Time Machine Bronzeville, Donald and Philip Jones

Crowdfunded Game ‘Time Machine Bronzeville’ Is A Journey Into 1940s Chicago And The Great Migration

Two brothers created the game that debuted in January.

In 2022, Donald and Phillip Jones, brothers and co-founders of Alchemy Media Publishing, posted a campaign for a video game on the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The game, Time Machine Bronzeville, is also a desktop app that recreates 1940s Chicago while telling the story of the Great Migration through immersive technology. 

According to the pair’s post on Kickstarter, the impetus for creating the game involved preserving the ability to tell stories about the past for a new generation. “Growing up, my brother and I were immersed in the stories of our parents’ Bronzeville community on the South Side of Chicago between the World Wars. The vivid immediacy of their stories — the pulsating sights, sounds, and characters — created indelible images and dreams,” the brothers write. “With the passage of time, the memories of the elders fade, and the archival record that authenticates these stories is lost to the ravages of time. Technology now allows us to preserve memories and the media. If we don’t tell our own stories…who will?”

The game officially launched in January 2024 on the popular PC gaming platform Steam, and similar to Tales of Kenzera: Zau, published by Electronic Arts, is affordable at $24.99. According to the game’s description on Steam, “Explore the dynamic cityscape around East 47th St. and South Parkway Blvd — the heart of Bronzeville — on Chicago’s South Side, as it was between the World Wars. Encounter heroes and scoundrels, survivors and thrivers, in 3D interactive scenes that transport the visitor into detailed recreations of this vanished community.”

The description continues, “It was a time shaped by the Great Depression, Jim Crow segregation, and a burgeoning Chicago Renaissance in music and the arts, commerce and culture. It was the time of the Great Migration of thousands of African Americans as they fled the harsh realities of the South for the hope of a better life in the cities of the North and West.”

In 2023, NPR broached the subject of Black video game developers, and in an industry that literally owes its invention to a Black man who created the first home video gaming system using cartridges, Jerry Lawson, progress has been painstakingly slow. According to a 2021 survey from the International Game Developers Association, only 5% of the video game workers they surveyed identified as Black, but indie developers, like the Jones brothers, are where much of the industry’s increased diversity is located. 

Xalaver Nelson, a Black head writer, game developer, and the founder of Strange Scaffold, indicated that the problem within the gaming industry is, ironically, a lack of imagination. “ I think the problem that the games industry faces with Black people is twofold,” Nelson said. “The first is giving people their first opportunity because they haven’t done it already. The inability to create space for people to start their journey in the first place is a terminal illness, which is currently strangling the games industry.” 

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