St Giles’ Cathedral Reinvented: Unlocking 900 Years Through Cutting-Edge Gaming

St Giles’ Cathedral Reinvented: Unlocking 900 Years Through Cutting-Edge Gaming

Rev Dr George Whyte, Interim Moderator of St Giles’ Cathedral and alumnus
Rev Dr George Whyte, Interim Moderator of St Giles’ Cathedral and alumnus of UofG, views the new historical video game launched for St Giles’ Cathedral’s 900th anniversary being held this year. Photo credit Martin Shields


For over 900 years, St Giles’ Cathedral has stood as an iconic landmark in the heart of Edinburgh, welcoming over 1.4 million visitors annually.

But unravelling the mysteries of its construction and bringing its rich history to life has been a challenge - until now.

In a groundbreaking collaboration for its 900 year, the world-famous cathedral has joined forces with the University of Glasgow’s Games and Gaming Lab (UofGGamesLab), and game development studio Education Evolved, for Project HeritAIge.

Through this pioneering initiative, St Giles’ Cathedral has been recreated in a captivating historical video game, transporting visitors through its architectural evolution with the aim of engaging as wide a range of public audiences as possible.

This new freely available game, playable in web browsers and in the Cathedral itself, will allow visitors to build St Giles’ as they answer questions and learn about the Cathedral’s history and architecture.


Stephen Preston, Deputy Head of Heritage and Culture at St Giles’ Cathedral, said: "I knew showing how the Cathedral was built had to be an interactive experience and probably digital. Thanks to Interface, who put us in touch with the future Project Lead Dr Tim Peacock and his team, we will be realising this vision.

"UofGGamesLab really is at the cutting edge of how we interpret heritage sites. It’s great for Scotland (and St Giles’) to have such institutions like the Advanced Research Centre (ARC) on our doorstep."

Matthew Leeper, the Managing Director and spokesperson for Education Evolved, said: "Being a part of this project, and bringing the cathedral to life in a new and innovative way, designed to engage and educate people who visit St Giles’ and visit their website around the world, has been a great initiative to be a part of."

Departing from traditional text and sign-based interpretation methods, the game will immerse players in the Cathedral’s various ages through original artwork and multilayered information. As they answer questions and learn about the site’s history and architecture, visitors will virtually reconstruct St Giles’.

This project represents a co-creative collaboration between academia, public bodies, charities and industry. Facilitated by Interface and engaging the innovative education technology company Education Evolved Ltd on game development, HeritAIge has explored responsibly using AI to translate heritage sites into game form.

Louise Arnold, Business Engagement Executive, Interface, said: "The challenge facing St Giles’ Cathedral is one facing many visitor attractions today - how do you attract more visitors on any given day. It’s been great working with St Giles’ Cathedral connecting them to Dr Tim Peacock at University of Glasgow Games Lab, and the collaboration with Education Evolved Ltd who saw the vision to undertake a cross-disciplinary research initiative exploring AI, cultural heritage and historical data translated into a research-informed historical video game.


"It’s amazing to now see the working prototype of the interactive game, enabling visitors to delve into a virtual world of history and heritage."

Dr Tim Peacock added: "We hope this research-informed game will contribute to making the already truly remarkable historic site of St Giles’ accessible to new generations of visitors from around the world."

A pilot for this initiative greatly benefited from the Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher scheme, managed by Interface, and the main project has been made possible by significant support from the University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange Funding and by finance from St Giles’ Cathedral.

The project was hosted by the University of Glasgow’s world-leading Advanced Research Centre (ARC). Among its objectives, HeritAIge has explored new methods of translating heritage sites into game form, including ways of responsibly using (or of not using) AI to achieve this goal.

Games and Gaming Lab

More information about the Games and Gaming Lab, University of Glasgow can be found on the Games and Gaming Lab website

St Giles’ Cathedral

Founded in 1124 by King David I, St Giles’ Cathedral has been a working church for almost 900 years. A backdrop to Scotland’s turbulent religious history, it has seen the seeds of civil war sown and been John Knox’s parish church during the Reformation. It is still an important centre for civic services such as the Kirking of the Parliament and services for Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. Learn more here - https://www.stgilescathedral.org.uk/

Interface

Interface connects organisations and academia. Based regionally throughout Scotland with connections into all Scotland’s universities, research institutes and colleges Interface works with organisations of all sizes, in all sectors, to match them to world-leading academic expertise, research, technologies and specialist facilities to help them grow. interface-online.org.uk

Education Evolved Ltd

Education Evolved Ltd., founded in 2021, is an Educational Technology company based in Glasgow, Scotland which provides game development and technology design services for Educational purposes and has partnered with universities and further education institutions around the world. educationevolvedltd.com