The last essay in the fifth chapter of Dougherty’s and Nawrotzki’s book, Writing History in the Digital Age, describes the challenges four collaborators had to face when they tried to create a history game.
Pox and the City: Edinburgh is a browser-based educational game about the application of Dr. Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine in 19th century Edinburgh, Scotland.
During its early development stages, the four main contributors Laura Zucconi, Ethan Watrall, Hannah Ueno and Lisa Rosner found out that creating a game was not as easy as they thought, since their ideas were not always practical. Although all of them had some background in programming and designing, with some added knowledge as historians and anthropologists, it was not as straightforward to combine all of that into a successful game. Over time, it became clear to the developers that it was impossible to create a history game in a similar manner to the ’traditional’ creation process in history, i.e. by an isolated individual locked away in a study. Only by working together and combining their different expertise, were they able to overcome the challenges. Eventually, they settled on a number of parameters that they wanted to use as the basis for the game which were then integrated into a valid map of Edinburgh of the time. After all, they wanted to create a game that was not only interesting for different levels of users, but was also able to help these users with different approaches to research.
The essay Pox and the City stresses the importance of collaboration as well as the possibilities of digital representation in history. In this case, they were trying to satisfy not only users of the game, but also historians. Granted, it is impossible to create a perfect solution for everyone, but by structuring the game around their basic parameters, they managed to cover all the important factors and create a useful educational tool at the same time.