New video game brings Tlicho folktale to life

The video game will only be available on PC at first, but creators hope to eventually release it on more platforms.

Traditional tale How Fox Saved the People goes digital as language revitalization project

The video game is based on this book's story, which is a traditional Tlicho tale. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

A traditional Tlicho folktale is getting a modern twist.

After five years of planning and work, two university students from Toronto are getting ready to launch their Tlicho video game — How Fox Saved the People.

The idea for the game came in 2013, when Luke West and Sherry Hucklebridge were studying language revitalization at the University of Toronto.

Their assignment? Create learning materials for an under-documented language.

They decided a video game would be the best option.

Behchoko residents test out the video game after the University of Toronto students' presentation. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

West said he wanted students to be able to open a laptop and "see their language written, hear their language spoken in a video game," because then it's "exciting to learn and exciting to use."

The game is based on the book How Fox Saved the People — a Tlicho folk story. The book was translated by Rosa Mantla, and she was one of the voice actors for the video game.

"We don't want to lose our language," said Mantla. "It's another way of promoting our language, life and to get stronger."

West and Hucklebridge visited schools in Behchoko and Whati this week to give a presentation about the game and teach youth how to play it.

The team, left to right, is professor Nicholas Welch, Sherry Hucklebridge, and Luke West. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Children at the schools also had a chance to give the creators some feedback. West said the team is going to use their comments to make some changes to the game before it's released to the public in about a week.

The trip to Behchoko was funded by the Tlicho Community Services Agency; it cost just under $8,000 for travel and accommodations for the two students and their professor.

"It's really exciting," said Tammy Steinwand-Deschambeault, the agency's culture and language co-ordinator.

"Language revitalization is really important and if this is a tool that we can use to reach the young people, then I think it's great."

The game will only be available for PCs, but West said he would like to eventally format the game for tablets, smartphones, and Macs.