Happy birthday to my nephew, Austin! In honor of his birthday, allow me to plug one of the computer games that we both have enjoyed—Pharaoh.
Sierra released Pharaoh in A.D. 1999 as a managerial city building game—a sort of SimCity along the Nile. You play various levels of increasing difficulty where you have to develop agriculture, harvest natural resources, trade, and, of course, build a city. Like Zeus: Master of Olympus and Caesar, you the city ruler must make sure that your people eat, that your priests appease their pagan gods, and that your military forces defend the city from invasion. Eventually, you get to build the great structures for which Egypt is known, including the great pyramids. It is a fun and informative game, which teaches its players a little bit about ancient Egyptians’ architectural, social, economic, agricultural, and religious life. For example, you have to build farm plots along the Nile’s flood plain, and you better make sure that you can harvest the crop before the next flooding season or your workers drown and you loose valuable wheat. The site Pharaoh Heaven has more information about the game.
I think that the game fosters an interest in Egypt, as well. I gave my nephew the game when he was quite young, and still, as a teenager, he retains an interest in the gift of the Nile. He loved the Field Museum’s temple exhibits in Chicago, and just a few weeks ago, we visited the “Secrets of Egypt” exhibit at the Union Terminal and learnt more about mummification. So, if you wish to plant a little seed of Egyptology in the fertile mind of a child, consider giving him Pharaoh to play.