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PhD Position in the 'Playful Time Machines: Experiencing the Past through Video Games' project

Vacancy number
22-778 13208
Job type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
22 November 2022
Closing date
19 December 2022 11 more days to apply

Apply now

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) invites applications for a

PhD Position in the 'Playful Time Machines: Experiencing the Past through Video Games' project (1,0 FTE)
Vacancy number: 22-778 13208

Project description
We are looking for two excellent, motivated, creative and societally engaged PhD candidates to join the project team.

The two, interdisciplinary PhD projects take place at the intersections of heritage and game studies/design, using Digital Humanities and other data-driven methodologies. The overall project design builds from the MDA-model for game design and analysis to ask how the past is made and experienced through video game-based play (past-play). The PhD subprojects deal with the Mechanics and Dynamics of past-play.

Dr. A.A.A. Mol (Leiden), Prof. dr. S. Lammes (Leiden)

PhD project D:

  1. How do players interact with elements related to the past during gameplay?
  2. Does this differ across types of past-play(ers)?
  3. What are the direct effects on players’ understanding, valuation, and emotions concerning the past?

To answer these questions, research will be conducted in controlled settings, in which a participant will play one of the case-study games. Their reactions will be recorded during play and the reports of their experiences collected afterwards. Data-collection will use methods from games user research, including activity logging, eye-tracking, participant observation, questionnaires, and interviews. These tools are already used in game development to gauge gameplay quality, but this subproject will employ them to track specifically how players engage with the past in the moment of play. Aside from questions included in game development playtests, questionnaires and interviews will incorporate evaluative frameworks from heritage studies.

This subproject will result in three peer-reviewed papers, forming the basis for the PhD exam, a GDPR-compliant, FAIR data-sets on past-play in practice, and an experiment design document with Creative Commons Licensing, further explained in two workshops on game analytics by the researcher — one for game makers and one for ‘stewards of the past.’

The Vidi-project ‘Playful Time Machines’ (PlayTime)
The PhD candidate will be working on a subproject of PlayTime, a VIDI project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and directed by dr. A. (Angus) A. A. Mol, assistant professor at Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) and the Centre for Digital Humanities (LUCDH).

The project departs from the idea that, in video games, the past is present. Games let us rule like Cleopatra, fight as unnamed soldiers in the muddy battlefields of the ‘Great War’, or raid like a Viking. These examples, taken from recent titles Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (‘Civ’), Battlefield 1, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, are just a tiny fraction of the vast array of past experiences offered to the more than two billion people who play games. While gaming is still considered by some as ‘simply’ a pastime, the impact games have on our relation to past times should not be underestimated. PlayTime will provide an original, comprehensive, and urgently needed view of how video games are reshaping our relationship with the past in a way that is as fascinatingly complex as it is popular. Our project team will do so by pioneering an interdisciplinary approach that allows us to investigate the mechanic, dynamic, and aesthetic components of our play with the past in depth.

The past and play each represent highly affective and engaging subjects, and their combination in past-play has enormous potential to positively impact society. PlayTime will directly contribute to this by gathering and sharing actionable insights in direct interactions with citizen players, game makers, and ‘stewards of the past’ using an integral Open Science approach.

You can find an extended description of PlayTime on the project website.

Key responsibilities:

  • Completion of a PhD thesis, based on peer-reviewed articles, within four years (1,0 fte).
  • Co-authoring and editing joint research group publications
  • Participation in and co-organization of meetings and events of the project group;
  • Active participation in the Open Science programme of PlayTime, in the form of (Twitch) live-streams, game jams, stakeholder feedback sessions, and the open project website.
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in staff meetings and events of the LUCDH, the LUCAS Ludic Collective (LUCAS Play and Game Studies group), and the intellectual life of the department and the LUCAS (PhD) community;
  • Co-teaching in the second and third years of the appointment, subject to progress and demand.

Your profile:
You have either:

  • A Master’s degree, held by time of appointment, in a discipline focused on the study of the human past (incl. but not limited to Heritage Studies, Archaeology, History, Classics, or Memory Studies) and a demonstrable insight in and passion for working with and studying video games.


  • A Master’s degree, held by time of appointment, in Game or UX Studies or Game Design/Analytics, and a demonstrable insight in and passion for (the study of) the past.

In addition, you have:

  • An aptitude for working with digital tools and workflows. In addition, you either have experience of working with Game User research, UX studies, or Human-Computer Interaction tools and methods or are willing and able to learn how to work with these. Other types of experiences involving controlled experiments (with activity logging and/or eye-tracking) and/or (Python) programming are plusses.
  • The ability to finish the proposed PhD research within the allotted time;
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • An aptitude for and pro-active interest in Open Science approaches seeking to make a positive and direct contribution to society. You can involve and easily communicate with non-academic stakeholders. If you have done so previously in formats such as blogs, podcasts, video essays and live-streams, this is a plus.
  • Taste for interdisciplinary, team-based research;

Our organisation
The Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics and area studies covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 995, the faculty provides 27 master’s and 25 bachelor’s programmes for over 7,000 students based at locations in Leiden’s historic city centre and in modern buildings in The Hague. For more information: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS; https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities/centre-for-the-arts-in-society) is one of the  seven Research Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. It aims to be a prominent player in the research field of the arts (literature, art, architecture, media and design). LUCAS is dedicated to ground-breaking research that explores the multifaceted relationships between the arts and society. See for more information.

The candidate will also be a member of the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities (LUCDH). LUCDH spearheads innovative research in Digital Humanities and offers facilities, advice, and training to support researchers and students for the increasingly important role of the Humanities in our Digital World  (see https://lucdh.nl)

Terms and conditions
We offer  a PhD project, 4 years (1.0fte, 38 hrs per week) in a healthy, stimulating academic environment, starting date in February 2023. Initially the employee will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 36 months on condition of a positive evaluation.

Salary range from €2541.- to €3247. gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses(8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/working-at/job-application-procedure-and-employment-conditions.

Diversity and inclusion
Fostering an inclusive community is a central element of the values and vision of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.


Concurrently with this one we are advertising for another PhD position in the same project (vacancy number 22 776 on our website). If you are also interested in this project and think you have the profile for it, you may also separately apply to this position. You may re-use application materials, but make sure you make clear in your cover letter why you would be interested in and suitable for either subproject.

More information about this position and the project may be obtained from Dr. Angus Mol (a.a.a.mol @hum.leidenuniv.nl). Information about the selection procedure and about LUCAS can be obtained via Mariska de Groot MSc, im-lucas@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

To apply for this vacancy, please submit your application via our online system, by clicking on the blue button at the top of this page.

Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents in a single PDF file (not zipped), quoting the vacancy number:

  • Cover letter,
  • CV, including contact information of two referees (no reference letters; N.B. please list these in your PDF rather than entering them into the system);
  • Transcript of records;
  • A sample/excerpt of your academic writing (max. 2000 words), if possible, connected to the themes of PlayTime.
  • A sample/excerpt/link to a piece of content made by you that shows your ability to share knowledge with non-academic audiences (e.g. a blog post, a video essay, a podcast, a popular twitter thread). If you do not have such a piece of content you can substitute this by a max. 800 word knowledge-driven, blog-style text on a game (theme) of your choice.
  • Copy of relevant diploma.

Only applications received before December 19, 2022 can be considered. Interviews will take place on Wednesday 11 January. Depending on the field of candidates, interviews may be held through an online platform or at the Faculty of Humanities campus in Leiden.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

Apply now

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