History & Theory

Indigenous Games

History & Theory
22 Apr, 2021

Indigenous Games

with Elizabeth LaPensée
Assistant Professor, Michigan State University

A History and Theory of New Media Lecture as part of the Indigenous Technologies initiative, co-sponsored by the Arts, Technology, and Culture Colloquium and the Department of Art Practice.

Event Recap

You can find a recap of the event from our liaison Jaclyn Tobia here.

Original Event

Register for Zoom link here!

Please note we will not be live-streaming this event and the recording will not be public. Please RSVP via Zoom if you are interested!

Indigenous people have made and played games since time immemorial. Indigenous self-determination in game design continues to rise in games of all forms. Commercial game industry shows trends towards involving Indigenous people in roles such as cultural consultants, as meanwhile, Indigenous game developers working independently establish and sustain space for their games to be recognized through exhibitions and events. Whether AAA or indie, there are a myriad of games in which Indigenous cultures inform design. This talk offers insights into the trajectory of Indigenous games, from past to present to future, highlighting work from Turtle Island to Aotearoa.

About Elizabeth LaPensée

Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe with family from Bay Mills, Métis, and Irish. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. Most recently, she designed When Rivers Were Trails (2019), a 2D adventure game following a displaced Anishinaabe during allotment in the 1890’s, which won the Adaptation Award at IndieCade 2019. She designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game which won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival 2017.

About Indigenous Technologies

Indigenous Technologies is a program of the Berkeley Center for New Media that engages questions of technology and new media in relation to global structures of indigeneity, settler colonialism and genocide in the 21st century. Our Indigenous Tech events and ongoing conversations with Indigenous scholars and communities aim to critically envision and reimagine what a more just and sustainable technological future can look like. We will highlight Indigenous engagements with robotics, computer science, telecommunications, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, social media, online activism, video games, and more.

Read a full description of the program and find more resources here.

About the History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, these events are free and open to the public. This year, our events will all take place online via Zoom.

Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 Series Theme: Indigenous Technology


09/10 | 5 — 6:30 PM | A Conversation with the Sogorea Te' Land Trust
Corrina Gould, Lisjan Ohlone leader and co-founder of the Sogorea Te' Land Trust
Moderated by Marcelo Garzo Montalvo
Register here.

POSTPONED | Advancing Hollow Bone Narratives through Media Platform Connectedness
Ruth Hopkins, Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer

11/5 | 5 — 6:30 PM | World Re-Building: Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures
Skawennati, Artist & Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and Skins Workshops in Aboriginal Storytelling in Digital Media
Co-sponsored by the Department of Art Practice
Register here.


2/3 | 5:00-6:30 PM | Indigenous Cyber-relationality: Discerning the Limits and Potential for Connective Action
Marisa Duarte, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Co-sponsored by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, the School of Information, and the Center for Race and Gender Studies.
Register here.

4/22 | 5:00-6:30 PM | Indigenous Games
Elizabeth LaPensée, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
Co-sponsored by the Department of Art Practice
Register here.


BCNM events are free and open to the public. All of our events for the 2020-2021 academic year will be held on Zoom in English, in Pacific Standard Time (PST). We provide live-captioning in Zoom and offer a separate Streamtext window for live-captioning with options to customize text size and display. We strive to meet any additional access and accommodation needs. Please contact info.bcnm [at] with requests or questions.

BCNM is proud to make conversations with leading scholars, artists, and technologists freely available to the public. Please help us continue this tradition by making a tax-deductible donation today. If you are in the position to support the program, we suggest $5 per event, or $100 a year.

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