2016, Nov 11: Allen Turner talk on "Alternative Indigenous Timelines using Role Playing Games"

Lai-Tze Fan edited this page Nov 25, 2016 · 17 revisions

November 11: Talk by Allen Turner (DePaul University)

"Ehdrigohr: Designing Alternative Indigenous Timelines Using Role-Playing Games"

(Concordia University, Canada)

Talk description

###Introduction: Future Imaginary Lecture Series

  • introduced by Skawennati and Jason Lewis (sp?), Concordia

#Allen Turner on Ehdrigohr (pronounced: eh-drig-gor)

  • talks about his background as a storyteller, gamer, dancer, situated in Chicago
    • games he's worked on: Stubbs the Zombie; Hail to the Chimp; and Guilty Party (Disney for Wii)
    • also, a bunch of Marvel games for a Marvel gaming universe (and the narrative of this universe)


  • his own creations: Ehdrigohr--a game of post-cataclysmic Tribal horror

  • in this game, aspect of going into a tomb as a sacred place that his players seemed apprehensive about

    • game's feeling of being heroic for taking, ransacking--and how people saw it as problematic
    • made him realize how gaming culture and experience had conditioned him
  • while day is normal in the game, at night, survival is the point of the game

  • draws from Lakota lens: on relationships, narrative, tribalism as the norm, survival as resistance, rites of passage, names, poetry, change

    • other cultures might do them, but these are higher on Lakota cultural list than others, perhaps
    • mixed with other native cultures, because "Native" doesn't mean one thing
      • compares it to thinking of Europeans: French and Germans are different, for example
      • results in a feeling of familiarity, yet with more digging, becomes more alien
    • ex. of other influences: Wiitjaasa confederated nation

Human-centric world

* divided into nine nations
* idea that humans are special, "humanity is special"--and this is part of the magic of the world
  • there are spirits, creatures, monsters, etc.
    • he's really into spiders
  • the main "villains" are the Shivers--all they do is feed, and they only come out at night
    • but with winter, the nights get longer so the Shivers are stronger and the people have less time to prepare during the days
    • because of this cycle, people count their histories by the winters they have survived (years = "Winter Counts")
  • character building through number of Winter Counts
    • they shape character's history, personality, memories, etc.

Dread & Jenga

  • briefly discusses inspiration by the horror game Dread
  • introduced using a Jenga tower to resolved tasks as opposed to traditional dice or cards
    • every time you want to do an action, you have to pull a block, and if you dropped it, you'd die
    • the more you did, the more rickety the Jenga tower; so the more you do, the easier it was to die
      • so you'd become trapped by your own fear/inhibition/paralysis to not make actions
    • provided physical ritual that really metabolized the experience

The Who of You

  • Turner's incentive behind this was to think about "the Who of You"

  • wanted to connect players to their world, not their items

  • "When something changes your narrative, that's profound ... It's never about how much you have, it's about who you are and where you've been"

    • when you make a character, you must dictate six winters that the character has already survived through
    • Winter Count as a tool that makes you move forward
    • questions: where were you as a child, what was the part of your childhood that made you strong enough to choose to go on?
      • i.e. how did you get to earn your Winter Counts?
  • Winter Counts traditionally used among Lakotans--tracked years through harsh winters

  • how often people survived, did they survive--tracked through a tiyospaye

    • bands of a life; sometimes a spiral; "It's a significant calendar of you."

GOAL: no colonization

  • esp when looking at how Natives are respresented in games: weaker people, need to be saved, another group coming in and the Natives are being revealed (as exotic other)
    • can't be there for yourself, always defined by colonizer
  • colonizer gets to decide what makes you Indian, what makes you powerful, your skills, weapons, magic, and it's never as powerful as what the colonizer has

"Even in our fantasies we are set up to be erased."
"Our magic and our ways are not good enough."

  • didn't want to give permission to play Indian
  • no more of an attempt at historical accuracy than "Lord of the Rings" or the "Wheel of Time"

Personal Connections

  • idea that there's very little you can do to you without implicating others around you
  • The Shivers are representative of Turners' anxieties, sorrows
  • especially while interacting with children and Native people, encountered a lot of sorrow
    • fighting the force of sorrow in the game as an undercurent theme of depression
    • ideas that you can't and can't be motivated

Question Period

  • someone mentions that there is a healing aspect of the narrative interaction in games

  • Q: how to play this with non-Indigenous people?

    • AT: reach into some of the cultures and histories that you're familiar with and that resonate with you
      - It's not about you trying to play Native, but playing people; trying to connect
      - the truth of your group (and experiences) are most important here
  • Q from Rilla Khaled: how does this make people think about representation?

    • AT: makes people ask about POC; people in Ehdrigohr don't have to justify things like race, but can just talk about their experiences through things like Winter Counts
      - players seemed to be moved by this; starting with what you know and moving on with that
  • it's a horror game, but Turner wants you to feel like you can win

    • AT: "It's about overcoming, not about being overcome."
  • Turner discusses the importance of bringing snacks to role-playing game sessions!

    • AT: "Hold on. He ain't got no snacks!"
  • but three young children stayed to listen, but the gaming language he was using (even with children) wasn't resonating; "Other people don't speak Gamer."

  • ended up relying on a fourth child to be his interpreter by making references to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson

    • "I let them make it their own."
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