Course:FNIS454/Indigenous Games and Gaming

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FNIS 454
Indigenous New Media
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This open access resource is developed by the students of FNIS 454: Indigenous New Media. Via summary and analysis of key article, this wiki explores the theoretical, cultural, socio-political, and gendered dynamics underwriting the histories and futures of Indigenous new media as it develops out of the late 90s and into the present moment.
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Indigenous Games and Gaming, by Denae Petti

Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have been creating and playing games. Across Turtle Island, many Indigenous nations played their version of Sla’hal, or bone game. Sla’hal is more than a game, and is also used as a peaceful way to resolve conflict and settle differences, and the outcome is binding.[1] Sla’hal was a game created to solve the conflict between animal people and human people,back in the times when we were all able to freely communicate with each other. Human people stopped following the rules of the animal people,causing conflict and war, and making themselves easy prey for the animal people.The elders who remembered a time of harmony called the animal people and human people together for a truce, which would be settled by Sla’hal. The game went back and forth as both teams learned songs from the elder, and finally after a very long game the human people won. The animal people scattered across Turtle Island, and now human people must hunt and search for animals to eat, and the conflict was settled. This game, rooted in Indigenous knowledge and methodologies, is filled with laughter, fun, and good medicine. It also resolves conflicts without bloodshed.

Colonialism and the violence that accompanies it has had a terrible impact on Indigenous gaming. Through residential schools, ceremonial bans, and other genocidal methods, Indigenous peoples have been in a state of survival and survivance. Even through this adversity, Indigenous people are game content creators, with the most notable being the Inupiaq game Never Alone. This female protagonist in this game uses cooperative game play rooted in Inupiaq cultural knowledge and teachings. This game features an Indigenous protagonist written from an Indigenous perspective. Many Indigenous representation in popular games are written from a European or Settler perspective, so they will never truly be able to encapsulate an Indigenous character. For example, in Age of Empire, there are Indigenous people in the game but they lose their cultural distinction as the game progresses. Similarly, in Assassin’s Creed 3, you play as a Mohawk character but it is still within European/Settler context. This is why it is important to have Indigenous content creators to have more accurate Indigenous representation from an Indigenous lens.

Never Alone is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Indigenous gaming. There are so many Indigenous people working within the gaming world for Indigenous representation. The N.D.N. Players Research Group developed, “a system for tagging games that reflects our understandings of indigeneity.”[1] This tagging system lets players get a better understanding of the game deeper than just its genre. This is just one example of ways Indigenous peoples are making gaming safer and more enjoyable for Indigenous players. The future holds endless possibilities for Indigenous games, and Indigenous representation within games, and it is very exciting watching it unfold.

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bushnell, Jeanette; et al. (2017). "How Do You Say Watermelon". Transmotion. 3: 45–69. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)