In his Twitter bio, Dr. Jackson Crawford describes himself as “like if you crossed a viking and a cowboy, but got all recessive traits”. Being a cross between a cowboy and a Viking makes Dr. Crawford frontrunner in the race to be a real life version of what five-year-olds say they want to be when they grow up. And now he can add “works on video games” to the list, because Dr. Crawford revealed on Twitter yesterday that he’s been collaborating with Ubisoft on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Dr. Crawford has chops in this area, of course. He’s Director of Nordic studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, teaching Old Norse mythology and language. Dr. Crawford has a popular YouTube channel and a Patreon where he’s been posting videos about cool Norse stuff since around 2016. Perhaps unique amongst academic YouTubers, or YouTubers in general, he also records these videos having hiked out into the wilds of Colorado, so they all have stunning backdrops.
If you haven’t already, you should check out the new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla cinematic trailer. Out toward the end of this year, Valhalla puts you in the big furry boots of a Viking named Eivor, who is leading a group of settlers to carve out a chunk of land in England. King Alfred The Great is unhappy about this turn of events. Through a combination of raids for supplies, strengthening your little would-be township, and a varying amount of all-out war, you’ll try and get a firmer footing while Alfred tries to yank the metaphorical rug out from under your feet.
I myself have been one of Dr. Crawford’s YouTube subs for a few years now. I ran into his videos when I was trying to understand Norse mythology better before playing God Of War – and in fact, I eventually interviewed Dr. Crawford about the game, and what he thought of its particular interpretation of Baldr.
Dr. Crawford’s videos are tremendous, though, because he speaks with authority whilst being accessible. Plus, the views keep changing, but are always stunning. And just look at him now – why, a PhD, several published translations, and years of hard won academic expertise are as naught next to being a consultant on my favourite game series!
In fairness, we don’t know the precise nature of Dr. Crawford’s role yet, but I think it’s more likely a historical consultation role than e.g. animation coding. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns up doing a bit of cheeky VO work in there. People who can read and pronounce runes properly are hard to come by, I imagine.
From his side, Dr. Crawford has said on Twitter that, “It’s a rare thing and Ubisoft Montréal (let me extra single out [narrative director] Darby McDevitt here) deserves a lot of praise for how well they’ve been walking the line between authenticity & telling a story that resonates with a modern audience.”
I am already so excited for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla that I’m about half a bottle of wine and a clean towel away from shaving the sides of my head for that ‘generic female Viking haircut’ look. But praise from my favourite Viking Cowboy PhD YouTuber, as well as finding out he’s working on it? Why, I just don’t know what to do with myself. Apart from watch Dr. Crawford’s videos, naturally.
My thanks to hardware kween Katharine Castle, who made the header image. There will now be a small competition in the comments for whoever can come up with the best title and tagline for the TV show about Dr. Crawford and Eivor that the picture is obviously advertising.