Monday, October 01, 2007

Aiming Again for the Indian in the Console

I'm committed again to posting to my research blog, now linked from these pages, where I pursue a long-term project on examining Native American imagery in computer and video games.

If you have any tips on the presence of such items in games that you play, especially new ones, please drop me a line!


J. Blessinger said...

Fallout 1 and 2, and to a much lesser degree the spin-off Fallout Tactics all operate in a post-apocalyptic world in which clusters of civilization remain, while more wholesome tribal communities exist out in the open places. The survivors in the towns disparagingly refer to "tribals", although the game's point is not to "conquer" racism; it presents this oppression as simply the world in which one must live.

In Fallout 2, your character comes from one of the tribal communities and early on, must complete a sort of vision quest in order for the tribe to accept him/her as an adult. For the remainder of the long saga of the game, your character is often ignored, abused, or treated with hostility (at least initially) for being either a stranger or a "tribal".

Perhaps not many of the games you have studied make an Indian the main character.

It's worth pointing out that a sort of generic, romanticised "nativism" permeates a lot of modern games; In many, many role playing games, such as Neverwinter nights 1 and 2, the Baldur's Gate series, the Icewind Dale series, etc., the character option of Druid draws heavily upon a perception of Native American spirituality, dress, and even voicing at times; although druidism is a European tradition, in the game world, it's been supplanted by fictive and real Indian traditions.

Hmm. Rise of Nations has an add-on I've never played which adds Lakota and Iroquois to the playable nations, which means you can see their nation "evolve" architecturally and technologically as the game progresses. The nation-specific powers of these two new nations are very revealing as far as white perception, appropriation, and romanticization of Indian culture. Although one must appreciate the difficulty facing the game company: to leave Indians out of a game may be the safer option, but has its own problems; to include opens one up to an interrogation of one's bias and "Euro-centric" perspective.

I look forward to your scholarship, John!

JN said...

Thanks for the leads on these games, ones I hadn't heard about and look forward to investigating further. Your sense of the gaming companies' difficulty in including or not including Native imagery or concepts seems on the mark.

I've mentioned Gun on the other blog (, which does have a main character that, through the game play, discovers that he has native ancestry, but he's been vicious toward Indians in the past. The scalping that is enabled in the game has gotten some attention.

Despite the dilemma that game-makers face here, they do continue to make use of the imagery, tapping in to a perception among the typical gamers of a warrior culture that seems to fit with many types of games.

Thanks again. I hope you'll continue to contribute along this line!