Video Game Archaeology

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Sourdough starters. Knitting. Jigsaw puzzles.  These are a few hobbies that people have taken up during the pandemic. 

My friend Bill – assistant professor of anthropology at Southern Connecticut State University – has taken up something completely different and unusual. He has been creating videos that use his archaeological training to explore the vast worlds of……….video games.

Yup. My friend Bill is the ultimate geek. Dork? Nerd? Well, whatever the terminology, he is letting his “flag fly” for all on the internet to see.

At first, I was a little dismissive of his work since I am not a video game person. My exposure to video games of any type was in the 90s when my older brother and his friends would play in our living room – on the one TV in the house – and I would lay on the couch mindlessly watching simply because I was too bored to do anything else. Besides, how on earth do video games have anything to do with archaeology?!?! 

But, I was slightly intrigued and figured “why not” and sat down to watch one of the episodes to kill some time. Faced with a jumble of names that I had never heard before, I clicked on the one name with which I was slightly familiar: Zelda.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly was not to be hit with a wave of nostalgia watching Bill’s breakdown of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when his commentary referenced the Zelda games that I watched my brother play while I passively hung out with him. Nor was I expecting the archaeologist in me to be sucked into his breakdown of the sense of place and world building of the game using archaeological concepts and theory. And I certainly was not expecting NAGPRA or the story of the famous Kennewick Man to pop up.

And, to all the Star Wars fans out there – you should tune into his exploration of The Book of Boba Fett and its use of colonialist themes and tropes.  My mind began thinking of all the ways that I might use Bill’s work on this as a lesson for my students as I watched the 15-minute video. I highly recommend it.

For my own personal enjoyment, I’m hoping that a future video will explore the domestication of chocobos from Final Fantasy. No idea what a chocobo is or does, besides maybe letting a character ride it, but I always did think they were cute.

If you are interested in learning more, please join the Gene Winter Chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society on Tuesday March 15 at 7 p.m. when Dr. Bill Farley will discuss video game archaeology. To register for the zoom link email

2 Replies to “Video Game Archaeology”

  1. I would also get behind a historical take on the domestication of chocobos. They are like a cross between chickens and ostriches and have versatility in terms of swimming, flight to get across maps, and racing, depending on breed. Perhaps their domestication would be a mix of what happened with horses and jungle fowl.


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