Cherokee language video game developed for iTunes store
In the “Adalonuhesgi” or Trickster video game, players must use the Cherokee language to advance through game and save their elders from the Trickster or rabbit. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizens Joseph Lewis Erb and Matt Mason have created a free game titled “Adalonuhesgi” or Trickster, where players must use the Cherokee language to advance through the game. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Using interactive media and storytelling, Cherokee Nation citizens Joseph Lewis Erb and Matt Mason have created a video game that uses the Cherokee language.
The two created a free game titled “Adalonuhesgi,” or Trickster, in which players use the language to advance. Erb said the game’s story uses the “iconic Cherokee trickster,” rabbit, to steal Cherokee elders.
“It kind of deals with the idea that people have to work extra hard now to save the language,” Erb said. “As you help our female heroine trying to get her grandma back, you actually acquire language skills. I don’t think this game is something that can make someone fluent, but it gives more exposure to the language, which is the goal of it, trying to get people to hear more words, to hear more vocabulary and get more interested in the language.”
With a longtime interest in the language, Erb has been making language-based animations for 20 years to help people learn Cherokee. So far, Erb and Mason have put in nine months in developing the game. The first four or five months were spent building models and rigging them to move properly in the game engine.
They are also working on two other games that include the language. One is similar to the popular game Candy Crush in which players collect correctly used Cherokee words for points.
“It’s been a hard thing to work on, but we’re excited about getting the game out there. We hope people will try it out and play it and give us feedback. Hope they enjoy it,” Erb said. “We hope that in 2020 we will have several games on the iTunes store (App Store) under the Cherokee Robot Company.”
The next level of storytelling is interactive media, he said, because it’s a natural progression of where people are headed.
“Video games are even more profitable now than film,” he said. “It’s not like you do anything in the language to make any type of profit, but what that really indicates is the number of people in those different genres, video games versus film. Video games have long-standing interest, and it’s always been a storytelling platform anyway.”
Erb said “Adalonuhesgi” could be a tool in the CN’s efforts to save the language by allowing people to hear Cherokee, acquire more vocabulary and generate interest in the language.
“I think we are in a very critical time right now in language loss, and with the majority of our speakers being elders, this is a huge concern. We have to do something, and it really can’t be someone depending on a kid at the (Cherokee) Immersion (Charter) School or a kid in the apprentice program,” he said. “For all of us who are citizens of the Cherokee Nation, Keetoowah or Eastern Band, it is our obligation to do more with the language so that it doesn’t die out.”
“Adalonuhesgi” has different levels, each with different themes, colors and numbers.
“As we update the game it’s going to keep increasing levels, so it won’t be a game that’s done as you download it, it will actually continue through updates and expanding the language pack,” Erb said. “We’re going to put it out there for free, so our first game will be free. We’re just trying to get interest and see about the desire for interactive storytelling in the Cherokee language. That way we give a little more access for people to utilize the language in a fun environment.”
He gives credit to and thanks Cherokee speakers Lois Deason and David Crawler for lending their expertise and voices to the games.
“The speakers have always been very supportive of our efforts with the language, and I think it shows how open Cherokee people are to new technologies and developing them in the way Cherokees would use them,” Erb said. “We would not be able to do this kind of work without the positive support of the community.”
The game includes Cherokee dialogue between the main characters – the rabbit and heroine, who is learning the language and trying to get ahead of rabbit, Erb said.
The game will be released with three levels and other levels will come later.
“We wanted to release the game soon. Instead of getting 20 levels in, we wanted to start getting some people interested in it and keep pushing it out there as we can,” he said.
Erb added that he felt like “it was a must” for him having some creative skills to do his part to help save the language and challenges others with creative skills that can be used to share the language to do what they can.
“A lot of people worked hard for us to get here, to continue our culture. It would be sad if we didn’t do our best to continue,” he said. “When you are a part of the Cherokee community, when you’re around speakers, when your family is around the community, you are able to have some legitimacy in saying, ‘hey, I’m Cherokee.’ I don’t like to say there’s one version of being Cherokee, but I think if we lose our language it gets more into the scarier times where we are different than our ancestors. We want to remain in that active state of being Cherokee, and I think language is a part of that.”