I'm sitting in my office, looking across the Fonville Fountain Plaza and making some Blender renders for the upcoming 2009 ACTFL Conference, where I will be presenting a poster on DigiBahn game development, when it occured to me that I have not yet actually blogged on the background story of the game. What's it all about, anyway? This is what we got so far:
Conrad Schaeffer, a young 20-something journalist working for the Associated Press, just landed an assignment that any rookie reporter would dream of getting. Tasked with covering the story of Nazi gold that went missing after a suspicious train derailment, in which several guards were killed, Conrad is putting his fledgling German skills to the test for an assignment that could very well make or break his new career. Having just arrived at the Stuttgart Central Train Station, Conrad must quickly assemble facts regarding the robbery from available media, eyewitnesses, and word-of-mouth before the trail grows cold. To further complicate the issue, a mysterious blonde German woman suddenly appears, claiming to have inside information regarding the robbery. Can she be trusted, or does she have ulterior motives that could possibly cost Conrad more than just his job?
The idea of the stolen Nazi gold is actually something I came up after several long discussions with students about a catchy and immersive background story. I was actually rather hesitant about using it for a while, secretly wishing that students would be interested in something else besides Germany's Nazi past and wondering how the game would play with high school parents.
After mulling it over in my mind for some time, however, I'm thinking now that perhaps this is not such a bad idea. I invariably have several students every semester who start German and who are interested in recent German history, and such a game might perhaps be a way to broach this topic while learning German in the process. The topic also meshes nicely with films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Goldfinger, which undoubtedly are in the students' collective pop-culture consciousness and shape their perceptions of Germans and Germany, so the game could potentially use this background as a way to attract and retain student interest. Finally, the topic of Nazi gold is also the grist of numerous conspiracy theories, which are good for hours of endless speculation. So, in sum, I think the topic of stolen Nazi gold providing the framework for a background story is perhaps not such a bad idea afterall, and could potentially appeal to a wide range of younger students, provided that the game also presents historical facts accurately and doesn't peddle in stereotypes.