Now Or Never

Want to get to know Clare, N.S.? This video game can take you there

Clarevoyance will feature the sounds and sights of the Acadian community of Clare, in Nova Scotia, and serve as an archive for the stories and dialect of the area.

Clarevoyance will feature the sounds and sights of the Acadian community of Clare

A scene from the prototype for Clarevoyance. The game is set to be released in August. (Chad Comeau)
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Most small towns don't exist in a parallel online universe. But Clare isn't like other small towns.

It isn't just the frequent presence of Acadian flags that sets it apart, or that the French spoken by residents features phrases and verb tenses that are almost unheard of in other places. 

This community is unique because it's the setting for Clarevoyance, a video game being created by local game developer Chad Comeau, featuring the sights and sounds of Clare itself.

"It's going to involve a lot of people, and it'll be kind of like a time capsule of Clare, as it is today," said Comeau.

Chad Comeau is a video game developer from Clare, N.S. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

The game is based on the myths that have been handed down in the community for centuries, with players navigating a virtual Clare in which those myths have broken into the present.

"It's such a rich collection of stories that have a connection to us, so I wanted to put them together and see how a video game would look with them in it."

Watch Comeau play a prototype of Clarevoyance:

'It's a very positive spirit'

Just as important as the finished game, Comeau said, is the way in which he's creating it.

"A big part is giving a chance to people to participate in a project like this, in their own language, in the way that they would talk at home."

Local artists, writers and musicians are helping to create the game, which will be voiced by  members of the community, in the local dialect.

"Everyone I've talked to is like, 'Oh, I want to help out with the game, you know,'" Comeau said. "And [when] I tell them I have a budget, they're like, 'I'm doing it just for free.' It's just a very positive spirit that people have. They want to be part of something like this."

The game will be in the local French dialect. 'A big part is giving a chance to people to participate in a project like this, in their own language,' said Comeau. (Chad Comeau)

In July, Comeau will be recording the voices of between 60 and 100 community members to bring the game's characters to life.

"It's super cool. There's not many rural towns where you can say, 'Oh, do you want to know more about us? Here's a video game that we made,'" said local Grade 12 student Evelyn LeBlanc-Joyce.

She's looking forward to not just exploring the online version of the community, but hearing it through the voices of the characters.

"I think it's really important for people to hear themselves," she said. "You know, it's a video game, and you can hear Acadians talking and it's like, 'Hey look, it's us!'"

Chad Comeau showing a prototype of the game to Julienne LeBlanc. 'I just think it's great to be a part of it,' said LeBlanc. (Moira Donovan/CBC)

Julienne LeBlanc (no relation to Evelyn) grew up hearing many of the stories that will be featured in the game, such as the legend of Cy à Mature.

According to the story, Mature was a sorcerer-like figure and bootlegger who made a deal with the devil, flew around on a piece of bark, and could conjure drink by nailing a spike into the wall.

LeBlanc said the game is a way of immortalizing this story and the other elements that make up the area's culture.

She's also offered to lend her voice to one of the characters in the game.

In the game, the community's myths are breaking into the present day, like this cabin belonging to the legendary figure Cy à Mature. (Chad Comeau)

"I work at a lab as my day job, and I'm trying to get [Chad] to like, give me a little side story with that. But I'm not really picky on what kind of role that I play. I just think it's great to be a part of it."

Comeau said he hasn't yet decided on a role for LeBlanc, but she'll definitely have a character. 

"I'm very grateful that the community is so supportive, and wants to be a part of it."

Release date set for the summer

The game is set to be released in August on PCs, through platforms such as itch.io and Steam.

More than commercial success, Comeau said the impact of the game will depend on how much attention it brings to the stories of Clare — much like storyline of the game itself.

"If it goes wrong and people just aren't interested in it, then that's kind of the starting scenario of the game. You know, people aren't really talking about the myths, so they're kind of disappearing," he said.

"If I succeed in interesting some people in rediscovering these stories, then that reflects the ending of the game, where as the player you've rekindled the interest in these stories, to appease the myths, so that they know they're not being forgotten."

Comeau, who originally trained as a translator, will also be subtitling the game so that it can be played in English.

In the game, players will navigate through a virtual Clare, completing quests along the way. (Chad Comeau)

For Comeau, the success of the game will also be measured in how much it encourages people to embrace the unique sound of Clare.

Growing up, he often felt insecure about the way that he spoke. That changed when he heard local musicians creating in the Acadian dialect.

"It made us kind of value the way we spoke a bit more," he said.

"Hopefully video games can be that for someone. If I can give that experience [that I had] to someone, then yeah, I'll consider it a success."