Gamifying 'Jack the Ripper'?


9th November, 2013: On the 125th anniversary of the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, Bristol based indie GameTheNews announces a new title based on the infamous ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders. Today, Friday 8 November 2013, Bristol-based indie GameTheNews.net announces its latest development, a new title based on the infamous 'Jack the Ripper' murders called JtR125, one of six new collaborations between filmmakers, academic researchers and creative companies as part of the REACT Future Documentary Sandbox, a nationwide programme to explore the theme of Future Documentary funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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125 years ago Mary Jane Kelly was murdered, her badly mutilated body found by a rent collector seeking her arrears on the morning of November 9, 1888. The terrible nature of the murders by Jack The Ripper, who himself was never brought to justice, has ensured the ‘Ripper’ killings remain a mystery that still repulses, contests, fascinates and resonates today.

GameTheNews.net, known for taking a bold approach to difficult subjects using games to address tough news stories, is applying game and documentary mechanics to their latest subject, Jack the Ripper, to find out what lessons are still to be learned. The lead developer on JtR125, Tomas Rawlings of Auroch Digital who produces GamesTheNews, says, “we're not going to make a first-person Ripper game about the killer - we're much more interested in the society that created the conditions that allowed this to happen and the plight of his victims. The fact that 125 years later we're still talking about this suggests to me that there are lessons still to be learned. The events themselves were a catalyst for social change. It was also a key time in the birth of a number of areas of our society, notably the tabloid newspapers and forensic science. We're keen to create an interactive documentary using the medium of games and allow the player to explore the issues and events themselves.”

As part of the Future Documentary Sandbox Rawlings has been paired with Patrick Crogan, games and digital media expert, University of the West of England, and Professor of Media and Journalism at Middlesex, Janet Jones.

Dr Crogan commented, “JtR125 is certainly pushing the envelope of both documentary and game formats. There are some risks with treating historical material the wrong way, and we don’t want to simply repeat the way many commercial games bolster their realism with bits of archival footage of war or other major historical events. With the development of apps other interactive forms there’s real potential to make a powerful and thoughtful experience that opens up new perspectives for people about something like the Ripper mystery.”

Professor Jones remarked, "The idea with JtR125 is to test the break-down of generic boundaries between games and serious documentary so that the world can be reported in a potentially more dynamic and investigative way that might better engage younger audiences accustomed to finding things out through digital play. Maybe in five or ten years time, every BBC newsroom will have a gaming desk alongside Radio, TV and online. We're focusing on how we might create acceptable templates for merging archive, talking head (all the traditional factual production conventions) within a game framework without destroying the experience or breaking the creative paradigm. There are undoubtedly lines to be drawn here and as we develop the Jack the Ripper game we hope to be able to draw those lines more clearly."

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