Games featuring Native peoples

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Games featuring Native peoples

Postby catty_big » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:18 pm

I was pondering what kind of topic to kick off with on this forum, and I thought as a courtesy to my hosts I would ask about games that feature in some way native peoples such as, in this case Maori obviously, but across the world Native Americans, the Inuvut, Aboriginal Australians and so forth. I imagine there could be narrative games that focus on the struggle to maintain a community's way of life in the face of globalisation and a gradual erosion of that way of life. Or maybe an adventuring game? The PCs could be members of a tribe who go hunting, war with other tribes and undertake perilous migrations in search of precious resources and better hunting grounds etc. Thoughts? Do such games exist already?
Last edited by catty_big on Wed Apr 02, 2014 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Currently promoting Sci-Fi Beta Kappa (published November 2013) and working on several other games: visit the indyhippo design lab for details.
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Re: Games featuring Native peoples

Postby Stephanie » Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:23 am

There was a larp that was set in early colonial history where most of the characters were Maori a few years ago. Here's a review from someone who was thinking a lot about it from the cultural sensitivity angle: http://gametime.livejournal.com/72453.html (I didn't go to it, so can't tell you what it was like at first hand.)

I haven't heard of many game systems, though (apart from Dog Eat Dog, and the Bleeding Sun Aztec game which sounded very impressive.) I think that (in New Zealand at least) a lot of that is straight demographics - roleplayers trend Pakeha, not exclusively, but we're still whiter than the Census average for our given cities. So partly there's the case of "write what you know" and partly there's wanting to be respectful of another culture's special things, and partly there's just fear - just by announcing a game that's delving into a real world culture that is disadvantaged (historically or in the present, which is common for indigenous peoples) you can expect upfront criticism, whether from members of that group, or from other White people who are concerned about you doing it badly, before you've even started. Morgue, the guy who wrote that review, told me in private that one of his reactions to the game was feeling embarrassed to tell his Maori friends about it, f'r'instance, and I don't think that's a unique feeling. Writing a game that addresses indigenous tribes or colonial issues but in a SF setting would work well, though - you can look at the issues but with a degree of separation so people's feeling wouldn't get hurt.

[waves hi]
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Re: Games featuring Native peoples

Postby morgue » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:00 am

heya! Yeah, as Steph indicates, I kind of went on an 18-month-long freakout about the difficulties with a lot of this sort of content. Lizzie Stark pulls together pretty much all the stuff I was flailing about in a post here. (By the way, Steph - if you go through this post's checklist I think you'll see that Fragrant Harbour nailed every single item.)

Also as Steph says, Dog Eat Dog is the go-to example for an indigenous/First Nations experience. It's entirely focused on the colonial angle though. How We Came To Be Here is another game to look at, if you haven't already - I picked it up in a Bundle of Holding but haven't got around to reading or playing it yet, myself. There's also Ganagakok, which I've played and enjoyed, but has been attacked for cultural insensitivity. Worth looking at with that in mind.

There's also Mythos of the Maori, an ambitious attempt to do a trad RPG about pre-contact Maori, by someone who says right up front they aren't Maori or from NZ and probably have lots of stuff wrong. It turns some complex cultural concepts into game mechanical frameworks, and I really don't know what to make of it...
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Re: Games featuring Native peoples

Postby catty_big » Fri Apr 04, 2014 11:54 pm

Thanks Stephanie and morgue, that's a very good overview of the state of play, particular wrt the possible pitfalls. I know about Dog Eat Dog (I even possess a copy, but haven't yet run it, not due to squeamishness but for other reasons), and I've heard about How we came to Live Here, but haven't seen the book or watched it being played. It's potentially a very hot potato, but I'm of the opinion that there are no limits in RPGs, especially story games, as RPGs can and should deal with people have to deal with in real life. HOWEVER, I think game designers and GMs need to be particularly carful with games that reference specific groups of (often marginalised and oppressed) peoples, even more so if they're not from those groups themselves. I posted a thread on precisely this topic on SG a while back (link here), and got some very helpful and interesting responses, many of them boiling down to 'Do a ton of research' and 'Tread very carefully'.

Oh, and [waves back]
Currently promoting Sci-Fi Beta Kappa (published November 2013) and working on several other games: visit the indyhippo design lab for details.
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Re: Games featuring Native peoples

Postby Stephanie » Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:24 am

Oh yeah, I remember that "I'm not a Tibetan" thread. By the time I saw it, it had gotten so convoluted that there didn't seem much point joining in.

Morgue - that "Myths of the Maori" game looks like an astonishing piece of research, that happens to be parcelled up as a roleplaying game. Nifty.
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Re: Games featuring Native peoples

Postby catty_big » Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:02 pm

Stephanie wrote:Oh yeah, I remember that "I'm not a Tibetan" thread. By the time I saw it, it had gotten so convoluted that there didn't seem much point joining in.

Yeah, threads on SG get like that sometimes. There have been a few that I only noticed by the time they were up to three pages, with several dense posts by one or two users taking up about two thirds of the thread :lol:.
Currently promoting Sci-Fi Beta Kappa (published November 2013) and working on several other games: visit the indyhippo design lab for details.
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