History Scotland magazine, Strange Sickness on Mac, and more
A few quick highlights to draw attention to this summer from the burgh records project!
In June Strange Sickness was released for MacOS, to join the version already available on PC. Find out more at strangesickness.com
Jackson Armstrong wrote a short piece on the voices of medieval people in History Scotland’s special issue on the middle ages (Sep/Oct 2022 issue). This article explores how the written words and spoken words can be recovered from the Aberdeen council registers. The special issue also features articles on towns, women, plague, and more, by great contributors.
The Strange Sickness team gathered with backers and supporters for an evening of live music and celebration at The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on Friday 13th May 2022.
To mark the completion of the game William, Katharine, Alana and Jackson came together in person for the first time and met over thirty supporters who were able to be there. The event had generous support from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.
There was a Q&A session with the game creators, followed by a cracking performance by Songs from Medieval Aberdeen, who provided the track for the game’s credits.
Later in the evening the organisers held a raffle draw for a special bottle of Chivas Regal 25 Year Old, kindly gifted by Chivas Brothers, and three game download keys.
Twelve months after the crowd-funder campaign, today is the day and Strange Sickness is now available on PC via Itch.io
Earlier today Strange SicknessKickstarter backers had an update about the release of this version of the game, and about plans for the Mac version and other rewards to follow soon.
Visit strangesickness.com to learn more about the game, including how sales will support two charities. There is also a historians’ commentary on the website which explores the relationship between the game and the historical research and sources on which it is based. (But play the game first to avoid spoilers!)
Earlier this year we announced a new initiative with artists Kit Martin and Hetty Haxworth who are working with the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project to help introduce primary school pupils to block printing, monoprinting, collage, design and drawing, all inspired by the content of the Aberdeen Registers Online.
Working under Covid-19 restrictions, Hetty and Kit created an instructional video for teachers and pupils. The video accompanied a box of materials that enabled the class to complete this art and history project without in-person artist input. Pupil and teacher feedback from both pilot schools has been overwhelmingly positive.
Hetty, Kit and the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project are now exploring further opportunities for funding to help realise their ambitions for next steps with this work. A goal is to build upon the pilot and involve a group of primary schools within Aberdeen. This would include opportunities to work with teachers directly, to hold an open day to showcase the new pupil artwork, and to explore more of the historical context of the ARO.
With members of the current FLAG project, it will present the digital humanities work which is currently underway, investigating the ARO alongside a comparable digital resource from medieval Augsburg.
And, with Dr Claire Hawes, it will showcase creative responses to the themes and language in the ARO, in the form of contemporary song-writing and musical performance.
Claire will discuss the process by which she and Aberdeen-based musicians collaborated to write a set of songs which were performed at the Scottish Parliament in early 2020. These songs have now been recorded for the first time and they will be included in the session!
A paper in the form of a ‘thread’ of 12 tweets from @medievalabdn, by Dr William Hepburn and Dr Jackson Armstrong, will look at the story that has led so far to the Strange Sickness game project, and the steps on the road to creating and bringing a historical research-based game to life.
Papers at the conference running 25-28 May 2021 may be found with the Twitter hashtag #MAMG21.
Following the successful Kickstarter campaign, new support for Strange Sickness has come from the University of Aberdeen and the Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service.
The Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service has enabled the project to meet its final stretch goal, and a Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Award from the University of Aberdeen more than doubles the funding raised during the Kickstarter campaign! This will allow more time to be booked from the game designer (Katharine Neil) and artist (Alana Bell).
This means that the whole game can be made with greater depth and detail, and that it will include the ‘epilogue’ stretch goal exploring the outbreak of 1514.
The extra funding wouldn’t have been possible without the faith in the project demonstrated by all the backers, and William and Jackson hope that they will all be pleased with the extra dimension that it will add to the game.
This does mean that the expected release of the game will push back to summer 2021, but the Strange Sickness team are sure the extra benefits this funding will bring to the game will make it worth the longer wait.
Work is underway on the game, and we’ve included a new image by Alana here for you to see how the look of the game is shaping up!
Artists Hetty Haxworth and Kit Martin are working with the Aberdeen Burgh Records Project to help introduce primary school pupils in Scotland to art techniques and ideas that they might not otherwise try.
Inspired by the transcribed text in the Aberdeen Registers Online, Kit and Hetty have developed a pilot printmaking project to be conducted with a Primary 5 class in an Angus primary – when schools return, that is! If well received, there is scope to expand the activity to other interested schools (or other groups) in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.
Hetty and Kit have made instructional videos introducing a selection of stories and themes within the Aberdeen Registers Online, along with printmaking techniques. The videos then give step-by-step instruction for teacher and pupils to complete a piece of collaborative visual art. A package of materials will be sent to the school along with links to the videos. This will include images from medieval manuscripts as inspiration, including from the Aberdeen Bestiary.
The art techniques explored in the activities are block printing and monoprinting as well as collage, design and drawing. The finished piece will be a medieval ‘scroll’ measuring 180cm x 85cm that will illustrate three stories from the Aberdeen council registers and bordered by Middle Scots words taken from the Aberdeen Registers Online, to form a decorative edge.
The results could be displayed on the school wall, or in other potential locations such as the University or the City Archives. The pilot work has been supported by funding from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.
We’re looking forward to the next steps for this exciting creative response to the Aberdeen burgh records!
The Kickstarter campaign for Strange Sickness wrapped up with an amazing 220 backers and 132% funding support, following a focused three-week run which ended a minute before midnight on 17 December 2020.
The generous response to the campaign brought backers from Scotland and around the world to support the project. Practical support and encouragement from Opportunity North East Code Base (ONE CodeBase) has been integral to the project.
Backing for the game exceeded the initial target and the first stretch goal. This means the game will include a prologue, to precede the main narrative section of play. Here the player will be introduced to Aberdeen and its inhabitants and hear reports of frightening illnesses from elsewhere in Scotland and overseas. Player decisions made in the prologue will affect the main narrative which follows.
Strange Sickness is a narrative game about fear, disease and community. It is also an encounter with history, through the Aberdeen council registers.
The player will take on the role of a member of Aberdeen’s burgh council in the late 1490s as a plague epidemic is taking hold in Scotland. You must decide how to protect the city against the arrival of the disease by land or sea. You navigate through the game by linking to different parts of a branching narrative, deciding when to seek further information and how to respond to the threat of plague. The narrative plays out in different ways, with different endings, based on these decisions.
The project, led by William Hepburn and Jackson Armstrong, is newly launched on Kickstarter. If the project meets its funding target, the creative team will be led by William, building upon his experience in Playing in the Archives and with Who Killed David Dun?. William will bring his skills as a historian together with game designer Katharine Neil (Astrologaster and Over the Alps) and illustrator Alana Bell (graduate of Gray’s School of Art, 2020).
Strange Sickness is a non-profit project. William and Jackson are giving their time for free. The funds raised in this campaign will recover the costs of creating the game, delivering the rewards, and ensuring Katharine and Alana’s time is funded.
All profits from sales of the game after the Kickstarter campaign will support the Lord Provost’s Charitable Trust, for as long as the Trust is fundraising for Aberdeen-based registered charities to help individuals, families and communities across the city experiencing severe financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kickstarter campaign has launched with a great start in its first few days, so far with some 120 backers and reaching 66% of its total goal. The campaign page for the project may be found at www.kickstarter.com.