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Game Narrative Summit: 'Blackhaven' Postmortem: Designing Two Centuries of Difficult History in One Free Game

James Coltrain  (Founder & Lead, Historiated Games)

Location: Room 3007, West Hall

Date: Tuesday, March 22

Time: 3:50 pm - 4:20 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass - Get your pass now!

Topic: Game Narrative

Format: Session

Viewing Experience: In-Person

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: Yes

This talk will examine the conception, development, and release of Blackhaven, an award nominated first person historical narrative mystery game released by Historiated Games in summer 2021. Blackhaven follows Kendra Turner, an intern from a historically Black college who uncovers a trail of secret misdeeds while working at Blackhaven Hall, the site of burned colonial American plantation. After a modest but successful release, historian and lead developer Dr. James Coltrain will reflect on how the Historiated team confronted challenges in historical sensitivity, representation, and narrative design to create a game emphasizing the lasting harms of American slavery. Strategies covered will include how Historiated used surviving artifacts and documents to ensure historical accuracy, wrote a main character who could provide her own historical context to players, and worked with community stakeholders to give them a voice in the game's production.


This session will provide a practical case study for how developers can make use of historical sources, community partnerships, and gameplay strategies to accurately and faithfully portray difficult historical narratives in games.

Intended Audience

All developers who are interested in dealing with difficult historical topics in their game designs are encouraged to attend. The talk should be clear to all audiences, but will be especially relevant to narrative designers, environmental artists, and community managers.