A new video game titled Slave Tetris, developed by independent video creators has garnered some negative feedback and was immediately taken down thereafter in recent news due to its content trivializing the experience of slaves during the middle Passage. The game was launched in 2013 and released on Steam, an online store. However, it was not until this year that much attention had been drawn to the type of message it portrayed to its players and non-gamers in general.
In the game, the player meets a young slave steward, named Tim, on a ship crossing the Atlantic. This slave steward tends to Captain Seahab and act as his eyes and ears. Tim eventually sees that his sister Piri is captured as well and so together they try to work together to free the other slaves. You, the player, will go through this journey experiencing the Trans-Atlantic trade through this single game while aiding Tim and Piri on their quest.
Its creators developed the video in hopes of teaching people about the middle passage; however, many are concerned that this game in fact may be downplaying the struggle of those who endured such treatment that it has reduced this lesson to be taught through a video game.
The online store eventually released a statement that reads, “Apologies to people who were offended by us using game mechanics to underline the point of how inhumane slavery was. The goal was to enlighten and educate people — not to get sidetracked discussing a small 15-second part of the game.” The creators’ aim was to relay how little room people had when they were being transported and through the concept of tetris, it psychologically mimics the struggle of hard it was for the slaves and translates it to the effort of the player trying to figure out the game.
The small difference that caused such uproar is that most gamers are not interested in the lesson, but rather simply playing the game. In such effort, the real lesson is forgotten and all the players focus on is how to figure out the game. So did this video game really teach a lesson about slavery or did it teach people to be careful about the types of messages they think they are portraying and what they are actually portraying? The take-home message for all is that there are other engaging methods of portraying such a sensitive topic that would not take the subject so lightly and it is only through recognizing this mistake that we can move forward and learn about touchy historical events.