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Gamifying 'Jack the Ripper'?

On the 125th anniversary of the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, Bristol based indie GameTheNews announces 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.

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."

Find out more via http://bit.ly/jtr125 and on the REACT site at http://bit.ly/1b8EYmX

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Rebecca Ladbury | rebecca@ladburypr.com

Tel: 020 8969 3934 | 07941 224 975



(This image has been adapted from contemporary newspaper stretches of the 1888 edition of 'The Illustrated Police News')


About GameTheNews.net

GameTheNews.net is a project run by digital development and consultancy studio Auroch Digital, based at Bristol Games Hub, UK. The project is exploring how games can be developed from and about news stories. They have produced a number of games on a variety of topics, recent examples include Endgame: Syria (2012), based on the Syrian conflict, and NarcoGuerra (2013), based on the war on drugs. Endgame: Syria was refused by Apple's App Store, prompting a global debate about the role of gaming as a means of conveying news. GameTheNews games can be found here on their site as well as on Wired and the Huffington Post.

Patrick Crogan is from the Digital Cultures Research Centre ( www.dcrc.org.uk) at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He wrote Gameplay Mode: War, Simulation and Technoculture (2011)

Janet Jones is Professor and Head of Media and Journalism at Middlesex University. She is co-author of Digital Journalism (2012)


REACT is one of four Knowledge Exchange Hubs for the Creative Economy funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to develop strategic partnerships with creative businesses and cultural organisations, to strengthen and diversify their collaborative research activities and increase the number of arts and humanities researchers actively engaged in research-based knowledge exchange.

REACT is a collaboration between the UWE Bristol (the University of the West of England), Watershed, (and iShed), and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. It is a unique collaboration supporting innovative products and transformational services by bringing together companies and academics across South West and Wales.

It reaches across two dynamic UK regions, and uniquely across three cultural areas and two languages and creative economies. Together we aim to generate a transformation in arts-driven economic and social impact, by combining demand from the Creative Economy with Arts and Humanities research excellence.

REACT is working with iShed to deliver projects using the Sandbox process. We will run two Sandbox schemes a year with six projects in each scheme from 2011 – 2014. Each Sandbox scheme will have a different theme and to qualify applicants must have a project that uses Arts and Humanities research with a Creative Economy partner.


About iShed

iShed was established by Watershed in 2007 to produce creative technology collaborations. iShed‘s portfolio of commissioning schemes, events, research and consultancy encompasses the arts and creative industries. Local, national and international partnerships with industry, artists and universities, enables iShed’s support of talent and new ideas. iShed extends Watershed’s impact by widening opportunities for creative engagement with technology, developing digital practice through a focus on open investigation and audiences.


About Watershed

Watershed is a cross-artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent. Based in Bristol, we place no boundaries on our desire to connect with artists and audiences in the wider world. We curate ideas, spaces and talent to enable artistic visions and creative collaborations to flourish.


About The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities. In any one year, the AHRC makes hundreds of research awards ranging from individual fellowships to major collaborative projects as well as over 1,000 studentship awards. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk

About Creative Industries iNet

The Creative Industries iNet (Innovation Network) is a £3.2 million programme of support designed to help the South West’s creative businesses thrive and advance the area’s growing reputation as a global creative centre of excellence. The iNet is supporting each Heritage Sandbox project to develop the commercial applications of their ideas and find new markets, by giving them access to specialist information and research, and through sharing knowledge and expertise. www.creativeindustriesi.net

The iNet is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and led by Creative England, the recently formed national body that supports the sustainable growth of independent creative businesses, and the talent that feeds them, in every part of England outside London.



Games Press

Games Press is the leading online resource for games journalists. Used daily by magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, online media and retailers worldwide, it offers a vast, constantly updated archive of press releases and assets, and is the simplest and most cost-effective way for PR professionals to reach the widest possible audience. Registration for the site and the Games Press email digest is available, to the trade only, at www.gamespress.com