Ancient Greece and Rome in Videogames: Representation, Player Processes, and Transmedial Connections

Clare, RA
(2018) Ancient Greece and Rome in Videogames: Representation, Player Processes, and Transmedial Connections. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Videogames are a hugely popular entertainment medium that plays host to hundreds of different ancient world representations. They provide very distinctive versions of recreated historical and mythological spaces, places, and peoples. The processes that go into their development, and the interactive procedures that accompany these games, must therefore be equally unique. This provides an impetus to both study the new ways in which ancient worlds are being reconfigured for gameplayers who actively work upon and alter them, and to revisit our conception of popular antiquity, a continuum within popular culture wherein ancient worlds are repeatedly received and changed in a variety of media contexts. This project begins by locating antiquity within a transmedial framework, permitting us to witness the free movement of representational strategies, themes, subtexts and ideas across media and into ancient world videogames. An original approach to the gameplay process, informed by cognitive and memory theory, characterises interaction with virtual antiquity as a procedure in which the receiver draws on preconceived notions and ideas of the ancient past to facilitate play. This notion of “ancient gameplay” as a reception process fed by general knowledges, previous pop-cultural engagements, and dim resonances of antiquity garnered from broad, informal past encounters allows for a wide, all-encompassing study of “ancient games”, the variety of sources they (and the player) draw upon, and the many experiences these games offer. The first chapter demonstrates the interrelationships between cinematic and televisual representations of antiquity and their action-based videogame counterparts, illustrating the ways in which branches of the onscreen tradition are borrowed and evolved in their new interactive forms. The next collective of ancient games locates “general” ancient materials in role-playing videogames, where familiar signifying materials are deployed to confront players with colonial spaces. The next chapter investigates the other side of ancient gameplay in foreign lands by investigating at how strategy games can become entrenched within a standardised visual vocabulary to provide one-sided, even troubling, impressions of classical empires represented in these gameworlds. The final chapter concretizes the transmedial, broadly cultural approach to ancient games and their play processes by presenting first-person videogames as multi-layered, multifaceted texts in which disparate, but specific, nodes of interpretative traditions surrounding ancient materials are drawn upon to immerse players in stylised, narrative-rich and thematically deep experiences. This study therefore has three primary motivations: to see how antiquity is represented and made functional in the interactive medium; to see how this affects player reception of these ancient games; and to build an interconnected “big picture” of antiquity in videogames within a wider media environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Video games, Antiquity, Classics, Classical reception
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2019 10:23
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2022 07:12
DOI: 10.17638/03029710