Exploring the spaces (we think) we know

Revisiting Kentucky Route Zero

How many times have you played a video game set in a place that you know? Not a place that you’ve heard of or read about. Not a place that you’ve visited. But a place that you know; the way you know your way around your bedroom in the dark without stubbing your toe. The way you can almost drive the winding roads to the holler where you grew up with your eyes closed. The way you know what lies just over the next hill in the woods where you played as a child. When was the last time you played a game that was set in a place you know like you know the smell of your mamaw’s kitchen? 

Chances are pretty good you haven’t, especially if you’re from Appalachian eastern Kentucky. There aren’t a lot of video games set in Appalachia or Kentucky. Fallout ‘76 makes some nods to the Appalachian tri-state. They feature an alternate reality version of Camden Park, and the Mothman of Point Pleasant, WV – or something a lot like it – makes an appearance. But otherwise it’s a Fallout game. It doesn’t capture that feeling of driving dark back roads late at night. It doesn’t evoke that sense of trying to find a place that’s new to you, even if it’s just down the road from where you grew up. It doesn’t have characters that you’ve never met before, but remind you of the second cousin you only saw at family reunions and holiday get togethers. 

(Why the click away instead of posting it all here? Because this article, unlike the others, was written specifically with my people and my newspaper audience in mind. Technically this game is partially based on I-65, according to some sources I've read, which goes through Mammoth Caves National Park in western Kentucky. But it borrows themes from across the state, and things that would be familiar to those living in the Appalachian region where I hail from - things like tragic mining deaths; deep, dark woods; and twisting, rural backroads. I began to edit it before putting it up here, changing, "especially if you're from here," to, "... from Appalachian eastern Kentucky." Then I decided I wanted this to be accessible from the blog. But I also wanted it to be for my people. People who drive trucks, like Conway. Struggling rural artists like Lulu. Country musicians like June Bug and Johnny. And people who know the tragic impact of flooding, like the folks of Olive Hill, Kentucky, and anyone who lives along a river valley, creek, or holler where flash floods can wreak havoc. I decided I didn't want to edit anymore, and that this is one where, instead of bringing it to the outside world, I'm going to ask the outside world to come into my space. My world. My Kentucky. Thanks -- Jeremy)


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