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Witchcraft

Witch Hunt: A Card Game

Witch Hunt is a historically accurate card game designed to educate players on the witch trials in Scotland during the seventeenth century. Our game is set in 1649 in Haddington (East Lothian), Scotland. The gameplay follows a narrative throughout, which offers a taste of the reality of these trials. Players first become part of the social tensions that would result in community members being accused of witchcraft before the suspected witch is then taken to trial.

Perhaps the most important aspect of our game is its intention to avoid stereotyping. The story that players become a part of has been carefully crafted to offer an insight into the supernatural belief system that was dominant in society at the time. To this end, we wanted to emphasise that the typical, modern-day notion of a witch as an old woman with a pointed hat, a broom, and a wart on her face is very different to early modern perceptions of witchcraft.

Before our modern, scientific understanding of the world, society used the idea of black magic and the occult to explain away anything negative happening at the time – from drought or thunderstorm to a disagreement with a neighbour. As Witch Hunt is informed by the latest academic research and, thus, true to history, our game builds on the troubles that individuals living in the seventeenth century might have faced. From here, tension builds amongst players who begin to accuse one another of witchcraft – the only feasible explanation why these misfortunes and hardships were happening for someone in early modern Scotland!

Arts faculty and SRP

The idea behind Witch Hunt was born as part of the Arts Faculty Portfolio Project. This scheme brings together students from across the faculty to work together on a research project of their choice.

Our group teamed up with Dr Martha McGill of the History department to design, research, and produce an educational card game on early modern witch trials that would challenge our inaccurate modern-day stereotypes. Our group’s various academic backgrounds– including History, Sociology, Modern Languages, and History of Art – means we all bring new strengths and skills to the team. This is especially important considering the range of different aspects of such a project, including research, marketing, logistics, game-play design, and graphic design.

Methodology

After initially meeting in February, we hope to have sent a finalised version of Witch Hunt to be printed by the end of the summer. Rather than assigning a team leader, we have shared responsibility throughout the different stages of developing the game. We attend weekly calls on Microsoft Teams to keep up to date with each other’s progress and communicate via a Teams channel for any updates during the week.

Once we had agreed on the topic and outcome, we then applied for funding from various funding pots, including the Lord Rootes memorial fund and the URSS scheme. The different parts of each application were divided amongst the group to write up an initial draft and then shared with the other members to be proofread and revised. Our success in securing financial support has meant we can now print the game professionally in addition to the online version that will be available for download.

Following this, research became our group’s priority to ensure historical accuracy. The areas to be researched were divided throughout the group. These included: information on actual witch trials, what led to someone being accused of witchcraft, what witches were accused of doing, and the legal system at the time. We used shared files in our Teams space to collate our research, which then inspired the game’s narrative.

At this point, the group splintered, and each member assumed a different responsibility. Some members concentrated on fine-tuning game design, while others focused on graphic design or website building. Our weekly meetings were especially useful at this point for keeping up with progress or dilemmas in all of these different areas.

The project is currently undergoing its final adjustments before it is sent to be printed.

Benefits for participants/university/community

The positive impacts of this project will be enjoyed not only by the participants but also by the University and wider community.

Firstly, our group members – most of whom have just completed the final year of their undergraduate degrees – are excited about having a tangible outcome to mark the culmination of their studies at Warwick. Working on Witch Hunt has enabled us to apply the skills we have built and developed throughout our three- or four-year courses. It has allowed us to further our skills in teamwork and leadership, project management, logistics, marketing, graphic and web design, events organisation, and public engagement. These skills will all prove invaluable in the future, and the published research output will have a demonstrable impact (namely, sales and download figures). Furthermore, our interdisciplinary background has enabled us to learn from one another and broaden our respective approaches to research.

For the University, our project will contribute to its outreach program, and, more specifically, that of the Warwick Institute of Engagement, which presents academic research in an enjoyable and accessible manner. We intend for Witch Hunt to be used in schools and by the public more broadly, thus promoting the University in various settings. Those interested in this period of history will be introduced to the game through the Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Centre and the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance. This will bring people together and foster a community. The project’s interdisciplinary nature will encourage collaboration and connections across the departments involved and inspire more undergraduate students to undertake such projects. Finally, the project will also be used as an innovative teaching method in the University’s History department.

Finally, members of the public will be able to enjoy the game either as a free download available online for home printing or by purchasing a professionally printed version. Witch Hunt will inform players on early modern witch hunts, a topic that fascinates many individuals but on which significant misconceptions and inaccurate stereotypes persist. The game will result in fun sessions based on academic research to bring people together, which is increasingly important as we emerge from Covid restrictions. We will connect with community members through our launch event and potential event as part of Coventry’s City of Culture programme. In addition, this is a not-for-profit project whose proceeds will be reinvested back into the community, including through donations to local charities such as CRASAC (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre).

 

Sophie Watson

Sophie Watson

Hi, I’m Sophie! I’ve just graduated from Warwick with a BA in Hispanic Studies and Italian. I’m about to begin a masters in Latin American Studies at Cambridge, so I wanted to get involved with the Arts Faculty Portfolio Project to gain some more experience using research to produce an output beforehand. What I’ve enjoyed most about the project has been not only learning more about a period of history that particularly interests me but also really seeing our project come to life over the weeks and months.

Emmay Deville

Luke Messom

Abigail Rylance

Hi, I’m Abigail and I’ve just graduated from Warwick with a BA in History of Art. I joined the Arts Faculty Portfolio Project to gain experience of working in a team, as well as to develop my research skills before my masters degree. My main role within this project was to develop the card designs for the game, taking inspiration from seventeenth century woodcut prints. I found it particularly rewarding to see my designs come to life and I have loved exploring a topic beyond the confines of my degree discipline.

Bhavika Virji