A Kickstarter campaign to create a video game which will bring people face-to-face with life in the Middle Ages has been launched.
The game, called Strange Sickness, is based on Aberdeen’s world-recognised Burgh Records, which offer such a unique insight into the medieval town that they were awarded UNESCO status for their historical importance.
Over recent years, historians from the University of Aberdeen have led projects to delve deeper than ever before into the documents, which cover the period 1398-1511.
This has led to finds such as the earliest reference in Scotland to a still for the production of aquavite, the spirit that became known as whisky, and created a digital transcription called the Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398–1511.
Medieval life in Europe has long influenced creative media from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones and the Burgh Records are also uniquely placed to offer insights into how the city’s residents dealt with the threat of the plague.
Dr William Hepburn, a Historical Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, who is leading the crowd-funding campaign for Strange Sickness, says understanding the fear our predecessors must have felt is one of the key aspects of the project.
“Video games are an amazing tool to help people imagine the past, and even become historians themselves by using original records,” he said.
“Even in times when there were not outbreaks of the plague in the town, fears about the disease arriving from elsewhere are clear to see in the many steps Aberdeen took to prevent infection
“It’s a parallel that we can all understand more readily in today’s climate.
“The game allows players to immerse themselves in Aberdeen’s history, interact with characters from medieval society and make decisions which will shape their own story.”
All profits from sales of Strange Sickness once it is built will support the Lord Provost’s Charitable Trust, which is raising much-needed funds for Aberdeen-based registered charities to help individuals, families and communities across the city experiencing severe financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The game project has benefitted from practical support by Opportunity North East’s (ONE) CodeBase, which provides a range of expert support for digital tech start-ups in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Dr Jackson Armstrong, who leads the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project and who is co-producing the game with Dr Hepburn, says the project will support a number of creative roles and will showcase an important part of north-east heritage to the wider world.
“We are working with a games designer, Katharine Neil, who has extensive experience in the industry as well as with Alana Bell, an artist who recently graduated from Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.
“If we meet our funding target the creative team of William, Katharine and Alana will bring to life the characters and scenes of medieval Aberdeen, which are all found in the Aberdeen City Archive’s treasure trove of the Burgh Records.
“The medieval period is a strong influence in the gaming world, but rarely have professional historians made a game so closely linked to real medieval documents.
“We are really excited to see how this can come together to showcase our own city and hope people will get behind the Kickstarter.”
Details of the Kickstarter campaign can be found here, where those who wish to support it are able to become a backer of the project.