Love Data Week 2022 — Custer’s Revenge to Red Dead Redemption: Changing the Language of Indigenous Representation in Video Games


Lecture presented by Ashlee Bird, Moreau Post Doctoral Fellow, American Studies

This presentation will emphasize the two types of language taking place in video games: mechanical, coded language, and visual, representational language. This talk will focus on the importance of teaching the history of Indigenous representation in games, and break down various examples from Custer’s Revenge to the Mortal Kombat and Red Dead Redemption series to demonstrate these types of gamic language.

Building upon these examples, this lecture centers on the problematic ways in which players have historically translated the messages they are being presented within the digital medium of the video game. Furthermore, this talk illustrates how these translations result in harmful narratives about Indigenous avatars becoming cemented within the overarching discourse and design of games. Finally, we will look at new Indigenous works and how inclusive and decolonial game design and practices like ROM hacking can push back against these established narratives and the ways in which players read them, and instead create sovereign digital spaces for Indigenous peoples.

NOTE: In the event of inclement weather or pandemic effects precluding our ability to convene on campus, the watch party in Room 246 will be canceled, and this event will only take place via Livestream. Livestream links are automatically emailed to registrants 1 hour before sessions begin.

Click here to register.

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