Slave game causes outcry

Danish serious games developer studio Serious Games Interactive, has been on the wrong side of the tabloid press, with controversy over its educational history title Playing History 2 – Slave Trade.

A mini-game within the main game – Slave Tetris – designed to show how slaves were transported in cramped and inhumane conditions, has been pulled from it following the outcry created by the press coverage.

The idea of the game was to pack as many slaves as possible into the hold of the ship. The slaves are shaped like Tetris blocks.

Coverage in the Daily Mail, Metro, The Mirror, ITV News and elsewhere was highly critical of the game, which has been on the Steam download site for more than two years, causing a backlash which caused SGI CEO Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen to eventually delete his Twitter account.

Responding to the criticism at length, he said: ““So a lot of people are appalled by the game. Some on a very superficial level and some on a deeper. The critique runs on a number of levels, and we may very well have overstepped some people’s boundaries – that was not the intention, and sorry about that, but it is hard to tackle a sensitive subject,” the post said.

“’You cannot make a game about sensitive subjects. Slave trade is too serious a topic, and should not be done in a ‘fun medium’ like games.’ This is similar to people saying you cannot make visual novels of difficult subjects or movies like Schindler’s List because movies are entertainment medium. You can express any idea through any medium.

“’Slave Tetris is a mockery and insensitive. I definitely agree it is insensitive and gruesome.’ It has to be like this to show what was done to load slave ships. People treated human beings as pieces that just had to fitting into the cargo. The reactions people have to this game is something they will never forget, and they will remember just how inhumane slave trade was. If this is the case then we have accomplished what we set out to do.

“People are so eager to just jump on a wagon. I think the situation we have where people behave this way is far more worrying than any game that could ever be made. We are going towards a closed society, where sensitive and controversial subjects are not welcome in public because it causes an outcry focusing on motives and persons rather than the subject which stops any open debate.”

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