igital Ludeme Project

Modelling the Evolution of Traditional Games

ERC Consolidator Grant (2018–23)   

   Project   Games   LUDII   Outputs   People   

The Digital Ludeme Project is a five year ERC-funded research project hosted by Maastricht University.
This project is a computational study of the world's traditional strategy games throughout recorded human history. It aims to improve our understanding of traditional games using modern AI techniques, to chart their historical development and explore their role in the development of human culture and the spread of mathematical ideas.


The development of games goes hand in hand with the development of human culture. Games offer a rich window of insight into our cultural past, but early examples were rarely documented and our understanding of them is incomplete. While there has been considerable historical research into games and their use as tools of cultural analysis, much is based on the interpretation of partial evidence with little mathematical analysis. This project will use modern computational techniques to help fill these gaps in our knowledge empirically.

We will represent games as structured sets of ludemes (units of game-related information), which will allow the full range of traditional strategy games to be modelled in a single software system for the first time. This system will not only model and play games, but will evaluate reconstructions for quality and historical authenticity, and automatically improve them where possible. This will lay the foundations for a new field of study called Digital Archaeoludology (DA).

The ludemic model reveals innate mathematical relationships between games, allowing phylogenetic analysis. This provides a mechanism for creating a family tree/network of traditional games, which could reveal missing links and allow ancestral state reconstruction to shed light on the gaps in our partial knowledge. Locating ludemes culturally provides a mechanism for charting the transmission of mathematical ideas across cultures through play. This project seeks to bridge the gap between historical and computational studies of games, to provide greater insight into our understanding of games as cultural artefacts, and to pioneer new tools and techniques for their continued analysis. The aim is to restore and preserve our intangible cultural heritage (of game playing) through the tangible evidence available.


The key research objectives of this project are to:

1. Model the full range of traditional strategy games in a single playable database.

2. Reconstruct missing knowledge about traditional games with an unprecedented degree of accuracy.

3. Map the transmission of games and associated mathematical ideas across history and culture.

31 January 2019
Deadline for final Postdoctoral Researcher position. Last chance to join the team!

26-28 December 2018
Visit to Advisory Panel member Jorge Nuno Silva in Lisbon University.

18-20 December 2018
Visit and talk by Sarah Peoples, Leipzig University, on games and cultural values.

27 November 2018
Presentation at the VSNU meeting of Dutch Universities, Amsterdam.

14 November 2018
Departmental Lunch Seminar, Maastricht.
First team presentation.

8 November 2018
Presentation at University College Dublin.

19-21 October 2018
Research trip to Madrid.

15 October 2018
PhD candidate Dennis Soemers
joins the team.

12 October 2018
Interview on local TV station RTV.

1 October 2018
Presentation to Game AI Group,
CNRS, University Paris Dauphine.

19 September 2018
Article in local newspaper De Limburger.

15 September 2018
Postdoc Eric Piette joins the team.

24-28 August 2018
Research visit to London.

14-17 August 2018
Presentation at CIG'18 (Maastricht).

9-11 July 2018
Presentation at CG'18 (Taipei).

28-30 May 2018
Visit to Flemish Games Archive (Bruges).

23-26 April 2018
Presentation at BGS (Athens).

1 April 2018
Project start.
10-12 April 2019
Schloss Dagstuhl inaugural meeting on Foundations of Digital Archaeoludology.

     Cameron Browne

lkjh Maastricht University
Data Science and Knowledge Engineering (DKE)
Bouillonstraat 8-10, 6211 LH Maastricht, Netherlands
lkjh This project is funded by a €2m
ERC Consolidator Grant from the
European Research Council.