Slavery has always been a touchy topic. Especially when it comes to how its taught in school. Playing History a game series that revolves around experiencing engaging and personal stories set in exhilarating points in world history, created a game around the slave trade. Although, this could easily sound controversial to some, I played Playing History 2: Slave Trade and found there are several controversial issues. These issues are caused by the insensitive not well thought out use aspects and features of this game. They controversy really arises in the dialect of characters, the choices the player must make, and a level of the game where you have to play a game of slave Tetris.
Playing History Slave Trade was created by Dr.Simon Egenfeldt. Egenfeldt is a psychologist and the CEO of the Europe based company Serious Game Interactive. He is the creator of the Playing History series. The series has been both nominated and won a BETT award for the category of ‘best learning game’ in Europe. Playing history Slave Trade is the 2nd game in his series. It is a 90min single player game targeted at kids ages 8-14. The genre of this game is considered to be under the Adventure and Education category. In Europe this game can be played online, downloaded and found on a tablet. However, in the US it can be purchased and played on steam for $4.99 compatible on both the PC and Mac. Steam’s description of the game reads “Travel back in time and witness the horrors of slave trade firsthand. You will be working as young slave steward on a ship crossing the Atlantic. You are to serve the captain and be his eyes and ears. What do you do, when you realize that your own sister has been captured by the slave traders?” The reviews of this game are very mixed there are about 38 positive reviews versus the 23 or so negative reviews found on steam.
After playing the game myself for about 40 mins I felt a tad bit uneasy. I don’t believe the intentions were bad when creating this game but I odd playing and was enlightened on some of the controversial issues. When playing the game I played as the only character. The young male slave steward to the caption on the ship.
After playing the game I found that some of the controversial issues were formed around the voices and dialect of the characters. I felt as if the game was making slavery sound more thrilling and exciting rather than heartbreaking and inhumane. It was kind of like we were not learning about slavery we were just going on an adventure game. In the game there is a little helper “mouse” who comes to your aid when your confused or just lost in the game. It seemed as if this mouse was always very jolly and chipper. In a nutshell she would say things to the salve steward like “you’re going on a journey back to your birth village in Africa to get more slaves yay.”
Another issue in the game was the story was based around the decisions and choices you decide to make in the game. In on section of the game you’re the translated between the African ruler and the caption who’s buying the slaves. It is your choice to decide at what price and how many slaves you want to buy. If you would like to free any slaves or not. There is a section of the game where there is not enough food on the ship to free the slaves so you have to decide which slaves to throw overboard or not. The decisions you make then effect the level of trust the caption of the ship has for you. If you completely lose the captions trust he punishes you because you are a slave and his property too. It brings up ones morals and ethics what is right or wrong. Do you say yourself? Do you put other slave in danger? Is your life more valued than theirs?
The last and most controversial issue in this game is the level where you play slave Tetris. I know it sounds crazy but this level is real. After purchasing the slaves it is your job to load up the slave ship. The developer of the game wanted to depict how uncomfortable and unplea
ant a slave ship was so he decided to have you load the ship by playing Tetris with the bodies of the slaves. To many this level was ridiculous and very unnecessary it caused so much uproar that this was eventually removed from the game. However, there are many lets play videos uploaded to YouTube with gamers playing this level.
I believe this game could be compared to “Darfur is Dying.” “Darfur is Dying is a flashed-based browser game about the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. In this game you play as a young child both male or female trying to get water from miles away. You struggle to run and get the water and if captured you killed, raped, or sold into trafficking. Just like Playing History: Slave Trade, Darfur is Dying was created to inform and educate people on a serious inhumane issue. I believe these both are very touchy games because it could do more harm than help. People may not care enough to really become educated they may walk away from the game laughing as if the serious issue is a joke. They both seem to oversimplify the issue.
Another game I thought to compare it too is “The Walking Dead- A Telltale Game Series.” I believe Playing History: Slave Tarde can be compare to The Walking Dead because in both games you decided the choices you want to make. You have to use your morals and ethics to decide which characters to save, whose life is more important than the others, and which characters you would like to please or disappoint. Both are a game of ethical thinking and decision making.
In conclusion Playing History: Slave trade was a serious game developed to educated youth on 18th century events regarding slavery. Playing History: Slave trade was a serious game developed to educated youth on 18th century events regarding slavery regrading the insensitive aspects in the game. There are very mixed feelings regrading the game some people feel as it’s educational and other’s feel like it’s a cruel joke. After playing the game, I agree with the negative comments, that the dialect in this game could be better and also there are some very unethical decisions that have to be made in this game. Although, above everything else I believe the use of salve Tetris in this game was a hideous distasteful way to express or teach what slave ships were like in the 18th century. All in all I don’t feel like this game is even really necessary. As much as I like video games I believe some things don’t need to be turned into a game. Some historical events should be just that history. There are enough films and documentaries on slavery and if I child really needs to learn they can pick up a book and read.