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Exploring the history of Scotland's sugar using game design

With the call for participation in Scottish Crucible 2016 now out, it was a great pleasure today to demo a student game currently under development as part of a Scottish Crucible funded project.

I was lucky to be selected to participate in Scottish Crucible in 2015, where I subsequently teamed up with Marisa Wilson (University of Edinburgh) and Emma Bond (University of St. Andrews). Led by Marisa, we secured funding to carry out research into the geography and transnational narratives of the sugar trade, with a focus on Scotland’s role in the sugar industry.

This is a history that is not well known in Scotland, beyond the emergence of famous confectionary and soft drinks manufacturers. In particular, many young people do not have a great deal of awareness of Scotland’s role in the global sugar industry of the past 200 years – including involvement in the slave trade, and the running of plantations.

Through research in our respective fields of Geography, Literature, and Game Design, our Scottish Crucible project aims to make sense of Scotland’s history with sugar, and to explore new ways of communicating this dark, complex story to 21st century audiences.

At Abertay, my focus is on the use of Game Design as a method for engaging younger audiences. Taking inspiration from recent historical and cultural games (such as Valiant Hearts and Never Alone), a team of talented third year students are currently tackling this research problem.

Marisa, Emma, and I were thrilled to view the current progress of this experimental game today. Led by BA Game Design and Production Management students Robyn McMillan and Eilidh MacLeod, the team have done exceptionally well to navigate the complicated and controversial history of Scottish sugar, and to present a game concept that deals with the topic both accurately and sensitively.

Ours is a challenging project, both in terms of the difficult subject matter and the necessity for a multidisciplinary solution. But this is largely what makes the project so important. And it is a project we probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without participation in and support from Scottish Crucible.

I’d highly recommend that all Early Careers Researchers and Lecturers in their first academic posts consider participation in Scottish Crucible. Not only is it an excellent training programme, it is also a great platform for meeting fellow researchers from across Scotland and from a wide variety of disciplines. The deadline for applications to Scottish Crucible 2016 is March 7th.

More information here

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