In a proposition that’s sure to raise eyebrows, a University of Southern California-initiated project promises to educate players about the realities of slavery through a forthcoming iPad game called Thralled.

"Slavery, as a legacy and an institution, is a topic that needs discussing," said lead designer Miguel Oliveira. "And we want to bring it up to discussion."

"We have the potential to involve people in the subject and create a sense of empathy that can only be achieved with direct involvement," he said. "With Thralled, we want to try to encourage empathy for victimized people and thus heighten sensibility for others' suffering ... interactive media has the potential to change people, and yet this potential is mostly left unexplored. We want to make an effort in the way of exploring it."

The game’s protagonist is a character named Isaura, who is an African slave brought to Brazil in the 18th Century to labor on a sugarcane plantation. After making an escape from the fields, Isaura sets out on a mission to rescue her son, from whom she has been separated. In the platform game, players must get Isaura to perform a handful of simple actions, like jumping over obstacles and between gaps, to move forward, while  “reliving her past traumas in a nightmarish representation of one of the most devastating calamities in history.”

Thralled is still in development, with a commercial release tentatively slated for next year. It strikes us as a perhaps well-intentioned but ultimately questionable approach.

[via The Verge]