Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Link to Pox and the City: Edinburgh

Welcome to Pox and the City. You can play our history game using the following link:


Please be patient as the game loads.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pox and the City, The Game

It has been an exhilarating ride, and now Pox and the City is finally a Game! Kudos to Elizabeth Goins, Lisa Hermsen and their team at RIT for turning a vision into reality.

It begins, as so much in Edinburgh does, in the Grassmarket, with Edinburgh Castle towering over the city. Young Dr. Robertson makes his way to the city. He has heard about Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccine, and is determined to use it to establish his own career.
His first decision is whether to play the game as a Philanthropic doctor -- that is, someone who became a doctor primarily to help humanity -- or as an entrepreneurial one, primarily interested in building his career.
Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive! If he's philanthropic, but gives away all his money and time, he won't be able to afford to stay in practice. And if he only cares about earning money, he won't find many patients willing to trust him with their lives and those of their children.

Having made his choice, Dr. Robertson finds himself in his office. This is a text-adventure game, and the journal in the lower right keeps track of his quests. His first quest is to read an important letter from Edward Jenner himself! But in order to find it, he first must clean up his office. 

First challenge: how did people get rid of papers in 1802, before there were waste-paper baskets?

The player can look around the office to find additional information, like Jenner's 1798 text on vaccination:

He/she can also use the journal to find out more about Edinburgh locations important to the game. 

The Old Town is for the "lower orders": shopkeepers, artisans, and the laboring poor.

The New Town is for the people of rank and fortune.

But most people don't play the game to read: instead, they want to click on things and See What Happens Next.

Dr. Robertson can use the map to move around the city to meet patients and patrons.

He can build his practice with New Town families...

who will invite him to elegant dinner parties:

And with their counterparts in the Old Town...
who will be less formal, but equally hospitable.

He will have to make choices: when to invest in smallpox vaccine, and how to persuade a patient to let him use it. He will have to figure out how to treat a range of diseases using only early 19th century treatments.

And what to do when beset by a host of challenges: a smallpox outbreak in the New Town, obstructionist physicians who refuse him access to medical records, and a missing cadaver that could -- if not found quickly -- destroy all his hopes of saving the world from the scourge of smallpox.

Not to mention, how to win at Speculation:
For an early account of our playtesting, go to the History of Vaccines blog from our project partner, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Making of Virtual Edinburgh: Medical Edinburgh on Jokaydiagrid

Classical Edinburgh took years to build, but with the aid of our Virtual World guru Desmond Shang, Medical Edinburgh on Jokaydiagrid was up and running in a matter of months.

It was an amazing experience for Euphemia Mason, lead avatar for the Pox and the City team, as she met with Des on what looked like a flat, empty lot, and watched it grow into a real city -- for a given definition of "real", that is. "I've put your map on the ground," Des said, and Euphemia went and stood on top of it, feeling exactly like Dorothy at the start of the yellow bridge road. The difference is, she got to describe the road, the buildings, the crescents, and the geography. 

"This is the West Port," she said, a jumble of old houses as the edge of the social and economic world. And lo, the West Port was created, on the west side of the town heading towards the Glasgow Road, the long-distance route stretching across Scotland. By the 1820s, so many Irish immigrants had settled in the West Port and Grassmarket that the districts were known as Little Ireland.

And so here is the Grassmarket, looking much tidier than in "real" life, but with the crown of St. Giles clearly visible in the distance. It should be crowded and bustling, with cattle and carts and hawkers everywhere. But then, it should also be cold, gray, rainy, with a nasty driving wind, so Euphemia is very content to stroll around on her own, stopping in at the Tavern just visible on the left, and looking at the shops.

There's the Apothecary's and Milliner's...

The Tannery, which adds its distinctive smell to the surrounding area, and one of the many Edinburgh churches:

"And now we need to go UP to the High Street," Euphemia said. She explained that the road was very steep, narrow, and crooked, and Desmond, in turn, explained that was all very well for real-world builders, who could use stone and mortar and count on people not trying to walk through walls. Inworld, in Jokaydiagrid, if the roads got too steep, or narrow, or winding, they would block the avatars. Unable to climb, they would keep bumping into the road, and might even get stuck, locked for what seemed like forever in a virtual close or wynd.

So Euphemia settled on a nice, even incline, leading -- as all upward-tending roads in Edinburgh do lead, to the Castle at the top of the High Street.

Unfortunately we can't go in it, at least for now, but Euphemia can turn around and walk down the High Street toward St. Giles and Parliament Close...
One of the advantages Euphemia has over, well, the rest of us is that she can explore the famous crown of St. Giles from above as well as below. If mere mortals want to try for an almost-avatar's-eye view of St. Giles Cathedral, the best place for it is the Manuscript Room at the National Library of Scotland.

 The High Street continues down to Holyrood Palace, but for now, we can follow Euphemia and Des as they construct some of the medical institutions for which Edinburgh is justly famed,

Surgeon's Hall, complete with skeleton and essential references to Burke and Hare...
and, a personal favorite, the library of the Royal Medical Society:

Any parallels with real-life Edinburgh's many wonderful libraries and archives are entirely intentional.

On to the New Town. Desmond carefully crafted geographical features along the way: South Bridge with its view of the Cowgate, and North Bridge leading to St. Andrew's Square. The New Town of Medical Edinburgh has been deliberately kept airy, light, and Georgian, to make a contrast...

with the tall, crowded, medieval buildings of the Old Town. This is the view that Euphemia can see from Princes Street, as she stands in front of what would be, in modern Edinburgh, the McDonalds.  Thankfully, there is no fast food in Medical Edinburgh.

Euphemia and Desmond opted for crescents, not squares -- they're just sooooo beautiful --  but anyone who has been to George and Queen Streets should have no difficulty recognizing where Euphemia is inworld:

Of course in real life, the College of Physicians has walls, but still, Euphemia thinks Desmond did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the original 18th century building -- with its many pillars -- and its elegant furnishings. Not to mention another Burke and Hare reference.

And so, as Euphemia flies high above her virtual world, she sees stretched out before her, her vision of Old Town Edinburgh, beautifully rendered:

And of the New Town:

Medical Edinburgh is available to anyone on Jokaydiagrid. Proper behavior is required, on pain of being subjected to 18th century medical treatment. 

Many thanks from the Pox and the City team (and especially Euphemia) to Desmond Shang,, and to Jokay at Jokaydiagrid,, for making Medical Edinburgh not only possible, but actual and virtual.