Carnegie Mellon University Students Develop a Video Game Based on August Wilson’s Plays

Students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) have created an immersive new game that is based on August Wilson’s series of plays about live in Pittsburgh’ Hill district during the 20th century. Wilson, who was born in 1945 and died in 2005, is best known for a series of 10 plays known as August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, which dramatize a century of African American life. His work won many awards including Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards

In the  game – Explore August Wilson’s Hill District – players use a smartphone or tablet to work their way through the mission of filling a photo album with historical images from two decades: the 1910s and the 1960s. The augmented reality (AR) mode relies on a printed-out map of the Hill District, which then can be used to show how the buildings and infrastructure change over time.

In the early 20th century, Pittsburgh’s Hill District was one of the most vibrant Black neighborhoods in the U.S.Black social clubs, restaurants and churches thrived. Many men had high-paying jobs at steel mills, and families prospered.

“The core of the experience is to engage the player in the culture and events of the Hill District,” said Em Tyminski, a second-year graduate student studying costume design and a 2D artist and narrative designer for the team.

Mike Christel, a teacing professor in the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and faculty adviser to the project, stated that  “we’re right next to a neighborhood with a collection of rich stories that August Wilson worked with to make really great plays. It was a great project for me. I’m very proud of what the students did.”

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