Synthetic Spaces and Indigenous Identity: Decolonizing Video Games and Reclaiming Representation

Author(s): Ashlee Bird

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "From Tomb Raider to Indiana Jones: Pitfalls and Potential Promise of Archaeology in Pop Culture" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In her essay "Tradition and Performance", Stephanie Nohelani Teves details the importance of living Hawaiian tradition and identity, embodied by Kanaka Maoli performers. These performers preserve, shape, and embody indigenous tradition and knowledge, as well as personify what it means to be indigenous in Hawaii in that particular cultural moment. The topic of the survivance of tradition and indigeneity through the vessel of a synthetic indigenous identity is the topic that will be explored in this paper. Branching from the discussion of Tanya Tagaq’s creation of a synthetic indigenous self through her music, this presentation will discuss the creation of alternate forms of indigenous synthetic selves through native produced and developed video games such as Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), as well as the work I have done with ROM Hacking Super Mario Bros. and my own game design, and their importance to the furthering and shaping of synthetic tradition. This presenation will demonstrate that indigenous identity cannot only be created through games, but entire worlds and teachings surrounding community, collective knowledge and oral tradition, and indigenous ways of knowing can be created within this digital medium, and thus embodied by the player.

Cite this Record

Synthetic Spaces and Indigenous Identity: Decolonizing Video Games and Reclaiming Representation. Ashlee Bird. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450390)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 26059