There is a game that I have been playing for a few months now called The Sims 3: World Adventures that, while there is no mention of archaeology in the description, still manages to perpetrate misconceptions about what archaeologists do.
In this game, the player can send their Simulated people to China, Egypt, or France. Egypt has pyramids, the great Sphinx and Abu Simbel. The Chinese town is located right next to The Great Wall, and has its fair share of famous tomb sites. France has mausoleums and a Celtic circle. While at these locations, players are prompted to complete quests given by the locals, the majority of which require that players explore the tomb of so-and-so to retrieve a Relic of a certain value. Along the way, the player is encouraged to pick up any artifacts or relics that they can find.
This game pays homage to Indiana Jones, and looks like a combination of Indy and the Lara Croft Tomb Raider series. A lot of the tombs require that you first locate a key before you can gain access. One feature that might amuse true archaeologists, is that you can Analyze a relic you found no matter your current location. Your Sim will stand there for a few seconds and ponder the item in question, after which they will have narrowed down its age to ‘Very Ancient’, ‘Ancient’, ‘Very Old’, ‘Old’, or ‘Contemporary’, and also how much more or less the relic is worth than their initial appraisal. And of course, the older something is, the more it is worth. There are also a variety of dig sites scattered throughout the world in which you can dig up items of varying worth, including trash. Broken artifacts are worth less than whole or complete artifacts. The trash has no value at all, other than to disgust your Sim and prompt them to say, “Who put that there??”
As we have all learned in class this week, an item’s ‘worth’ is derived from what an item can tell us about our past, not on how much money can be made by selling it. This makes trash just as important as artifacts. On pages 71-75 of chapter 4 of Wendy Ashmore’s Discovering Our Past, we learned that an important aspect of analyzing an artifact has to do with the context in which the artifact was found. There is much more to analyzing an object than just looking and contemplating; one has to consider the composition of the Matrix, the layers in Provenience, the Association with other objects in the Matrix, and the Context in which all this information is found.
While The Sims 3: World Adventure seems to promote and encourage looting and gives misinformation on the true process and worth of analyzing artifacts, it is nevertheless a fun game to play with. The Features and monuments are beautifully crafted and designed, and if you don’t take the looting and pseudo-archaeology in it too seriously, then it is a game worth checking out.