Professors in California Design a Video Game Set in 18th-Century Ghana

Video Game

Many people know that plenty of video games are designed in California. Also, many people might rightly believe these video games are a waste of time or are somewhat harmful. For example, few parents like to see their son or daughter skip their homework for a chance to play a grisly video game based on war. However, some professors at UC Irvine might have crafted a game to change people's minds.

Magda El Zarki teamed up with two of her colleagues to create a video game that simulates what life was like in 18th-century Ghana. Zarki is a computer science professor. Her two colleagues, Patricia Seed and Jessica Kernan, developed a computer game they call "Sankofa." The video game takes place in 18th-century Asante, an area we know today as Ghana. The plot of the video games involves controlling characters to help the player learn about the folktales, cultural practices, and daily routines of the Asnate people.

Zarki first wanted to create a video game to create a tool to help students learn about African history. Currently, the game is only a hour long, but Zarki and her colleagues hope to extend the game to at least 90 minutes. They also hope to add lesson plans to the game. However, doing so will require additional funding. Thus far, the game has cost $200,000 to make.

This isn't the only time Zarki has linked technology with African history. Zarki collaborated with Seed before to create a virutal program that allowed students to explore 15th-century slave forts in Ghana. Called "Elmina," this allowed students to explore a troubling aspect of African history in great detail. Unfortunately, many students found the game to be depressing. The students requested a game that allowed them to learn more about African culture. This lead Zarki to create "Sankofa."

Zarki understand some folks might be hesitant to turn learning over to a computer game. However, Zarki often points to her own children's expertise in Ancient Greece after playing a video game based on the topic. Zarki is convinced great learning can come through video games. The video games simply need to be carefully crafted with a mixture of both education and entertainment. Computer scientists and history professors must work together.

What are your thoughts about this new video game to come out of California? Would you take the time to download and play such a game? Let us know below!


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