Hope Diamond is star of new video game

January 27

Picture this: You’re on a train that’s traveling fast through the mountains. A man is tied to a chair in front of you. A bear growls from behind a closet door. And everywhere around you are stolen priceless gems, statues and paintings.

Welcome to “Hidden Expedition: Smithsonian Hope Diamond,” the first video game that the Smithsonian Institution has helped create. From a train in India to the hills of Switzerland to the Smithsonian Castle, the game released in December takes you on an adventure around the world.

You are the explorer

Your task is to find pieces of the Hope Diamond before a group of thieves gets to them. As the game unfolds, you realize that you are an explorer working for the Smithsonian, challenged with solving riddles and puzzles in order to get to the next stage of the game. You can’t actually lose, but the faster you piece together what you need to do, the better your score.

Along the way you learn about the real Hope Diamond, a hugely popular attraction at the National Museum of Natural History.

“It never has failed to fascinate me, the draw the diamond has on people . . . no matter what we do with it,” said Jeffrey Post, who is a curator, or overseer, of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian. “It’s valuable, rare and famous. It’s like wanting to see a movie star. The Hope Diamond is a bit of a celebrity.”

Post worked closely with Big Fish Games to make sure the information and images were correct. The game is littered with trivia, such as whose statue is in front of the Smithsonian Castle (Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian).

Hope Diamond legend

It makes sense that the Hope Diamond would play a central role in a video game. The story of the real diamond is full of mystery.

A Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Tavernier was the first known owner of the diamond, but no one is sure how he got it. Legend says that in the 17th century he stole a large stone from a statue of a god in India. Because of that, the diamond is supposedly cursed.

Many people around the globe, including kings, have owned the blue stone, and some have had bad luck. The Hope family, for which the diamond is named, owned it in the 1800s but went into debt and was forced to sell it. A rich Washington woman named Evalyn Walsh McLean bought the jewel in 1911. Her son and daughter died young. Was that because of the diamond’s curse?

Post said it’s possible there are shards of the Hope Diamond, just like those mentioned in the game. (The diamond was recut over the years.) He is working with a French museum to figure out more about where the diamond came from.

Post’s favorite story about the diamond is true. When you shine an ultraviolet light on the diamond in a dark room, it glows bright red. That’s because of a chemical called boron in the diamond that makes it blue in the light but a fiery red in the dark.

“It’s something you don’t expect to see,” Post said. “It’s also one of those secrets of the Hope Diamond. . . . So you can see there’s a lot of different hooks in the Hope Diamond that would create a story.”

Try the game

What: “Hidden Expedition: Smithsonian Hope Diamond”

Platforms: Mac and PC

How old: Best for age 8 and older.

How much: $19.99.

Where to buy: www.bigfishgames.com. Always ask a parent before going online.

— Moira E. McLaughlin

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