Updated: Jul 13
One of the challenges of ancient studies today is the distance of Antiquity from our times. Our times are so turbulent and fast-moving that we forget what Antiquity has to tell us. What can an ancient Roman tell us about the problems of the digital age, of COVID, or of the spontaneous desire of everyone to change everything regularly?
Any Latin course should therefore show this distance, without denying it, but also bring Antiquity closer to students, to make it more current, to show that the Ancients had a lot in common with us.
Personally, I use two methods to bring the study of ancient Latin closer tostudents: living Latin and video games in Latin. With living Latin, we learn how to talk about the simplest questions in Latin: How are you today? What do you like? How do you say that in Latin? Teaching students these simple questions shows that the Latin language is very similar to our modern languages. This is true for me in French, because I am a Latin teacher in France, but it is also true in English, for example with the names of the days and months!
A Latin course must also show the uniqueness of the ancient times. A short distance shown, relatively speaking, makes students curious, but too much can bore them. Orberg's famous textbook Lingua Latina per se illustrata presents a Roman family, but questions arise: who are Syra, Medus and Davus? Why do they belong to the same family when they are not related to Iulius and Aemilia? What do they do on a daily basis? Do the masters beat them? Little-by-little, we arrive at the study of the Roman house. Where do the slaves live? Isn't it dangerous to have a decorative pool inside the house when you have children?
Going so far as to study a district plan of Pompeii seems tricky with young students. The study of the Roman Forum has much in common with the study of the Roman house. The Roman Forum is a fascinating subject, at the intersection of architecture, history, politics, and urban planning. However, spending time detailing the function and evolution of each building is only of interest to specialists and we do not train young students to become specialists in ancient studies.
This is where the Latin language-based video games come in. For students between the ages of 12 and 14, video games are important and near ubiquitous. However, coverage can be unequal. Some students will never have played a video game because their parents won't let them! On the other hand, other students invest huge chunks of time in games which have little to teach them. Video games are to the 21st century like novels were to the 19th century. Austerely moral people hate them and curious people love them. But what place do they have in school?
A Latin course can be built around one of the games I propose. To make it clear: these games are not a replacement for teaching. It is not enough to play them for a few minutes to suddenly speak and understand Latin. But these games are an additional resource for a teacher who wants to enrich and vary his or her course. They are also a way to advertise the subject when Latin is an elective: "Hey, want to play a cool video game during an hour of class? Sign up for Latin!"
The games immerse the player in an entirely Latin world. From the menu, to start the game, you have to ask yourself: what is the button to start, to quit, to adjust settings? After this, the games are in the "open world adventure" genre. The player, once he or she masters the controls, can walk around wherever he or she wants. They will read and hear Latin. They can start with the first objective or return to it later. The sentences are written in an easy-to-understand Latin language, so that the pleasure of playing and the pleasure of understanding go hand in hand.
How might a game session be sued in class? The student needs to be nourished in other ways to fully benefit from the serious content of the games. The session can be prepared beforehand, resumed afterwards or both. For the game on the Roman forum, it is necessary to know the character of Julius Caesar, to have translated a passage from Suetonius, for example. This will help the player understand why Julius Caesar is interested in the republican rostrum. In addition, the aerial visit mode of the Roman forum can be used to quickly review the different buildings of the forum. The game on mythology allows us to discover that the quarrel between Athena and Poseidon generated many other stories, with the foundation of Athens, Polyphemus, and Medusa. The game on the Roman house can integrate a chapter on the daily life of the Romans or a chapter on Cicero and his work as a lawyer during the Verres case.
One of the difficulties of playing at school is also the computer equipment. If you are interested in my project, each of the games I propose will exist in three formats: a browser format, without installation, for a low-end computer, a format to be installed on an average computer and a format that goes through a store for a high-quality device, iPad or computer with a graphics card.
If you like this project, please give it your support! My goal is not commercial, otherwise I wouldn't be making video games in Latin! My goal is to motivate more students to choose the study of Antiquity by offering them an innovative resource.