How Indie Games Are Saving the Shoshone Language

By: Sparling Wilson

In class, we have talked about indie games that serve different purposes rather than to just provide blasé entertainment to the consumer. In Braid, the game serves to challenge both game structure and promote and unravel its own narrative, while challenging the gamers’ concept of time. In Journey, the game seeks to promote teamwork and affect a strong emotional response from the gamer.

Recently, students from the Shoshone Youth Language Apprenticeship Program, hosted by the Shoshone Language Project at the University of Utah have developed a game designed to help promote and re-instill the values and language of the Shoshone people in the young people that have lineage of that culture. This concept of educational gaming is not a new one, but it is something that is rarely done successfully.

As someone with younger siblings that are experiencing highly technology-integrated classrooms, I often see them having to play games outside of school for homework. However, I think these games miss the point. The games that they are made to play by their school are extremely transparent in terms of being made as a way to be educational; that is, it’s obvious that the game isn’t made to be played for enjoyment. In these games, the graphics are bad and unoriginal, the learning material is presented/ tested in a way similar to a classroom, and it just isn’t a very fun concept overall. In this regard, educational gaming is a big time fail. The attempt to make learning fun and hip seems to be falling very short of the mark because… these games aren’t tricking kids, they seem like work, and kids don’t want to play them.

from awkwardtrends.com
This image demonstrates how gauche educational games are! From awkwardtrends.com

But in a brilliant turn of events, the game Enee, which means “scary” in Shoshone, is a far cry from the traditional educational game. It is able to very seamlessly weave Shoshone cultural traditions and language into the narrative of the game in order to make it both educational and appealing to its youthful audience. For example, the main character in the game, Enee, must traverse a dark and terrifying landscape, and complete quests similar in nature to those in LOTRO. Like how the quests in LOTRO support the epic narrative of the books, the quests in this game follow/ tie-in traditional Shoshone folklore, superstitions, myths, or just important aspects of the culture. In addition, the NPCs of the game are characters that appear in traditional Shoshone stories. What’s more, they integrate Shoshone phrases into their speech, and in some cases only speak Shoshone, which is part of the challenge and quest. Also, the graphics definitely reflect that indie-chic quality that is present in Braid and Journey. In Enee, they look kind of scary- they definitely help to give the player a sense of “enee”.

3faa906cf88c11e2a34e22000ae91355_5

From the game "Enee"; a challenge that incorporates Shoshone myth with the quests
From the game “Enee”; a challenge that incorporates Shoshone myth with the quests and the protagonist, “Enee” (above)

Personally, I’m a really huge fan of this game. I think it makes great strides in the educational gaming realm. With great graphics and a seamless integration of the material it is trying to teach, Enee really sets the standard high.

If you’re interested in this game or the Shoshone language and culture, here is a link where you can download it:

http://theeneegame.com

If you’re interested in reading more about the game’s development process, the game makers, and the decline of the Shoshone people during the 20th century, read this:

http://upr.org/post/university-utah-students-create-shoshone-language-video-game

Advertisements

1 thought on “How Indie Games Are Saving the Shoshone Language”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s