Edition).
Rollinger, C. (2020). ‘An Archaeology of Ancient Historical Video Games’ in C. Rollinger (ed.), Classical Antiquity in Video Games. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 19-43.
Serrano, D. (2021). ‘“What is a Roman like you doing in a place like this?” The Forgotten City: Antiquity in video games’. Presentation at the Antiquity in Media Studies (AIMS) Conference. Online, Dec 15-18.
Vandewalle, A. (2021). ‘‘Salve Again, My Sisyphean Friend’: Mythology and The Forgotten City’. Antiquipop.
Vandewalle, A.; Jones, K.; Cameron, H. (2021). ‘The Test of Time: Streaming and Discussing The Forgotten City’. Presentation at the Antiquity in Media Studies (AIMS) Conference. Online, Dec 15-18.
Winkler, M. M. (ed.). (2006). Troy: From Homer’s Iliad to Hollywood Epic. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
Winkler, M. M. (ed.). (2015). Return to Troy. New Essays on the Hollywood Epic. Leiden: Brill.