[+] Virtual Joust

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This interactive was originally created by students. Learn more about how it was created here.

The Virtual Joust was made possible through a Digital Humanities grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It plays at the bottom of this screen. It takes time to load the web-playable version, though you can also download the game here, just download (about 185MB) and unzip.

Tournaments and the Joust

The earliest tournaments were gritty training games that were hard to distinguish from real warfare. By the 1400s tournaments had evolved to offer multiple combat sports, costumed role-playing, elaborate pageantry, and spectacular special effects. By this time, jousting was the premiere event, pitting mounted knights against each other with 11-foot lances. Skilled jousters were the star athletes of their day, and their fans included men and women alike, from across all walks of life, all of them drawn to the intense action, colorful personalities, and ever-present danger of this ultimate sport.


The scoring rules of the Virtual Joust are based on medieval jousts. There were no standard rules for the sport, but scoring systems rewarded jousters based on the quality of their hits. A hit on the head scored more than a hit on the body. Breaking your lance increased your score, as it demonstrated a good solid hit. Unhorsing your opponent scored highest of all. Hitting the tilt (barrier) or your opponent's horse might disqualify you, but this isn't included in the Virtual Joust-after all, real knights started training for this sport by the time they were seven, so they had a lot more practice.


The armor worn by the virtual jousters is a battlefield harness of about 1460 in the "Italian export" style-the kind made by Milanese armorers for the foreign market, blending stylistic features of Italian and German armor. The jousters are equipped for the "joust of war," using battlefield equipment. The lance, with its vamplate (hand-guard) and three-pronged "coronel" point, is actually more typical of the "joust of peace," which used specialized equipment that provided better protection.


The horses are based on a watercolor study by Albrecht Dürer for his print The Knight, Death, and the Devil, supplemented by photographs of comparable modern breeds, such as the Friesian, Andalusian, and Lippizzaner. Current research suggests that the knight's warhorse was not as big as is sometimes imagined-about 15-16 hands (60-64 inches) at the withers, where modern draft horses typically run 16-19 hands.


The most typical space for a joust would be an open arena in the countryside or a city square. The Virtual Joust takes place in a less typical closed arena. Such arenas rarely appear in contemporary images: this one is based on a seventeenth-century illustration of a joust in the Piazza Navona in Rome, with some input from the open arena illustrated in Réné d'Anjou's Tournament Book, composed in the 1400s.

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This game plays best in fullscreen mode; right-click image to switch to fullscreen.