By David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett Terra Nova (2019) By SlipCycle Productions. Byrne also says that non-Indigenous studios — especially larger ones — can help improve representation in the industry by actively looking for, funding, and supporting Indigenous projects and creatives, rather than deciding for themselves which stories to tell. Exhibited at Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference 2019, Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival 2019, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival 2019, Game On! By Danielle Daniel MODERN KICKBALLS – All Indigenous people in North America had some type of kick balls used for racing, hackey sack (foot bag) types of games, and sling ball types of games. He was so impacted by the game that it inspired his masters thesis at Concordia University in Montreal: studying the process and practice, from development to production, of making video games as an Indigenous person. Calls for improved overall diversity in gaming are increasingly common from consumers and creators alike — and while some studios have started to respond to those calls, there remains a concern that those responses have, so far, been insufficient. The answers all relate back to the grandmother’s time at residential school. Petersen learned Lakota in school, but like about 95% of the roughly 115,000 Lakota members in the U.S. today, he isn’t fluent — his last family member who spoke it fluently died 14 years before he was born. During my undergrad I was exposed to Indigenous digital media — games, websites, web apps, etc. That isn’t to say that his life was devoid of the web — he’s an avid gamer, and has logged 6,000 hours in World of Warcraft, despite not having a good connection at home until he was 16. But while the general landscape tends to rely on these tropes and stereotypes, Longboat says that doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of well-done portrayals of Indigenous peoples. The aim of the game is to get the ball into the opposing team’s net. Indigenous gamers, creators, and characters have been under- or misrepresented since the early days of the industry. Now a senior at Dakota State University, Petersen is developing a game of his own, Tipi Kaga (Tipi Builder), with the help of a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant. I was all proud of it. Rather than focus on a utopian future — one where, Byrne says, “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve just solved racism! After realizing that a month of “just checking his email” cost almost $2,000, Petersen’s dad canceled the service. Byrne is Âpihtawikosisân (Métis) and is descended from Swampy/James Bay/Moose Cree. Historically, there were two common games: 1) Games of chance, including the moccasin, hand, and stick game; and 2) Games of skill, including ball, target, and shooting games for the development of hunting skills. First contact is one of the most common premises in science fiction. It’s your job to catch all the bad dreams before they reach the little girl. Indigenous dancer and drummer Bryce Morison. They roam the Plains, have totem poles, and worship a god called the Earth Mother.” But, “trope-y” depictions aside, when he first came across the Taurens as an 11-year-old, he says, “I was really excited to play as them because I identified with some of the values that they were able to communicate. On June 21, Canadians celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day — a special day to recognize and learn about Indigenous Peoples' unique culture, heritage and contributions. Once completed, the game will be shared with schools for students to play, and — unlike games that have educational elements with “a checkpoint where you have to do a couple of math problems before you keep playing again” — Petersen intends to integrate the educational components into the gameplay in a more holistic way, he says. He says Indigenous narratives are often rooted in the past, but he wanted to show an Indigenous future. For isolated indigenous communities, video games are becoming the medium of choice to tell their stories, spread their values and make their way of life more accessible to outsiders. Catch them and destroy them and if you can find some good dreams, you’re bound to win. “I see these digital spaces,” says Byrne, “as one of the few things where Indigenous people can make something, where they can express themselves, and know that no one’s going to be able to go in and spray-paint all over this. The game is played with two teams of participants each using a crosse, a stick with a net pocket to catch, scoop, carry, and throw a ball. Created by artist and designer Elizabeth LaPensée, Honour Water is a free game featuring Anishinaabe songs... Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna). The game can be incredibly fast-paced when played with older participants. The Indigenous Games for Children Resource is a collection of traditional Indigenous games and activities to help front line leaders introduce or reconnect children to recreational and sport activities that reflect the rich cultural heritage of our Indigenous peoples across Canada. The lack of Indigenous representation and understanding of Indigenous culture was a constant obstacle, as she says: “I had a character creation class, and I decided I was going to make a Cree hero and and Métis-Cree villain and I put it up in class. Another LaPensée gamer project includes Invaders, which was inspired by the classic arcade game Space … Terra Nova’s story and gameplay mechanics are meant to give players “a first contact experience where they don’t really know what the outcome could be,” using science fiction to cut through the endless misconceptions, stereotypes, and distorted history tied to the concept of first contact in popular culture, and let players experience it in a new, more accurate way. Why does she wear her hair in a braid? A prototype of the game was released in 2017, and today, Byrne and the growing team of Indigenous game designers at Achimostawinan Games are developing it for a publisher. Indigenous video games Honour Water. 