Ball State University (in Muncie, Indiana) professor Ronald Morris and computer science professor Paul Gestwicki have teamed up with graduate students to create a Unity-based game that teaches fourth grade students about the Underground Railroad (thanks to Polygon). The game is called The Underground Railroad in the Ohio Valley River and puts students in the shoes of a runaway slave who must make his or her way to Canada where they can live a free life. To survive the journey, players will have to rely on a network of sympathetic citizens in the Ohio Valley in Kentucky.
Set in the 1800s, the game puts the player in a random county in Kentucky where they will have to navigate to an adjacent tile laid out on a map. Players move from one tile to the next as a health-bar diminishes based on the decisions they make. Ultimately the player will try to make their way to the free land of Canada, but most of the time they will fail. This is how the game was designed, because many slaves never made it to freedom – many were either captured or killed.
The game features plenty of writing and plays out more like an interactive novel than it does a game, but there are plenty of different paths to take. Ultimately The Underground Railroad in the Ohio Valley River is not the kind of game you can win most of the time; it is designed to give players an idea of how difficult it was for slaves seeking freedom from cruel oppression to escape from it…
The game went public on January 2 here. It uses Unity, but for those who are having trouble playing it on the web, the game's developers offer a beta of standalone Windows and Mac OS X versions:
You can find the latest updates and news on the game here.