Aboriginal video game puts modern twist on tradition of storytelling
Using a modern twist to honour centuries-old traditions, a new video game designed by young people from Kahnawake uses Mohawk legends as inspiration.
The product of a video game design workshop at Concordia Uiversity, Skahiòn:hati: Rise of the Kanien'kehá:ka Legends, tells the story of a man who must fight a Stone Giant, Tree People and the Flying Head on his path to becoming a warrior.
The workshop was all about Aboriginal storytelling and video game design called Skins.
“We bring in people from the reserve, elders, people who know the stories, to talk about stories, to tell the stories,” said Jason Lewis, design and computation arts professor at Concordia.
One of those elders is Owisokon Lahache, who said staying true to the stories was the biggest challenge in building the game.
“When you're trying to translate ideology into imagery,” she said. “It's a little bit hard because you want to make sure they are grasping the real value of the story.”
Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 from Kahnawake spent a combined total of 350 hours creating the game, which can be downloaded here.
The focus was on a positive portrayal of their proud heritage.
“For video games, aboriginal people haven't been portrayed right. It's very much like stereotypes and caricatures, not characters. I thought I could come up with a good story and a good character to put in our game,” said Tehoniehtathe Delisle, a participant of the workshop.
The video’s central character is a boastful young man, said Mohawk artist Towanna Miller.
“In this video game, the young man starts off liking to brag a lot, and the chief sent him out on a mission to defeat these giant monsters, so that your actions speak louder than words,” said Miller.
Along the way, players learn about Aboriginal and Mohawk culture.
“You learn about what the pottery is and what the corn is for, and the corn masher and the longhouse and the lacrosse stick so, there are elements of teachings in there too,” said Miller.
Beneath the fun of playing a game they made themselves, young people take away something more, said Skawennati Fragnito of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, a network of designers and academics creating new, Aboriginally-determined spaces online.
“We wanted to empower people, especially young people, not to just be consumers of this media but to think of themselves as possible producers of it,” said Fragnito.
For more on the initiative, click here.