Victoria 3 devs on slavery and colonisation: “we are not confident we got it right”

The Victoria 3 devs aren't shy about depicting the horrific sides of the Victorian era, but they're prepared to get it wrong

A young man carries a red flag as he runs in a piece of Victoria 3 promotional artwork styled like a sepia-toned, impressionistic painting.

Victoria 3 was announced on Friday during PDXCon Remixed’s announcement show, and we’re all very excited. A new grand strategy game, it’s set during the ‘Victorian’ era that spans the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

It was a period of great change across industry, social politics, and technology, but it was also fraught with uncomfortable subjects. Slavery and colonisation weren’t unique to this period, but it did see events such as the ‘scramble for Africa’, when European powers competed for control over the entire continent regardless of the wishes of the local inhabitants.

We interviewed the Victoria 3 developers prior to the announcement. They didn’t want to talk about the specific mechanics they’ve devised around these topics, but were willing to discuss the philosophy that’s underpinned the design approach towards them. “We want to represent all of history,” Victoria 3 game director Martin Anward explained. “We don’t want to represent just the nice parts of history, or parts that aren’t horrific. We are representing the entire world’s population. So for us to, for instance, write slavery out of the game, would mean that we are effectively writing [out] those people and their experiences, and all of what happened in history.”

For Anward, dealing with these issues head-on is the only way to treat the subject matter with respect.

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“We try to treat it with as much respect as we possibly can,” Anward explains. “I feel it’s more respectful to say [slavery] happened. This happened to these people at this time, not that long ago, and to show it as the pretty horrific institution that it was.

“But also as the profitable institution that it was: not for the slaves, of course, but for the people who owned the plantations who want to keep this system because they’re benefiting from it.”

Mikael Andersson, Victoria 3’s game designer, does acknowledge that they may not have gotten it perfect straight away, but that as a team they are willing to listen and adapt.

“We are not confident that we got it right,” he says. “There are going to be things that are controversial in the game. And there might be things that we have misrepresented and we will be learning from that and we will be adjusting going along.

“But obviously we can’t make a game about the socio-economic realities of the 19th century without including these things – that would be disrespectful.”

Related: The best grand strategy games on PC

At the time of writing, there is no known release date for Victoria 3.