From northern schools to Fortnite: Have fun learning!
Well it’s been an amazing June here at Immortal Egypt, with three of our most recent educational projects coming together at last, from entertaining over a thousand school children across the north to working on Fortnite, ‘the world’s largest game’.
Firstly we visited the Bolton school who won the nationwide Dorling Kindersley competition ‘Ask an ‘Ologist’. Based on our recent update of their classic book ‘Eyewitness Ancient Egypt’, the school’s prizes were 50 Dorling Kindersley books for their library, and it was brilliant to be able to present them in person before giving a talk to some very clever students (with a special congrats to Arthur who asked the winning question).
Arthur & Jo in the library of the winning school complete with their new Dorling Kindersley books
We’re also just back from Bradford having done a couple of ‘Ancient Egypt’ sessions on mummification for almost 1,300 (!!!) schoolchildren at Key Stages 2 and 3. All part of the Bradford Literature Festival whose organisers thought that “it would be brilliant for the children of Bradford to see the Yorkshire Egyptologist come and speak and show that academia and becoming a historian is absolutely for everybody”, the response was amazing – thanks so much guys!
And at long last there’s the official release of our latest project, which has a truly global reach - Fortnite’s 'Wonders: Pyramids of Giza’. As an interactive game described as ‘play with purpose’, it’s been created for Fortnite by the games studio Preloaded who contacted me last year to ask if I wanted to work with them on a new project set in and around Giza c.2500 BC when the pyramid of Khafra was being built. Fortunately the fact that my gaming knowledge has always been less than zero was apparently not a problem, as my role has been as historical consultant, much as I was back in 2005 for Preloaded’s earlier ancient Egypt game ‘Death In Sakkara’.
The ’Death in Sakkara’ game (courtesy BBC/Preloaded)
Commissioned for the BBC’s History website BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: Death in Sakkara, ‘Death In Sakkara’ was set in 1920s Egypt and was a total joy to work on, from sourcing images and providing hieroglyphs to helping create the archaeologists’ characters, even suggesting that their journey to Egypt should begin in a museum in Yorkshire (where else!) rather than in the usual clichéd setting of the British Museum BBC - History - Ancient History in depth: The 'Death in Sakkara' Gallery.
The ’Death in Sakkara’ game (courtesy BBC/Preloaded)
Yet the real challenge was to end up with an educational game that people actually wanted to play for fun, and certainly the effort was worth it. For not only did it win a New Media Award BBC media award - Archaeology, University of York, but attracted a quarter of a million hits within its first month. Over half the players registered female, 48% of them were over 26 and 84% of players told us they’d learned something about Egyptology. Result! And while this cult classic is no longer available on the BBC website after all these years, you can still get a real flavour of the game complete with Joe Berger’s brilliant images and the atmospheric soundtrack by Pendle Poucher at Death in Sakkara Walkthrough Episode 4 - YouTube
Part of the ‘Professors at Play’ series (courtesy University of York)
Then with another brief foray into the archaeogaming community back in 2017, we were invited to provide commentary for the new ‘Assassin's Creed: Origins’ game Archaeology Professors Play: Assassin's Creed: Origins | Egyptology Professor Dr Joann Fletcher and Digital Archaeology Lecturer Colleen Morgan play & discuss Assassin's Creed: Origins. Includes discussion of... | By University of York, Department of Archaeology | Facebook Produced as part of the University of York’s ‘Professors at Play’ series within the University of York’s Digital Heritage Master's degree, we had a fab afternoon discussing everything from the dangers of using oil lamps on boats to the accuracy of ancient hairstyles and recreating the Great Sphinx of Giza.
And now of course we’re bang up to date with Fortnite’s 'Wonders: Pyramids of Giza’ Wonders: Pyramids of Giza | Unreal Editor for Fortnite | PRELOADED. Based on the idea of immersive self-led learning, the Preloaded team wanted to recreate the iconic Giza site as faithfully as possible while also providing an authentic gaming experience, all of which required months of painstaking work to resurrect this long-lost ancient world.
Fortnite’s 'Wonders: Pyramids of Giza’ (courtesy Fortnite/Preloaded)
And month by month, as hundreds of questions and answers were emailed back and forth, the landscape of Giza began to take shape as Preloaded’s digital magicians rebuilt its tombs and temples Wonders: Pyramids of Giza | Unreal Editor for Fortnite | PRELOADED. The end result also allows players to work together to build some of Giza’s key features, to translate hieroglyphs and to get a real feel for the way the pyramids and adjoining temples were designed to sustain the souls of Khufu and Khafre in the afterlife. Yet it was equally important that players understood that this enormous burial site was also a place of great life, from the priests overseeing these royal cults to the ancient workers using the tools and everyday objects incorporated into the game.
And having recreated the only original Wonder of the Ancient World which still exists today, the game ultimately acknowledges the true genius of the ancient Egyptians. For as I say in the publicity, “the most wonderful thing about this game is the fact that it’s looking at the monumental, Egypt’s greatest monument, perhaps the greatest monument ever built by human hands”.