This past month my son FWA, who is in 5th grade, completed a family heritage project. He decided to do it on the Puotinen family. Since the focus was on the immigrant experience, we talked about Elias and Johanna Puotinen and their journey from Evijärvi, Finland to UP, Michigan in the late 1800s. While his project was not that extensive (a few hours of talking + writing), I became really curious about my grandparents and the immigrant experience. That curiosity led me to do a little more research (which I’ve already posted about on this blog) and to speculate on ways to incorporate their immigrant stories into The Farm project. After talking with Scott and FWA, I (we?) came up with an idea: a RPG, Oregon trail-like video game in which you participate in the process of both emigrating from Finland and then trying to survive/thrive in the UP.
While starting in Evijärvi and paying some attention to the process of traveling from the Old Country to the UP, much of the focus will be on living in the new country. Players will make choices (such as: gender, occupation, urban/rural location, stay in America or return to Finland) as they struggle to survive harsh winters, terrible working conditions, hostile neighbors and as they discover ways to celebrate their heritage and maintain their strong family and community ties.
I don’t know that much about video games (how to play them or how to create them), so I’m hoping that FWA will be interested in helping me. I already have a lot of research about the immigrant experience (and a great resource: my dad, Arthur Puotinen, who did an extensive Oral History about the Finnish immigrant experience while writing his dissertation in the 1970s). And I know that there are some DIY RPG game maker tools available. So, I don’t anticipate that this game will be too time-consuming. I envision it as a fun experiment and a part of the bonus material for this project.
A few resources: