In Scotland, a video game explores the medieval past of Aberdeen

·2-min read
Players of "Strange Sickness" are plunged into the late 15th century, when a plague outbreak strikes the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

From "Assassin's Creed" to "A Plague Tale: Innocence," the Middle Ages have long fascinated the video games industry. The city of Aberdeen, Scotland, has decided to capitalize on gamers' growing interest in this era by creating its own medieval game, called "Strange Sickness."

"Strange Sickness" is based on real events and characters recreated by historians from the University of Aberdeen. Gamers are immersed in the late 15th century, when a plague epidemic strikes the Scottish city. In particular, they follow Robert Collison, a scientist seeking to devise a plan to stop the spread of the disease.

"Follow Robert's personal story and relationships as his responsibilities grow in an irreverent tale that is also an encounter with the past, built by historians from some of the richest historical records of medieval Scotland," reads the official "Strange Sickness" website.

Bringing history to life

The video game is part of the Burgh Records Project, a collaboration between the university and the Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives initiated in 2012. It draws on more than 5,000 pages of historical documents that provide insight into what Aberdeen looked like during the Middle Ages, according to Museums Journal. "We have digitized 1.5 million words of texts from medieval Aberdeen, mostly from the 15th century. These are a fabulous source for telling us about life in medieval Scotland," Jackson Armstrong, who led the Burgh Records Project and helped in the development of "Strange Sickness," told the specialist publication.

"Strange Sickness" was funded through a campaign on Kickstarter. The creators of the game now hope that as many history buffs as possible will be able to play it, including children and young people. Indeed, Jackson Armstrong continues: "[...] we would hope that teachers and students could engage with the historical process and historical records and how that has translated into the game and think about how other historically based games tackle similar challenges."

Profits from the first year of sales of "Strange Sickness" will be split equally between the Lord Provost's Charitable Trust and, a UNICEF-funded initiative to provide Covid-19 vaccines to those most at risk around the world.

Caroline Drzewinski

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