Show and Tell: Salem Witchcraft Trials

For my show and tell, I know it’s a few weeks before we demonstrate the other historical games, but I wanted to share one on the Salem Witch Trials. I took an undergraduate course, Witchcraft and Sorcery in the Medieval Ages, and my professor had us play this National Geographic game just for fun. However, it is very historically accurate and I think captures a good representation of the experiences of accused witches.

From a historical standpoint, the game is very accurate and well-research. Books cited in the Bibliography page include Devil in the Shape of a Woman and Salem Possessed. As you go along in the “experience”, NatGeo has included mini-biographies for many of the main characters, a who’s-who for those who haven’t seen The Crucible.

The game’s website construction is pretty eerie, which captures the feelings and dread of the witch trials in general. The only thing that maybe could have added to the font colors, dark background, and creepy creepy pictures is some haunting music in the background…. other than that, the website offers a good introduction, prologue, and epilogue, in addition to a bibliography. Another neat component in the “TravelWise” page that gives resources and directions to those who want to visit Salem and other relevant museums/sites nearby.

What I like best about this game, and it speaks a little to my own project this semester, is the point of view it’s played from. The game player is the accused witch. The assumed sex, which is not overt but becomes more identifiable later in the game, of the accused is a woman. This historically is representative of the Salem Witch Trials, but it would have been interesting for NatGeo to have a “male or female” choice and maybe take “men” down the path of Giles Corey or Daniel Day Lewis. (joking, John Procter)

Each page sets up where you are “the inn, the country road, the courthouse”. While there is the one main choice of the game “will you confess or not?”, in reality once you play the game you realize this choice is the only one, and it’s not much of a choice at that. While some could criticize this game for only allowing users to click the red words to go to the next page, I find this captures the actual experiences of accused witches immensely. In trials such as these, there were not many choices, and when you made a choice (such as to confess or not) you pretty much went down a predetermined path. Not much room to save yourself.

One thing also I think this game could do better is elaborate on what accused witches had in common. On one page, it discusses how what those who died had in common was their professed innocence, but many works, including those cited in the bibliography, also emphasize gender, class, and politics as important to accusations.

And lastly, on a personal note, when you claim to be innocent and then it lists who hangs and “Procter hangs”…. well, personally that’s just creepy to see!


Quick Sidenote: The set up of the game, not sure if it’s an Adobe Flash thing, is somewhat problematic for me in Safari, the scrollbar showed up better in Firefox (in gray instead of black so you can actually see it!)

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