Henna and Computer Games


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Posted by Paul Cerra on May 28, 2002 at 20:03:58:

Hi all,

Computer games are my main vice; my poor girlfriend often has to
stand in front of the monitor if she wants to get my attention. The
other evening, I decided to play a game that I hadn't played in over
a year, when it suddenly occurred to me that henna is featured in the
game! I thought I'd share it, just for kicks.

The game is called "Cleopatra"... this is the expansion-pack
for "Pharaoh", a game that came out about two+ years ago. These are
city-building games, like Sim City, where the object is to lay roads
and build homes and markets and such, thereby building up a
population base that can eventually be instructed to build a
monument, like a pyramid or an obelisk. (The game conveniently
ignores slavery, but then again, most games do. It's too sensitive a
topic for most developers.) There's more to it than that, but this is
the basic idea.

Anyway, the "Cleopatra" game is set in the time period of the New
Kingdom or even later, when pyramids have fallen out of favour and
tomb-building is preferred. So, in the game, tombs are hollowed out
of cliff walls, and then various craftspeople and their wares must be
brought into the tomb to finish it. Among the requirements are
employing the services of artisans who use henna to paint the walls
of the tombs. In the game, you actually have to grow your own henna,
either in the fertile flood plains of the Nile or on meadows that you
must irrigate. Then it must be harvested, where it can be sold (trade
is a big part of the game) or brought to paint-makers, who turn the
henna into "paint" which is used by the tomb painters. If you can't
grow henna, you are forced to import it from other cities so that you
can make your "paint."

It's too bad, however, that they left it at that. In
Pharaoh/Cleopatra, a sub-goal is to provide your people with the best
housing possible (so that you can tax them, but also so that your
city will gain prestige.) You do this by attracting higher classes of
people, who in turn build nice houses. So you first supply food and
water, then pottery, then beer, linen, papyrus, and so on. The final
stage is luxury goods; typically incense, ivory, jewelry, and so on.
It's too bad that they didn't make henna one of the luxury items! I
guess ancient Egyptians used other cosmetics... I've heard about
kohl, or cones of fat that melt down your head over time (yuk!), but
I really don't know much about henna usage in ancient Egypt. But it
seems like it wouldn't just have been used for tomb-painting.

Anyway, I just thought it was cool that henna was featured in a very
popular computer game, even if it wasn't completely implemented as a
skin coloring but rather as a paint.

-P

 


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