June 24, 2022

New project just launched, by lecturers and alumni from the Institute of Digital Games and the Department of English

  • Tagged:
  • Funded Project

The project “Playing Maltese History” involves the design of a location-based AR mobile game that can facilitate and augment historical research for recreational and educational purposes. Through the game, the player will be able to explore, uncover, and playfully engage with Maltese history, heritage, and culture. The game will invite the player to assume the role of a modern-day historian/detective, who searches the national archive for lesser-known microhistories. The player will then be prompted to topologically trace these stories throughout the land of Malta by visiting historical locations, points, and/or buildings that are associated with each story. In these locations, the player will interact with their environment via an AR application that would allow them to playfully engage with the location and uncover clues and information to help them progress with the story in a treasure hunt sort of experience. This experience will also be augmented by mini games that the player can unlock throughout their gameplay, and which will thematically enhance the engagement of the player with the story.

The stories of the game will be based on actual archival findings with additional fictional elements. By playing the game, the player will be able to learn about and conduct historical and archival research while they explore and interact with Maltese history, heritage, and culture in a novel and innovative way. The location-based game design will invite the player to explore the island and make connections and associations between places and events. The AR mechanics of the game will allow the player to interact with historical and cultural artefacts and experience the intangible cultural heritage of Malta in a unique manner. Finally, the mini-games will add a flair of playfulness and replayability to the experience while enabling the player to further reflect and make use of the historical information gained throughout the game.

The game will be a useful tool for history aficionados, as well as for tourists who are interested in learning more about Maltese history in a structured but simultaneously playful and leisurely way, since they can uncover each story at their own pace. Finally, teachers will be able to use the application with their students for a more fun and interactive way to teach them the hands-on practice of history, which is not usually conveyed in textbooks. For all these reasons, the game promises to be an exciting opportunity for collaboration with other Maltese stakeholders in the heritage, education, and tourist industry.

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta. The project will receive 8.000 EUR. Additional costs will be covered by contributions in kind. The project will run from June 2022 to April 2023. The game is planned to go live in March 2023. The fund covers the final build and also dissemination activities. These will include a public event for local audiences and the publication/conference presentation of a research article. The latter will chronicle our research methods, provide insights with regard to the synergies between historical research and game design, and contribute to the field of historical games research as a whole.

Our team consists of academics and practitioners with a keen interest in games, both professionally and leisurely. We are all in one way or another affiliated with the University of Malta, specifically the Institute of Digital Games and the Department of English. We all share to varying degrees a passion for history and games. We come together as friends and colleagues to create a game that encapsulates our expertise and love on these topics.

Renata Ntelia

Renata is a PhD graduate of the Institute of Digital Games. She first had this idea to design a game and have the audacity to ask money for it almost three years ago. She gradually found like-minded people and this is how Playing Maltese History was collaboratively born. She has a strong academic interest in the representation of historical trauma in games. She is a Lecturer of Games within the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln. Quote: “To receive funding for Playing Maltese History is a dream come true. We are now able to realise our game and create opportunities for further development.”

Daniel Vella

Daniel is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta. His research focuses on the phenomenology of player experience, aesthetic theory and digital games, subjectivity and identity in virtual worlds, and space, existential philosophy and the virtual, and place and architecture in games. He is the co-author of Virtual Existentialism: Meaning and Subjectivity in Virtual Worlds (Palgrave 2020), and his work has been published in a number of international journals, including Game Studies, Countertext, the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research and Technè: Research in the Philosophy of Technology. He is also active as a narrative designer for board games, and has worked on Posthuman Saga (Mighty Boards 2019) and its expansions, and Fateforge: Chronicles of Kaan (forthcoming 2023).

Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone

Krista is a visiting senior lecturer in early modern drama with the Department of English, and a casual lecturer with MAKS and the IDG. She has taught historical game studies at the Jagiellonian University and San Francisco State University. She has just co-edited the volume Video Games and Comedy (Palgrave Macmillan). Quote: “I welcome the opportunity to explore ways of opening up Maltese history to greater public participation.”

Yannis Brellas

Yannis is a M.Sc. graduate of the Institute of Digital Games. He has always been passionate about games and A.I., which is why he chose to pursue game studies and game development. Yannis is currently working as a junior programmer at Exient, a gaming company famous for the successful mobile games 'Lemmings: The puzzle game'. Quote: "I didn't have the chance to learn history in a fun and creative way, but that doesn't mean others shouldn't too. This is a very exciting opportunity to promote both games as an educational medium and the rich Maltese history."

Aphrodite Theodora Andreou

Aphrodite Theodora Andreou (b.1995) is a visual artist from Athens, holds an MSc. in Digital Games from the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta, (2019-2021) and a BA in Visual Arts with Honors, (Dual Degree OU awarded 2013-2017) from the Francis Rich School of Fine and Performing Arts at DEREE, The American College of Greece. She has exhibited her work in galleries and museum spaces both in Greece and abroad. She has participated in multiple interdisciplinary projects and has worked as an Assistant Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Curatorial/Production/Post-Production Assistant and Game Master among other commissioned works as a painter. Throughout her studies, she has participated in the game development of various board games, digital games and playful artefacts, adopting the role of a game designer and 2D/3D artist. She approaches game design as a form of participatory socially engaged in situ installation. A medium to construct inter- species dialogues and collaborations (as well as addressing problematic hierarchies in everyday spaces. Her practice aims to invite the viewer/player to face their own dysfunctional realities.) Quote: What fascinates me the most about this project is how realities, spaces and timelines overlap? What are the ways, in which the plasticity of games as a medium can be used, along with game design, as a liminal space of transformation? How are we being shaped by them and how do we shape others through carefully curated experiences?

Naomi Cutajar

Being an avid gamer herself, either in competitive rage-inducing games or calm atmospheric games, Naomi has always been interested in the storytelling aspect of the videogame medium. Graduating from the University of Malta with a Bachelor of English (Hons), Naomi combines her knowledge of traditional writing techniques with newer mediums in both practice and theory. Currently, she is the adequately-titled lore master at Maltacraft.com and is furthering her studies in inclusive education through technology. Quote: I am excited to continue strengthening my relationship with the Institute of Digital Games through this project and to use it for the future of education.

Emmanuella Marla

Emmanouela started creating games a few years back and that was what drove her to study games as well as develop them. Quote: “Being part of the development team for the project is a great opportunity to promote history.”

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta