Letting middle schoolers earn game points by stacking bodies in a slave ship turns out to be offensive, reports Liz Dwyer on TakePart. A Danish company has withdrawn the Tetris-style component of Playing History: Slave Trade 2 after a social media backlash.
“Travel back in time to the 18th century and witness the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade firsthand. In this episode, you will be working as a young slave steward on a ship crossing the Atlantic,” reads the description of the game at the Steam store. “You are to serve the captain and be his eyes and ears—reporting any suspicious activities is your duty. But what do you do, when you realize that your own sister has been captured by the slave traders?”
Students could then earn points as the game took them through various scenarios of Africans being captured, held in cages, and suffering in chains on the slave ship.
Some want Serious Games Interactive to drop the whole game. “Gamifying slavery trivializes a serious time in history that shouldn’t be fun,” Rafranz Davis, a Texas–based educational technology expert, wrote to TakePart.
Last year, Mission U.S.: Flight to Freedom, which features the escape of a 14-year-old slave girl, faced a backlash for turning slavery into an adventure. “Critics say the game . . . sanitizes the brutal institution,” writes Joseph Williams on TakePart. “By avoiding the perspective of Lucy’s master, they say, the game doesn’t compel students to consider how or why whites perpetuated the oppression.”
I’m offended by the slave trade game, but not by Flight to Freedom. What do you think?