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Playing History: Slave Trade Game Receives Backlash for Racism

Using video games in order to educate people, especially children, about important issues and historical events is nothing new. In fact, Playing History themselves have been making games of that very nature for years now, with their two other projects, focusing on the plague and the Vikings respectively, being created and distributed without any of the controversy. That being said, if you're making a game about the slave trade, well, to be honest, maybe just don't... but if you insist - you have to be very careful.

Screenshot: store.steampowered.com
Released back in 2013 and recently added to gaming platform Steam, Playing History 2: Slave Trade is a point-and-click, casual adventure game that puts you in the shoes of a young steward aboard a slave ship, asked to "Travel back in time and witness the horrors of slave trade firsthand". The description carries on to state, "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?".

Just from that you can see why people have been somewhat put-off by the game. The game itself is packed with questionable mini-games including the infamous, now removed, Slave Tetris, and the whole thing seems to be attempting to turn the slave trade into a light-hearted, fun affair.


I honestly couldn't go as far as to say nobody should ever make a game about the slave trade. I personally think that gaming has massive potential as an educational tool, effectively combating common classroom hurdles such as boredom and short attention spans. When done right, games can provide incredible insight into major events and force us to look at something in a new way. This time, however, the developers seem to have missed the mark. Angry customers and observers wasted little time in voicing their opinion on both Steam and social media:




All that being said, not all comments have been negative. Many have spoken up to defend the game and its developers for a game they see as informative, fun and well designed. They make the valid point that, when aiming a game at children between the ages of 8 - 14, you can't be too graphic in your depiction. Therefore, leaving out some of the more abhorrent aspects and utilising a cartoon-like aesthetic is necessary. Although I'm still unsure how the highly distasteful slave tetris fits in with that...


Overall, I would have to say that while the game is obviously far from perfect, some of the hatred aimed towards the developers has been over the top. Sure, they've made some pretty dire mistakes, but to suggest than the idea of a game based on historical atrocities is inherently wrong is, in itself, flawed logic. It just needs to be done better. A lot better.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working as Editor of Social Songbird, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @SamAtSMF

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Playing History: Slave Trade Game Receives Backlash for Racism Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Friday, September 04, 2015 Rating: 5

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