I have taught art since 1984 to ages 8-15. As exciting as I find the subject, my students don’t always share my enthusiasm for ancient art history. I decided to make a series of video games inspired by art history hoping others could see what I love. I started out with Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Hindu Gods, The Garden of Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, and Spooky 17th Century Wood Cuts of Witches and Demons.
I did not want the games to feel boring and “educational”. One of my gripes is when adults ask me, “Is it educational?” Egads I hate that question. I always lean in as if I’m transferring some sort of guarded secret and say, “To be honest, I haven’t found a way to stop ’em from learning. Turns out everything is educational in some way!” So my intent was to make fun classic arcade style games with common platform game mechanics, so the players can focus more on the images and art.
Once a player has a direct interaction with a character, let’s say Lord Ganesha hits you with his ax and kills you. You’re gonna remember that differently than a static image you barely look at in a history book or slide show. I mean, Ganesha hit you with an ax and killed you! That’s a relationship, and even better, it can change. You later learn if you avoid Lord Ganesha’s ax, you can make friends with his rat, and you get rewarded instead. Now you know Lord Ganesha has a rat and an ax, which you might not have known before you played this game. I hope my games plant mind seeds that take root later.
Sometimes exposure is all anyone needs to want to know more. These games do not intend to teach any long history, but instead to simply inspire wonder. Once a player can point out the Goddess Isis, Hanuman the Monkey King, Lord Krishna or Anubis in the Underworld, we are on our way to a shared language that bridges time through the ages. “Woh! I crashed right into Thoth.” Yeah, I bet that hurts.
Middle school teachers feel free to use these resources to inspire learning. Many of these topics are being covered in 7th and 8th grade public school system. Use the free apps as rewards on their iPad. Help them learn each character’s name, share a bit of the history, and have fun.