After looking at the various crowdfunded books about video game consoles, and failed campaigns, it’s time to step away and look at gaming as a whole. One of the more interesting books – and campaigns – is The Interactive Past by VALUE. VALUE is a video game research group with the goal of raising “academic and societal awareness.” Created by a group of college students, they call what they do “video game archaeology.”
The Interactive Past is a book about exploring not the how’s of video games, but they why’s. The Kickstarter page poses some questions this book hopes to explore.
“Do you know how video game modders go about creating historical settings? Have you ever wondered why chickens are portrayed as hilarious objects of violence in video games? Can you create agent based models that simulate Roman violence? Do you think it is possible to preserve and archive video games? Or, can cultures and traditions be shared and celebrated through games?”
This isn’t your typical video game book showcasing the history of a console or a video game. It doesn’t even explore how video games are made. The Interactive Past instead focuses on culture, history, and archaeology. That last one isn’t a term you typically hear in conjunction with video games, so to see it occupying a large chunk of the book is interesting.
There are 12 chapters, each written by different authors. The chapters are mostly adaptations of The Interactive Past Conference, a conference held at Leiden University in April 2016 dedicated to what VALUE calls “archaeogaming.” Some of the topics include “leveraging game mechanics to help teach archaeological methods,” “how we can investigate video games as archaeological sites,” and a chapter on the lessons learned during the Crafting the Past project, which was about archeology in Minecraft.
Okay, so it’s not exactly a book the average “hardcore gamer” might take interest in. But maybe it should be. As well as the enormous historical value in this book, there are also sections written by game developers, including Gloria O’Neil from Never Alone, and Roy van der Schilden & Bart Heijltjes behind Herald.
The value behind this book is immeasurable. As a teaching tool, it’s invaluable, but it’s also worth a look if you love gaming. The writers of these stories are delving into depths seldom seem in video games.
The book just came out on May 17 to storefronts, and backers received an e-book form in April. You can grab a copy from Amazon for the low, low price of $135 right now! You can get it slightly cheaper from the publisher, Sidestone Press, for about $106, or go with the more sensible $40 paperback version. If there’s anything to complain about with this book, it’s that college textbook level pricing. In a way, this pretty much is a college textbook, or at least what you’d expect to find in one. Textbooks are overpriced though, and I don’t think VALUE or Sidestone Press is doing themselves any favors with this pricing.
If you’re looking to stay on a budget, stick with the e-book version.