With the recent release of Django Unchained and Lincoln, and Black History Month just a few weeks away, it seems appropriate that a game about the Underground Railroad has debuted, made to educate children about slavery in the 19th century.
Created by Ball State University students under the direction of Professors Ron Morris and Paul Gestwicki, The Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley is a strategy game (in the vein of of Oregon Trail) that looks to put fourth-graders in the roles of runaway slaves trying to escape to the North. The game gives players a health bar which diminishes during travel but replenishes when shelter is found, and allows players to make decisions on where to go and what to do. The game is meant to be an immersive way of showing students the hardships up African-Americans in that era in a way not done before.
“Even though the Underground Railroad has been well studied, there are a lot of myths and legends connected to the era,” Morris said. “We hope to enrich the curriculum and instructional practices of teachers and students by creating a way they can experience some of the decisions while trying to get to the safety of the north.”
Morris and Gestwicki have directed a similar game before through their immersive learning classes known as Morgan’s Raid, based around a highly publicized incursion by Confederate cavalry into Indiana and Ohio in 1863.
The Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley can be played on its website, along with information on the historical facts surrounding the Underground Railroad, a curriculum designed by students of the SS 397 Methods of Elementary Social Studies program, information on the team that put it together, references, and more.