As the gaming industry has become more popular, there’s been more space for creatives to venture into the less-explored regions of both gameplay and setting. This has led to the numerous, almost annual innovations to come out of Nintendo, as well as a more diverse array of protagonists and storylines.
Despite the United States being the second-largest gaming market in the world, few games have run with a theme of any of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. While characters based on native communities have been dotted around, few put the indigenous at the forefront of their games. With more people to appeal to and a greater need to stand out, some developers are now leaning into these less-explored themes.
A range of Native American themes
In the United States, Native Americans are closely tied to casino gaming, with tribes running most of the casinos. So, making Native American symbology the basis of a slot game was very much a natural segue. When you play Shaman’s Dream slot, you’ll find all of the most recognizable imagery, including tomahawk axes, dream catchers, totems, and bald eagles.
During the slot, the wolf plays as the wild symbol, with the pack of wolves rewarding the jackpot of 9,500 times the stake. Along with the wolf feature, a line of dream catchers will also trigger a slot feature. Three of the symbols in combination commences 15 free spins, which triple the rewards of each win.
Expanding from a form of gaming closely tied to the culture now, This Land is My Land was hailed as one of the best early access PC games of 2019. Still in early access, the Game-Labs creation puts you in the shoes of a Native American chief on the frontier. In the game, you can explore the vast world, make decisions to influence the game, and seek to survive humans and animals alike.
Embracing indigenous cultures to the north and south
Using the theme and offering more diversity to the gaming scene is one thing, but going a step further to work in conjunction with indigenous people is an even greater move. Never Alone: Kisima Ingitchuna became the first video game to be developed alongside a native community, with players taking on the role of a native Alaskan Iñupiaq girl, Nuna.
Developer Mark Basedow went against the grain with his creation, The Raven and the Light, embracing the darker side of North American indigenous history. The horror, story-driven game has you dodge monsters and find documents while in a school for natives, shining a light on the very real situation that indigenous students were in through Canada’s residential schooling system.
Going down south, studio Lienzo crafted a story derived from legends of Northern Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe. Mulaka boasts an incredibly striking art style, but what makes it stand out is its setting and storylines, all of which are derived from the descendants of the Tarahumara. The developers worked very closely with them to create the sounds, characters, and languages used in the game to create an authentic experience.
As developers look for inspiration in less-explored areas more and more, the tales and themes of the indigenous peoples of the Americas are adding more variety to the gaming scene.