Why We’re Making the Anatolian Trail

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Hswaxgmtóm, solwōs!

This is the first of many blog posts about the production and development of The Anatolian Trail: an Indo-European Adventure.

In this post, I would like to explain the motivation and the reasoning behind our development of a video game to educate the public about the field of Indo-European Studies.

Within our field, we are able to do something quite remarkable. By assuming that a number of languages (both ancient & modern) are related to each other, we are able to deduce what the source of these languages looked like.

It’s sort of like figuring out what a parent looked like by comparing the similar traits among the children. There are four kids, and all have red hair?  It’s likely that one of the parents had red hair!  

Similarly, 100 languages and the word for “nose” begins with an “n” in pretty much all of them?  Likely that the word for “nose” in the source began with an “n”!

By analyzing these related languages in this way, we are able to figure out not only the source language’s vocabulary, but also its sound system, its word system, and even the myths that they believed in and their culture in general.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with thousands of people about Indo-European Studies, and I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t find what we can do fascinating.  

The details can get a little tedious, sure, but the general idea?  It’s magic.

So, the field of Indo-European Studies starts with an advantage — it’s inherently interesting to most people.

But of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges within the field. 

For starters, despite the fact that most people find the idea interesting, most people have no idea that it even exists, with people usually discovering PIE through the study of multiple ancient IE languages, like Latin and Greek. And there aren’t many who fall into that category.

A second problem (no doubt related to the first) is that the field is incredibly un-diverse, with most scholars (especially those with professorships) being white males.

I ran the numbers a month or so ago. 

There are 16 universities in the U.S. with professors who are Indo-Europeanists, with (by my count) 19 tenure-track professors. Only 2 of them are female; and only 1 is a person of color.

This is a HUGE problem, both in terms of fostering growth in the field and in producing a diverse set of ideas that moves the field forward.

And we hope that The Anatolian Trail will serve as a resource that combats both problems simultaneously. 

For starters, The Anatolian Trail will show the PIE language & culture firsthand to the gamer, with no prior knowledge of Latin or Greek necessary. We plan to create puzzles that show just how a linguist figures out the PIE source of a word. 

Lucas

Second, the two player characters, Gwen & Lucas, will be two fraternal twins with African American parentage. 

To drive the point home and deconstruct the notion of racial categories as genetic and exclusionary rather than the social constructs dependent on time and place which they are, the twins will both appear to belong to different races despite sharing a significant portion of their DNA.

Lucas will be lighter skinned with red hair and freckles, while Gwen will be darker skinned with black hair.

 

Gwen

We are also consulting with Dr. Kishonna Gray, formerly at EKU, now at UI Chicago, to look into the best way to make the game accessible and inviting to people beyond the normal demographic of people who are attracted to the field. 

She will be visiting UK at the end of January to meet with the AT team and to give a public lecture on diversity in gaming. I’ll be sure to announce this as the date approaches!