Assistant Professor of Digital Media & Design James Coltrain’s historically-themed video game “Blackhaven” has garnered international acclaim and industry-wide attention for its narrative structure that focuses on the efforts of a plantation fictitious turned into a museum that tries to conceal its past.
Three months after its release in July, “Blackhaven” was one of 47 official selections and earned two nominations at the prestigious IndieCade festival for Best Narrative Game and Best Impact Game, walking away with an unexpected Jury Prize for best innovation in experience design.
IndieCade – described by Time magazine under the name “Sundance of Indie Games” – works year-round to support independent video game developers and their businesses, culminating in its two-day awards festival.
Awarding “Blackhaven” one of their top prizes, the judges praised the game for allowing players to uncover “layers of personal and national history that help make pointed realizations about modern life and its roots.” in the past”. They also noted that “the game creates a startling new experience by delicately balancing its detailed aesthetic and understated mechanics around this simple narrative that ties each element together into a startling and exciting new experience”.
Coltrain was delighted to see the game receive such a positive reception, noting, “Blackhaven is a slower, quieter game inspired by real historical documents, so it’s really exciting to see it get this kind of attention.”
“Blackhaven” is the first release from Coltrain’s Historized Games. He collaborated with students and faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black institution. A student script team under the direction of Shearon Roberts, a Xavier Associate Professor of Mass Communications, helped create the game’s protagonist, Kendra Turner, a student at a historically black institution.
In the game, Kendra, voiced by TikTok personality Darby Farr, works at the Blackhaven Hall Historical Society and finds out how she whitewashed her past as a slave owner.
Beyond IndieCade, “Blackhaven” received another notable recognition in January, an Honorable Mention for Excellence in Storytelling at the Independent Games Festival, part of the largest Game Developers Conference (GDC). which will be held in March. Coltrain will also speak to GDC about his experience developing “Blackhaven.”
Since its release, the game has had 30,000 downloads. It is available to play on PC for free on Steam.
“We are thrilled to have James join our growing game design program,” says Heather Elliott-Famularo, Head of DMD Department. “IndieCade and GDC are the best sites in the world, and IndieCade is arguably the most prestigious festival for independent games in the world.”
She adds, “In a year where more than 10,000 games have been released on PC alone, winning the award is a remarkable achievement, especially since his game studio, Historated Games, is essentially a one-man show. , and the release of “Blackhaven”. happened in the midst of a global pandemic, which posed great challenges to the production.
“Blackhaven” is just the beginning for Coltrain and Historiated, as the game began as an offshoot of a larger project called “Cassius”, which will take players back to Blackhaven Hall in the 18th century. That game is slated for 2023, but Coltrain will release “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” first, a historically accurate all-ages story inspired by painter Grant Wood’s work of the same name. This will be Historiated’s first virtual reality game.