There is currently a great deal of discussion within the 'Serious Games' community as to what constitutes a 'serious' game, or an educational game, or a simulation. For many years I have worked in the field of computer simulations where accuracy is paramount. If you learn something from the results of a simulation, then it is educational as well. I also write 'commercial computer games' where 'gameplay' —enjoying playing the game— is of the greatest importance. With Londoner we have attempted to create a computer experience that is both enjoyable and educational; that is informative without being heavy-handed.

The historical accuracy of Londoner is due to Dr. John Ramsbottom's exhaustive research. The rents, wages and infant mortality rates of London 400 years ago are shocking.

There is no way to 'win' Londoner, though your progress is tracked by the level of your status. If you move to a more prestigious street or to a better location within a house, your status will increase. If you change to a 'middling' budget your status will increase. However, situations may occur that will cause you move to more to more affordable lodgings or choose a more thrifty budget, and you will suffer a corresponding (though not as drastic) loss of status.

I encourage the user to play Londoner a number of times and try different strategies. Depending on your decisions you could be thrown into Debtor's Prison or become a bourgeois shopkeeper. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' decisions, either. Hopefully, each decision you make will teach you something about what it was like to actually live in 17th century London and to understand the complicated choices facing the working poor of the era.

Deciding in which parish to live and work in Londoner is one of the most important choices that you will have to make. The parish in which you live determines what jobs are available, how much you will be paid and how much you will pay for rent. You may find it necessary to relocate to a different parish to change occupations or save money on rent. Hopefully, the next time you visit these parishes in modern-day London you will have new insights into what life was like on these very streets many years ago.

The decision to apprentice to a trade is also very important; if you decide to do so, you will be exchanging short term income for possible long term stability. And, like our ancestors, if you accumulate enough wealth to book passage to North America, you will need to decide if you wish to emigrate to a new country and leave the old world behind.

If you come away from Londoner with better appreciation of what life was like in 17th century London then we have succeeded.

— D. Ezra Sidran
Davenport, Iowa
August 9, 2006