Computer Games Used for Cultural Communication

The computer game industry is constantly becoming more similar to the movie industry and the virtual reality in computer games constantly becomes more realistic. Many computer games base their stories on real people and events. Numerous games have been created from the battles of WWII. And in games where the storyline is made up, the story is often set in a real environment. A good example of that are the Assassin’s Creed games, where both Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece have been recreated, based on reliable sources and documentation through collaboration between the game producers and museums.

Historians and archaeologists have been involved in creating the game environment to ensure the credibility of the virtual reality. For most people who play the game, which like many others revolves around solving puzzles and staying alive until the end, this credibility may not matter hugely. But it does lead to the player unconsciously learning a thing or two about the history of these old empires. And those who are not interested in playing the game can visit the virtual reality as peaceful time travellers and learn about buildings and ancient culture. This is a promising novelty, who wouldn’t want to take a virtual trip of Rome or Athens during the classical period which we study in history? Not even the largest museums in the world can afford to create such a virtual reality but the money in the gaming industry is astronomical. It’s just as well to create something other than killing games. 

We who run small museums and centres can only dream of virtual realities like this. Or can we do more than dream?

In recent years, there has been rapid development of open access to both game engines and graphics for game engines. Two of the most popular ones are Unreal and Unity. With the help of these engines, it is possible to create 3-D virtual reality which you can immerse yourself in with the aid of virtual reality equipment like Oculus, HTC Vive etc. Of course a certain technical knowledge is required if you want to build a virtual reality but those who have that knowledge are constantly growing in number. It is possible to collaborate with universities and private companies and apply for innovation grants. International collaboration also opens pathways to international funds. Thus, you can make your dreams come true and transfer the cultural heritage from traditional 2-D posters to 3-D virtual reality. This on its own is a gamification of sorts which creates a new experience and communicates the same material in a novel and interesting way. 

Gamification with Minecraft

Matters don’t even need to be this complicated. Today we can recreate the past in so many different ways. Minecraft is one of the most popular computer games in the world. It was first released in 2011 and since then it has been in constant development and spreading like wildfire. This computer game is not based on fantastic graphics; instead it is more reminiscent of sandcastles and LEGO bricks. 

Soon after the game became so popular, people started using it in teaching. This was digital clay which teachers and students could use to construct buildings, create landscape or even people in a colourful, stocky fashion. 

In 2014, the Tate museum in London used Minecraft to build a virtual reality of the museum and the artwork on display. Many museums have followed suit, as Minecraft is perfect to communicate and offer a new perspective of the past. Most people between 5-25 years of age today know Minecraft and can easily step into this world of blocks. 

Here are a few examples of how you can communicate cultural heritage through Minecraft: 

  • Building ancient buildings from paintings, photos, sketches or information from archaeological research. 
  • Creating a 3-D replica from a 2-D photograph, drawing or a painting. 
  • Recreating a past landscape which has disappeared because of natural disasters or construction. 

For a museum, collaboration with nearby schools on a Minecraft project is a perfect way to bring about museum and neighbourhood education. Through collaboration like this, he children discover documentation about the past in the museum and how to use them to recreate a lost world. This leads to dialogue and then the Minecraft world can be brought to life and install stories and short games. Minecraft also enables you to hide items and clues which you’ll need to find to solve puzzles. 

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