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The Past at Play!


Disclaimer: due to the coronavirus pandemic, this course description might be subject to changes.

Topics: This course tackles the following topics: Reflecting on the past through play; reflecting on the role of digital play today; the role of playful methodologies in research and teaching; how we deal with the past in the present.
Disciplines: This is done from a multi-disciplinary framework, including: Game Studies / Heritage Studies / Digital Humanities / History and Archaeology
Skills: Skills that students will learn are based on a mixed-methods approach: Game making and playful methodologies; Auto-ethnographic methods as academic writing; Ethnoarchaeology; Digital methods; Collaboration and teambuilding.

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.

Participating students will have to consent to be part of an active research project, which will process their personal data following the EU-GDPR and following Faculty of Humanities Data Management standards.


In this course, we will explore the question: "How did we play in the past and how do we play with the past today?" For this course we will not only think and read about games from the past and today, but we will also play them and make our own past-inspired games.
The course consists of weekly classes with: pre-recorded lectures by Aris Politopoulos (Archaeology), Angus Mol (Digital Humanities), and Sybille Lammes (Play Studies); weekly, online, class discussions on the theme of the week; weekly Let’s Plays on Twitch where we will be playing and discussing board and video games dealing with the past; an in-person workshop and visit to the Past-at-Play Lab (if possible, if you cannot be present for in-person events, we will provide you with an alternative activity).

During the course you will be asked to keep a "Play Diary" and the final assignment will be a project in which you, together with a group of your fellow students, will design your own game about the past.

This course offers a new and fun way to learn about games and the past. At the same time, you will also contribute to ongoing research and outreach activities of the Past-at-Play Lab project.

Course objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Have an overview of current theories and concepts in both the field of games and heritage studies

  • Be able to reflect on the role of play in research and teaching, as well as society more broadly

  • Be able to reflect on the role of the past in popular culture and society more broadly

  • Come equipped with a diverse toolkit to think about, act on, and create playful histories and heritages, incl. how to make interactive narratives with Twine and the basics of board game design.

  • Learn about or reinforce the value of creativity and reflection in collaborative processes.

Programme and timetable:
The classes will take place on Mondays from 15:00-17:00.
1. Week 1 - February 1: Thinking about Play
2. Week 2 - Pre-recorded lectures: Accessing the Past through Play
3. Week 3 - February 15: The Past is a Forking Path
4. Week 4 - February 22: The Past is (Post-)Colonial
5. Week 5 - March 1: The Past is Cross-sectional
6. Week 6 - March 8: The Past is a Playground
7. Week 7 - March 15: Replaying the Past


The classes will take place online via MS Teams and on and, if possible, the lab visits and gamemaking workshop will take place at the Humanities campus location of the Past-at-Play Lab.

Reading list:

*Examples of reading material for the course: *

  • Graham S., I. Milligan and S. Weingart 2016. Exploring Big Historical Data. The Historian’s Macroscope. London, Imperial College Press.

  • Lammes, S. and de Smale, S. 2018. Hybridity, Reflexivity and Mapping: A Collaborative Ethnography of Postcolonial Gameplay. Open Library of Humanities 4(1), 1-31.

  • Mol, A.A.A., E.A. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke, K.H.J. Boom and A. Politopoulos 2017. The
    Interactive Past. Archaeology, Heritage, and Video Games. Leiden, Sidestone Press.

  • Politopoulos, A., A.A.A. Mol, K.H.J. Boom and E.A. Ariese 2019. “History Is Our Playground”:
    Action and Authenticity in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. Advances in Archaeological Practice
    Volume 7, Special Issue 3, pp. 317-323.

Other literature will be announced via Brightspace.

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 ECTS, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Seminars: 7 seminars of 3 hours (participation is mandatory)

  • Excursions and event 8 hours

  • Literature reading: 5 hours/week

  • Practical work: 5 hours/week

  • Assignments & final essay: 40 hours

Assessment methods:

  • 10% Participation assessed continually through participation in the classes

  • 40% Assessment of the “Play Diary” entries (weekly deadlines)

  • 50% Assessment of the final project which includes the analysis or development of a game related to past (30% of the evaluation is done by the instructors and 20% of the evaluation is done through peer review; deadline 2 weeks after the conclusion of the course)

It is not required to successfully complete all partial exams in order to pass this course. Students are allowed to compensate a ‘fail’ (grades up to and including 5.0).

The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the class.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Students can register for the Brightspace module one week prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Registration process:

UPDATE 29-10
Registration will be possible from Monday 9 November 2020 up to and including Thursday 19 November 2020. 23:59 through the registration link on the student website of the Honours Academy.

Class coordinator: Aris Politopoulos
Instructors: Angus Mol; Sybille Lammes