'We're kind of making it up as we go along' — What it's like to be a video game archaeologist

Digging in the pixelated dirt.
Screenshot from the Archaeogaming website (

Archaeologist Andrew Reinhard has dug in Greece, Italy, and the United States. But for the past few years, he's become fascinated by archaeogaming -- the study of archaeology within video games:

Archaeogaming is the application of archaeological methods to conducting archaeology in virtual space. This is where we do our in-game fieldwalking, our artifact-collecting, our typologies, our understanding of context, even aerial/satellite photography. Instead of studying the material culture (and non-tangible heritage) of cultures and civilizations that exist in "meatspace", we instead study those in the immaterial world.

For example, Archaeosoup Productions explored an archaeological dig within the game Skyrim:

Andrew has also been involved in physical video game archaeology. He was part of a team that unearthed hundreds of Atari game cartridges buried in a New Mexico landfill.

An E.T. doll is seen while construction workers prepare to dig into a landfill in Alamogordo, N.M. Producers of a documentary are digging in the landfill in search of millions of cartridges of the Atari E.T. the Extraterrestrial game that has been called the worst game in the history of videogaming. (Juan Carlos Llorca/Associated Press)

A 2014 documentary called "Atari: Game Over" centred around the burial and discovery of the games.