America 2017: Black History Has Been Reduced To An Adventure Game In Phoenix School

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THIRTEEN Productions LLC

So, as if black folks don’t have enough to deal with these days, we now have to deal with this foolishness.

There is a “choose your own adventure”-style computer game that let’s kids play as, get this, a young slave.

I shit you not, this is a real freaking thing. I wish I could say that I can’t believe something like this exists, but come on. If I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that nothing is unbelievable. And the kicker is that this game has been in existence since 2012. So, how are we just now hearing about it?

I don’t know, but white nonsense always comes to light. Always.

Mission US is a program where students can play interactive simulations that illustrate different parts of American history. The gist of this particular game, Flight to Freedom, is students play as if they are a 14-year-old girl named Lucy who is a slave. She lives on a plantation in Kentucky, and she’s trying to escape. Sometimes, she receives beatings, and kids can help her on the dangerous path to freedom.

Don’t forget that this is a game made for children. The website states that Mission US is made for middle and high school students but, still, children. Flight to Freedom was discovered by parents of a seventh-grade student at a Phoenix, Arizona, K–8 elementary school. Parent De’Lon Brooks tells USA Today: “I found out about it last week, when my son told me what happens in the game. I was just like, ‘No. Not at all. That’s not going to work.'” I would be saying the same thing, likely with a few more expletives.

One of the learning objectives of the game, per the website, is to create historical empathy. I think you can do this without playing a game where you pose as a damn slave.

THIRTEEN Productions LLC

Look, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but slavery isn’t a fucking game.

Especially not a game for 12-year-olds. This kind of subject matter can be overwhelming for the most “woke” adults, but children? It’s a lot to ask of them. Even teenagers. Slavery is far too complex to be condensed into such a format to make it more understandable for kids. There are books and direct resources available to schools — a game isn’t necessary. But like I said, absolutely nothing is a fucking surprise anymore. America 2017.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the conversation was like in the office that day. A bunch of white folks: “You know what the kids need? A game where they can pretend to be a slave! It’ll be great! Think about it! We’ll be applauded for our brilliance!”


Slavery isn’t fun. Slavery isn’t a lesson in problem-solving. After playing a few parts of the game (it’s free to register and play), I don’t understand how this game teaches kids more than they’d learn from reading age-appropriate firsthand accounts by slaves and former slaves, or even watching a movie. This game makes light of something that is very serious.

Real slaves didn’t get things like “resistance badges” and “escape master badges.” They didn’t get a special checkmark when they learned new words. Slavery, and escaping slavery, was a death sentence for many.

“What’s a slave to do?” Lucy asks. Lucy can either play it safe and keep her head down or be defiant in ways like sloppily setting a fire in the smokehouse and being blamed for it burning down. She can choose to run away with Henry, a slave who seemingly tried to run away and got whipped for it. They make an unlikely pair, but you can help them plan their trip from Kentucky to the freed state of Ohio.

Brooks states, “As a parent and as someone who grew up under civil-rights (movement) members, I couldn’t allow my son to be subjected to that without my permission.”

We know that slavery in the United States is a really fucking complicated and fucked-up period of history. Some white people will argue that “we’re past this.” They question why black people still bring up slavery and why it’s not something we can forget. Well, it’s because of shit like this. If my kid comes home asking me questions about why families were broken apart and sold to different plantations, then I have to rehash the worst parts of slavery. There is no simple answer to any of these questions.

If Lucy makes it to Ohio, she encounters white abolitionists. Miss Hatcher, a white teacher, is the 19th century equivalent of a Becky. She’s all like, “Black Lives Matter,” but then is like, “But sorry, Lucy, I can’t help you save your mother and brother. Come to our next meeting okay? I love the way you embroider by the way! Bye girl!”

For fuck’s sake. The nonsense doesn’t stop.

According to a previous press release for the Mission US series from the game’s producer, THIRTEEN Productions, “Research has shown that, by assuming the roles of peers from the past, students develop a more personal, memorable, and meaningful connection with complex historical content and context.” But this isn’t the Revolutionary War or the labor movement of the early 20th century or the Dust Bowl. Slavery (and the plight of indigenous people, which is outlined in another game, A Cheyenne Odyssey) isn’t something that was neatly wrapped up with reform or social services. It is a tale of the bondage and selling and cruel mistreatment of human beings, and frankly, it still has very real repercussions today.

I’m obviously not saying that children shouldn’t learn about slavery. They have to learn about where we started so they can understand the strides we’ve made and then the massive backslide we’re currently experiencing. I’d rather sit down with my kid and have an honest conversation, not find out that he’s playing the Oregon Trail for black people.

So nice try, folks, but you’re going to have to do better. Seriously. Don’t turn the pain of my people into a fucking virtual reality game.


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