Zelda the Archaeologist
For many, when thinking of an archaeologist they immediately go to a whip wielding nazi puncher, running off with an ancient treasure they found in an old, cursed temple. Or perhaps a gun toting overly sexualised woman in short shorts who likes to shoot dinosaurs in the face. Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, I’m sorry to say, do not represent actual archaeologists. Though many will guiltily admit that Jones was their role model and inspiration to become an archaeologist. That right there is a good reason why popular culture is important to archaeology.
I am myself, working to become an archaeologist. But no, I was not inspired by Indiana, unfortunately. No, I want to uncover the past and bring it to the present. I want an unusual job that doesn’t require getting up and moaning that I have to go in and it isn’t a typical 9-5.
That means ever since I started on this course, I became of the mindset that representation of archaeology is important. I also started to notice it when playing one of my all time favourite games, The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild. One of the first things you need to learn as an archaeologist is that the landscape can tell the story. Once you can train your eyes on these things, a story will begin to unfold. This is one of the jobs of an archaeologist, it is about storytelling. It can be a story that has waited millennia to be unearthed, and it is up to the archaeologist to be the interpreter. Using nothing but their tools in hand and special knowledge.
That is one of the things Breath of the Wild has done so well. It tells the player a story that is not told in words, and the player can choose to interpret the story, using nothing but the landscape to work out what happened. Any long time fan of the game will have even more knowledge, and like an archaeologist, can use this to work out the story.
The game is set 100 years after a Calamity. Civilisation has been pushed back, and monsters run rampant in the lands. There are plenty of ruins dotting the map. You know they were once thriving places before the Calamity and it is almost sad how desolate they are now. Link, the one you play as, can explore these places.
Were the developers intentionally designing a game that made you an archaeologist? Most likely not but of course, such things fall into place when you create and develop a game that is set in a rather post apocalyptic setting. One of the things I would like to do is open up the game one day and explore it with the eyes of an archaeologist, and peer back into the history of Hyrule. Though of course there will be no digging, that is impossible, there is more to an archaeological site than digging. Perhaps by working it out in this way, we can discover more clues that the developers left. Any fan of the series knows that when it comes to the Legend of Zelda, they love to drop in small mysteries that are left open for the player to discover.
Bear in mind this is set in a fantasy world. Rotana, the in game archaeologist will gush over her words while telling you about her excavations and the Divine Beasts. Sadly, such excavations in the real world will not involve actual moving behemoths created by an ancient people and capable of taking down god-like entities.
Archaeogaming is definitely a real thing. There have been books written about the subject and anyone who loves video gaming and archaeology will be pleased.