10 out of 10.”. Video games have historically misappropriated or stereotyped Indigenous cultures – this still happens today, but there are more and more video games created by, for, and about Indigenous peoples. Created by artist and designer Elizabeth LaPensée, Honour Water is a free game featuring Anishinaabe songs and teachings about the importance of water and protecting it. Each developer must choose their own way to approach this. Save this story for later. Even the classic Space Invaders got a makeover! ImagineNative does this through a combination of public education initiatives, professional development, and the world’s largest Indigenous film festival, while Indigenous Routes focuses on new media training for Indigenous youth and funding projects members couldn’t otherwise do. As she “started building and working in games,” she realized she could tell a story and elicit an emotional reaction, and “was really surprised that the emotional reaction that I wanted people to have was the one they were having.”. The story of a Cree girl and her grandfather that begins when she asks him how to say "grandfather" in Cree and he tells her that he doesn’t remember because his words were stolen long ago at residential school. Amka gains superpowers when she tries to release the spirits of the land who have been captured by a villain using the energy of the land. Canada's Indigenous peoples include First Nations, Inuit and Métis. And this is what we get 500 years later: the [Tauren] race in this video game. “It was the first time I’ve actually heard real Indigenous languages being spoken in video games,” Longboat says. Comics are awesome. “Video games uniquely weave together design, code, art, and sound, making for an incredibly dynamic form of expression for Indigenous creatives that can engage players in many different ways,” she says, echoing Petersen’s belief that games can share experiences in ways no other medium can. Even the classic Space Invaders gets a makeover! It’s the first game out of Byrne’s studio, Achimostawinan Games, which she co-founded with Maliseet animator Tara Miller. Recommended for ages 4-8. Introduction to Indigenous Video Games Video games are increasingly part of daily life as both entertainment and education. Another Elizabeth LaPensée game, Thunderbird Strike lets players fly from the Tar Sands to the Great Lakes as a thunderbird and shoot lightning at a black snake that threatens to swallow the lands and waters of Turtle Island whole. She says the solution is to hire teams of Indigenous creatives — “not just one token per game” — and to “give Indigenous creatives space to inform design and also credit them, not just give them a consultant title.”. Spirits of Spring. “Why not just put out a call saying, ‘Hey, we’re looking to support this sort of work under our banner — to take on a producer role or publisher role, and to help make the industry more accessible to you’?”, Too often, LaPensée says, studios bring Indigenous people onboard with the stated aim of improving representation, but fail because they don’t give them a meaningful say. FEATURED GAMES. https://www.polygon.com/.../indigenous-representation-in-video-games Developed with technical director Mehrdad Dehdashti, Mi’kmaq artist and animator Ray Caplin, and sound designer Beatrix Moersch, and released in October 2019, Terra Nova is a two-player cooperative platformer exploring first contact between Indigenous and settler peoples in a distant future setting. Recommended for ages 3-7. The Hero Twins have long held an important place in the stories of the Navajo people as protectors of the People. Brand new stories launch every month. The choice to work with these particular creators was a deliberate one, because Petersen — alongside a contingent of his fellow Indigenous developers — has a broader goal: to improve opportunities for Indigenous people to tell their own stories through video games. Petersen believes video games are an ideal way to not only teach Lakota, but revitalize it. And if they do, who cares, there’s another copy.”, Through the unique immersive interactivity it offers, gaming enables Indigenous people to share and reflect on their experiences in a culture that generally distorts or silences them. “In a lot of major studios, there’s a heavy reliance on quote-unquote cultural advisers, and very little active engagement from the ground up,” which means that it’s rare for studios to build real relationships with the Indigenous people being represented, or to seek out and enable Indigenous work rather than looking for Indigenous spokespeople to rubber-stamp projects that studios have already decided to pursue. Video game streaming is an increasingly popular form of entertainment where people record themselves playing games live on apps such as Twitch and Facebook. The Video Game That Attempts to Preserve Native Alaskan Culture. Players can play solo or with friends to solve puzzles and get through challenges. Created in collaboration