‘Dandara’ to ‘deliver empathy’ through games
Brazilian studio Long Hat Games intended to explore empathy and cultural heritage in a game based on the leader of a large community of ex-slaves, Dandara dos Palmares, it explains in an interview with industry site Gamasutra.
“Games differ from other media because of the interactive side of it,” studio co-founder Lucas Mattos told Gamasutra.
“In talking about history, not only can you show the player a historical situation and the decisions someone made when living through it,” he continues. “But you can stimulate, through gameplay, feelings that relate to how it would be for a person to be in that position. You can deliver empathy.”
Long Hat House’s “Dandara” slots neatly into the Metroidvania genre; it’s a style of game, typically seen from a side-on perspective, in which players explore, collect items and, using newfound skills or equipment, progress through each level or revisit old ones.
Released Feb. 6 across half a dozen formats (iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, as well as Mac, Linux and PC), “Dandara” has been well received by players, with high user ratings on iTunes, Google Play, PSN, Steam and Xbox Live.
Yet alongside a twist on Metroidvania mechanics, in which “Dandara” players travel in swift, straight lines between available surfaces, the game also has an angle that goes beyond entertainment.
The title character herself was a leader of the largest settlement of escaped or free-born slaves, Quilombo dos Palmares, and Long Hat Studio wanted to ensure more Brazilians knew about her; at the same time, a nonliteral approach to Brazilian history lets “Dandara” lift multiple characters, objects and elements as required.
“It is believed that Dandara knew how to fight, was a battle strategist, and, when eventually recaptured, took her own life so as not to go back to a life of enslavement,” co-founder João Brant told Gamasutra. “The meanings behind those facts help a lot to make sense of the game world. It works both ways as well, those in search of a richer narrative can also research the game’s inspirations and learn about another culture and history.”
And with its thematic and artistic background drawing heavily from Brazilian culture, “Dandara” continues a tradition seen in 2011’s acclaimed and challenging Metroidvania “Guacamelee”, whose creator returned to his own Mexican childhood for inspiration, and joins 2013 adventure “Papo & Yo” in exploring and exporting another part of Brazil’s heritage. JB
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