High Tea

31 January 2011

Today, we launched High Tea, a new game to accompany our High Society exhibition. It’s a strategy game based on the British opium trade in the Chinese Pearl Delta that led up to the outbreak of the first Opium War in 1839.


How did we come to be creating this? In an early discussion about the web pages for High Society and what fun stuff we could do with them, someone suggested that the story of the British opium trade in China in the 19th century would make a good game. The idea stuck, and several months later we are launching a game exploring this rather unsavoury episode in British and Chinese history.

Since they did such a good job with our Quiz, we got Preloaded back on board to build it and picked the brains of Mike Jay, co-curator of High Society, for historical information we could weave into the game. We’re very pleased with the result, it’s beautiful and atmospheric, and slightly, er, addictive.

I have to confess, the truth about British behaviour in China and how we came to occupy Hong Kong came as a complete surprise to me. Not that I’d had a particularly rosy view of the British Empire, but still, this wasn’t something I was told about in school, or that I’ve seen explored much on TV or elsewhere. Others I’ve spoken to have been similarly undereducated on the subject.

So, our hope is that the game will pique the player’s curiosity about the subject, perhaps enlighten them a little, and shine a light on a grubby period of imperialism that I suspect many British, though perhaps not Chinese people, have forgotten all about.