Chevy Chase woman makes archaeology game
Children dig for ruins with Roman Town
An archaeologist from Chevy Chase who has dug in Israeli and Grecian soil, Suzi Wilczynski has set down her trowel and pick for a new adventure she is recreating archaeological sites from across the world in the digital realm, for children to experience through a computer game.
Suzi Wilczynski's game, Roman Town, mixes her passion for archaeology and experience in education to create an excavation adventure narrated by ancient Romans. The game's combination of violence-free entertainment and education is one that comes as a unique sell in a market dominated by shooter-based games.
"A fair amount of games are not necessarily education-based this involves more thinking, more strategy," said Alex Nock of Washington, D.C., who purchased the game for his son, Ryan, 8.
Nock bought the game after hearing about it from Roman Town's marketing director, a friend, because he thought it would be a good match for Ryan, who enjoys video and computer games and has an interest in Roman history and mythology, Nock said.
Ryan's interest in a game typically lasts a week or two. Roman Town is different, Nock said.
"It's one of the few games he's repeatedly come back to," he said.
Archaeology is a topic to which Wilczynski, 38, has also returned.
"I just love the puzzle of it," she said. "Finding things, piecing it together."
She studied in Rome as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and went on digs in Israel and Greece each summer while working on her master's. She lived in Israel for about 6 months, jumping from dig to dig.
In 1999, she shifted gears and began working as a long-term substitute teacher.
"It's a young person's thing," Wilczynski said of digs. "It was a wonderful experience. But my life had changed at that point."
In 2005, Wilczynski began work on Roman Town after seeing first hand the need for an idea like hers.
Archaeology combines traditional school subjects, such as math, science and reading, with practical comprehension skills, she said. However, it is a subject that is almost impossible for most school teachers to teach without an archaeology background and a lenient budget for hands-on materials, she added.
Wilczynski worked with a computer programmer to create the game, which allows children to unearth bits of pottery, bone and other remnants of past life at a dig site, then learn about them by completing puzzle games led by two Roman youth.
The game came out about a year ago after about five years of development and has been selling mostly to schools, parents and museums. The cost is $39.95. The game is sold online.
Wilczynski and Brenna Hapes, the only other employee of Wilczynski's game company, Dig-It! Games, said they hope the game will attract the attention of retail stores at an upcoming toy and game convention.
"There are so many games and toys out there it's a huge, diverse market and people have a lot of options," said Hapes, the game's marketing director. "Thankfully, we have a unique product."
Wilczynski said she has plans for two archaeology games similar to Roman Town, but featuring different geographic locations.