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Some critics may have you believe that computer game studies lack theoretical rigor, that games cannot afford meaningful experiences. I agree with them, sometimes, but I also believe that a richer understanding of computer games is possible, and that this understanding can shed some light on related issues in the wider field of Digital Humanities.
My main area of research has been designing and evaluating how contextually appropriate interaction can aid the understanding of cultures distant in time, space, and in understanding to our own. This field is sometimes called Virtual Heritage. In Virtual Heritage, tools of choice are typically virtual reality environments, and the projects are very large in scale, complexity, and cost, while my projects are often prototypes and experimental designs. I have many challenges, for example, morphing technological constraints into cultural affordances, and avoiding possible confusion between artistic artifice and historical accuracy, all the while evaluating intangible concepts in a systematic way without disturbing the participants’ sense of immersion. To help me judge the success or failure of these projects I have shaped some working definitions of games, culture, cultural understanding, cultural inhabitation, and place. However, these concepts and definitions are not enough. I also have to now tackle the issues of simulated violence, artificial “other” people, the temptation of entertainment masquerading as education, and the difficulties inherent in virtually evoking a sense of ritual.
My lecture, then, is a discussion into how game-based learning, and the study of culture, heritage and history, might meaningfully intersect.