The Botswana Bushmen

Who:
Leana Galiel

Job:
Game Designer, Artist, Writer

Independently designed and developed the board, gameplay, and narrative, based on real life accounts from the Bushmen in Botswana, Africa.

Basics:

  • 4-7 Players
  • Educational “Art” Game
  • Currently in development, working printed prototype
  • Rio Grande Games Design Contest 2009 entrant via Portland, OR.

Overview:

Gameplay is based on real life accounts from the Bushmen in Botswana, Africa. The goal of most of the players, acting as Bushmen, is to survive in order to pass down the knowledge and culture of their people. Throughout play, the Bushmen players age, gaining family and losing it as time goes on. One player acts as the Botswana Government, thwarting the efforts of the other players to survive.

About the game: [SPOILER ALERT]

I wished to create this game, to educate others in how the Bushmen in Botswana, Africa have been treated by the Government, and how they have been living for the past decade. In the game, you may play as a single Bushmen, or as the Botswana Government itself. The narrative found on the cards for the game are based off of actual accounts from Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). The goal of most of the players, acting as Bushmen, is to survive in order to pass down the knowledge and culture of their people. However, this is an impossible task. The game is designed with an impossible goal, and no way for any player to truly win the game. Throughout play, the Bushmen players age, gaining family, and losing it as time goes on. One player acts as the Botswana Government, thwarting the efforts of the other players to survive. At the end of the game, the Bushmen players are given not a “congratulations”, but simply the finality of death which always must eventually accompany life. This is to symbolize the dying of not only their people, but also the culture and traditions of the Bushmen. There are always places one can find hope and people to help them overcome their difficulties. Throughout the game, cards will pop-up giving the Bushmen players aid, and thwarting the hand of the government. This is to teach players that there are many ways they can help protect the Bushmen and save the land and culture of their ancestors.

Who are the Bushmen:

The Bushmen have lived in the area of the CKGR for over 20,000 years. It is not only their home, but it is the land of their ancestors, a spiritual place for them. It is the land they know and understand. It is the land they trust. Under the Botswana Constitution, the Bushmen and their homeland have been protected for many years. However, over the past decade, the government has backed down from this promised protection, and has been relocating the Bushmen out of the CKGR and into the few relocation camps built up outside of the reserve. Many times, these relocations are done forcefully, separating families.

The government has destroyed the pumps at water boreholes which have been maintained for the Bushmen previously. They have refuse to allow the Bushmen to access the water, even when people have offered to pay for the service. Many Bushmen have been arrested or beaten by government police for hunting the wild life which has sustained their hunter-gatherer culture for so many generations. The government uses excuses such as that the Bushmen have been using unnatural services, and even started raising cattle and farming crops, and that they are becoming a danger to the reserve’s animal species. However, it is them who gave the tribes water services, schools, and health posts. It is the government itself who has been preventing the Bushmen from hunting for their own food, forcing them to rely on other means.

Although the government claims it has nothing to do with the reason behind the relocations, there has also been several diamond deposits found in the reserve. Many believe that the Bushmen are being removed for monetary reasons regarding tourism and the diamond trade. Recently, the government has made two announcements. The first is that they have given a select number of diamond companies around the world permission to mine in the CKGR. The second, is plans for tourist resorts to be set up inside the reserve. Currently there are only a few remaining Bushmen in the reserve. Most have been forced to either move or starve to death.