with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, When Rivers Were Trails follows an Anishinaabe person in the 1890s who is displaced from their traditional territory in Minnesota and heads west to California because of allotment acts, which claimed almost two-thirds of Indigenous land for settlers. Sila, an Inuk girl travels in all four directions learning about the land and the importance of protecting it. “The thing about game mechanics that I love,” she says, “is that you can explain or express something with a mechanic that you may not be able to articulate using words, or even sound or visuals. Recommended for ages 5-8. July 8 is National Video Game Day! By Richard van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett As part of his master’s thesis examining Indigenous video game development, Longboat developed a game called Terra Nova, released last year, which explores first contact through an Indigenous futuristic lens. LaPensée, for example, doesn’t mind if her games don’t always “compute” for non-Indigenous players, because, she says, “My audience first and foremost is Indigenous players.” And no matter if their games are explicitly educational, or implicitly so through what they depict, all four developers want to prioritize games and game creation that actively seeks to hire, educate, and/or fund other Indigenous developers and artists. Play alone or with a friend or family member as you trek across the frozen tundra, leap across ice floes and swim through underwater ice caverns. Honour Water. Why does she speak a different language? By Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave For the practical component of his thesis, he made a game of his own. A simple but powerful book about the importance of showing love, empathy and support for each other. This is because they all believe that ultimately, on-screen representation is only as helpful as who puts it there. This is largely the result of the boarding and residential school systems that the governments of the U.S. and Canada, respectively, forced Indigenous youth to attend starting in the 1870s, in an attempt to assimilate them into white society. Thunderbird Strike (2017) By Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe/Métis) When Rivers Were Trails (2019) By Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe/Métis), Nichlas Emmons (Miami/Shawnee), Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva) PURITY&decay (2017) By Achimostawinan Games Tipi Kaga (2019) By Carl Petersen (Oohe Numpa Lakota) Now, with video game giant Ubisoft Entertainment SA opening offices in Winnipeg later this year, the question is whether games … Byrne says that communities can be very cautious about the careers young people pursue, and skeptical of something without many visible models of success. Like Elizabeth LaPensée, Maize Longboat is a lifelong gamer who had trouble relating to characters until playing a fantasy MMO — in his case, World of Warcraft. Three Indigenous boys have to hunt giant crows who stole their spirits in order to get them back. The newest Marvel superhero is an Inuit teenager named Amka Aliyak from Nunuvut — also known as Snowguard. . He intends to immerse players in “the experience of being in a culture where that language is alive, and not just history.”. This means not just getting Indigenous people involved in games, but giving them meaningful control. It’s very hard for somebody to pull apart a feeling the way they can pull apart a visual or a sentence — I think it bypasses that resistance to listening.” Still, she cautions, there’s too often a tendency for this work to turn into “pain tourism” — where real stories of suffering are billed as entertainment, and the reaction from consumers is one she sums up as, “Oh, it’s so sad! More are on the way. A rhyming book about the unique relationship between parents and their children, in particular about the bond new parents feel with their babies. A free web-based game called Sleep Guardian allows players to be a dreamcatcher and make sure the little girl they’re watching over has good dreams. For Byrne, it’s the Métis-Cree RPG she designed characters for in school. A girl who wants to learn to read travels far away to go to a school where they cut her hair and refuse to call her by her real name. Lacrosse is the national summer sport of Canada and was invented by Indigenous people. Indigenous people have created and collaborated on video games, such as John Romero, co-designer of Doom (1993 video game), and Allen Turner, who has worked as a designer on a wide range of titles including Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. There isn’t a consensus about the “correct” terminology, but because of the criticisms surrounding the terms “Indian” and “Native American” in particular, this article uses “Indigenous” as a general descriptor. Recommended for ages 6-9. However, he says, “In a lot of ways, colonization couldn’t have happened without the generosity and facilitation of Indigenous people in the territory. She applied to the game design program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, and “just kind of took to it,” she says. Given these barriers, Byrne’s work outside her own game development focuses on the importance of giving people — especially young people — a place to create that’s entirely their own, both by helping kids learn to create games without having to travel, and by providing opportunities to build digital spaces where they are empowered to tell their own stories. 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