Imagine packing your bags and embarking on an unknown journey, not sure how long you’ll be away or if you’ll ever come home.
Do you fill your suitcase with shorts and sandals or a thermal jacket? How much space do you have for family photos or old favorite stuffed animals? How about a snack that reminds you of home, or a shabby diary that records your new life?
These are the small but important choices facing hundreds of Caribbean migrants who boarded HMT Empire blastLured by the promise of a prosperous life in Britain, they leave their homeland to help rebuild the “motherland” after World War II.
Seventy-five years after the ship docked in Tilbury, Essex, the challenges they faced are being recreated in Windrush Tales, the world’s first video game based on their experiences. It tells the story of a generation that came here with high hopes, only to be deeply disappointed and betrayed.
Chella Ramanan is the creative director of Windrush Tales. Her credits run the gamut from the BAFTA-nominated Before I Forget, the moving story of a woman with early-onset dementia, to the upcoming James Cameron-based Cameron’s Avatar series.
But Windrush Tales is undoubtedly her most personal project.
As the daughter of a Caribbean father and a white Scottish mother who came to Britain from Grenada in the 1950s, Ramanan’s team initially saw Windrush Tales as a celebration of multiculturalism, looking at the positive influence of Caribbean culture on 21st-century Britain.
“We thought, ‘Let’s make a game about our heritage and the family that came here,'” Ramanan said. “We know it’s not perfect, but we think the multicultural side of the UK is largely supported.”
Created by 3-Fold Games, a small studio co-founded by Ramanan, the game’s beautifully illustrated diary-style presentation uses text to help players immerse themselves in the lives of the Windrush generation.
Both of its characters are black and both are from the Caribbean. One is Rose, an aspiring nurse, and the other is her brother Vernon. Concerned but tenacious, Rose followed her siblings to the UK and planned to start working as a nurse in the newly formed NHS.
Unbeknownst to his sister, Vernon has been living in the UK for several years and has struggled to find and keep a job. Through his photography, he documents their struggles to adapt to life in the UK, from grassroots art and activism, to churches and social clubs.
For the 3-Fold team, made up of mostly black British-Caribbean staff, Windrush Tales was seen as an opportunity to tell the type of story rarely seen in gaming, which is often dominated by big-budget shooters, sports games and big TV and television. movie franchise.
According to the 2022 census by industry trade body Ukie, just 5% of people working in games in the UK are black, compared with 66% of white Britons. Those numbers are reflected on the screen — a 2021 diversity study by gaming site Diamond Lobby, which looked at more than 100 top-selling games over the past five years, found that 54 percent of the protagonists were white, compared to just 8 percent. Are non-white women.
But Shipwind’s celebratory focus shifted, as pre-production had just begun when news emerged that a scandal had shaken the team’s core beliefs.
Back in 2018, as the 70th anniversary of Windrush’s arrival approached, many who made the same journey in subsequent decades were wrongfully detained, deported, and deprived of legal rights by a cracked “hostile environment policy” that disparaged those A person who is presumed to have arrived in the UK illegally.
some of them were deported later died.
Among those most affected by then home secretary Theresa May’s government policy introduced in 2012 were members of the Windrush generation, who arrived legally in the UK with government encouragement between 1948 and 1973. Many, like Roth, worked in the NHS and other sectors affected by Britain’s post-war labor shortage.
While they were automatically granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK upon arrival, many were not given any documents confirming their identity and were later unable to prove their right to reside when immigration officials came knocking. Jobs and property were lost, health care and benefits were denied, and in the worst cases, people were deported to countries they barely knew.
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‘A generation pushed aside’
The game’s screenwriter, Corey Brotherson, who is also a descendant of the Windrush generation, said the scandal changed the game’s “overall tone” and gave the team an extra purpose in their work.
“For a lot of people, Windrush is either little known or forgotten,” he said. “The contributions of the Windrush generation have been brushed aside. The scandal has made people realize how important they were to the foundations of modern Britain.”
The world’s first Windrush game
To inspire the game’s storyline, the studio drew on their family’s experiences, news reports, books and art exhibits.
For Brotherson, his grandfather was an obvious source of inspiration.
“My grandfather wrote about his experience when he first came over, how he felt and the problems he faced,” he said. One of his grandfather’s first experiences was being blackmailed by a taxi driver, and he also struggles to gain acceptance in the workplace.
“My grandfather was a hard worker, but sometimes it was difficult to find a job,” Brosen said. “Sometimes, if he got promoted, his white colleagues turned against him.
“It was typical of the racism, bigotry and resistance that his generation experienced as they tried to assert themselves.”
The team also called on anyone affected by the scandal to attend a story-sharing workshop earlier this year.
“We sat with them for hours and talked about their memories,” Blathesen said. “It’s absolutely exciting to hear what they’ve been through.”
The landmark nature of Windrush Tales earned it a place in an exhibition of digital narratives at the British Library, allowing the public to experience the demo for the first time in person when it opened earlier this month.
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“You can put yourself in their shoes”
Co-curator Ian Cooke said the exhibition showcased “opportunities for writers to write in new ways”, particularly those that recognize audiences and respond to their presence.
Also on display are first-person accounts of those killed in the Manchester Arena bombing, an experimental game by artist Dan Hett, and a revolutionary dictionary documenting the evolution of language used in the 2011 Egyptian uprising .
“Storytelling and writing is getting more and more sophisticated, and it’s using technology in a variety of ways,” Cook said.
“There’s diversity in who’s writing, who’s reading, what kind of stories are being told. With Windrush Tales, it’s the first time anyone has written a game about the experience of immigrating to Britain in the 20th century.”
Although the game was planned for Windrush’s 70th anniversary, its presentation at the British Library coincides with its 75th anniversary. As anyone in the industry will attest, game development takes a long time.
3-Fold Games is still reluctant to confirm a final release date, but the library exhibit Digital Storytelling will remain open until October 15th. When it does come, Ramanan and Brotherson hope their game will do justice to the struggles of a generation.
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Storm Anniversary Event
Events are being held across the UK this year to mark the 7th anniversary of Windrush’s arrival in Tilbury.
Below is a list of some of the events – for a full selection visit windrush75.org/events.
• Windrush: it runs through us at Mansfield Museum until 30 November
• Season 75 of Windrush at the V&A in South Kensington, London until 31 August
• Windrush 75 Festival at Vernun Sports Club in Preston on 18 June
• Windrush Women’s Space, Audit Office, King’s College, Cambridge, 19 June
• Men from the Sun at the Westlands Entertainment Center in Yeovil on 20 June
• Commemorating Windrush at Tilbury Quays on 22 June
• Windrush Day 75 at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol on 22 June
• Friends of the Caribbean Rose Column at Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, 22 June
• Celebrating Windrush 75 on 22 June at RAMM Museum, Queen Street, Exeter
• Windrush 75th Anniversary Concert September 16 at Broadway Theater in Catford
“Hopefully people will have enough opportunity to peek into the lived experience of that time,” Blathesen said. “If they get a taste of that, whether it’s through education, or feel a parallel to their day-to-day life now, hopefully they’re doing well.”
Ramanan hopes the game will “give people insight into why Britain is what it is” for players who don’t know anything about the Windrush generation or the scandals that followed.
For people from the black community or other minority groups, she hopes it will resonate with them.
“We went to a British Caribbean art show last year, and it was amazing—the gallery was full of Afro-Caribbeans,” recalls Ramanan. “It just goes to show that when you show art that represents underrepresented people … it’s not that they’re not interested in art, it’s just that art will never represent them.”
As far as Windrush Tales goes, there’s no question it will.