Growing Up Ojibwe: The Game, in which players can both engage with
and learn about Ojibwe practices and tradition, is now available
to download on Android devices, and is also
playable on any web browser.
Players can choose to play as either Tommy or Annie Sky, two Ojibwe
youth, as they embark on a journey through northern Wisconsin to
learn about their heritage. The game is based on a children's book
series of the same name.
Eleanore Falck is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout
and the artist, programmer, and developer of Growing Up Ojibwe:
The Game. She designed the game during a summer internship with
the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC).
The organization also published the book series.
Falck completed the first three levels in the summer of 2019 and
finished the last two starting in March of 2020, working five days
"[GLIFWC] wanted me to help connect with the younger generation
and do something educational for young people
so I thought
a game would be an easy way to get kids interested. Specifically
in the middle-school age range," Falck said.
Eleanor Falck. Photo
"Video games are actually an extremely good way of learning things,"
Falck continued. "Games are great for teaching because they're so
interactive, you repeat things and remember them better. Because
you're doing the activity yourself, it becomes your experience too,
rather than just someone else's experience."
The game features five levels, each exploring an aspect of Ojibwe
life and culture: Treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, maple sap gathering,
spearfishing, and harvesting wild rice.
Spearfishing became a controversial topic in the late 1980s, leading
to tense clashes and standoffs when Indigenous people exercised
their rights. The topic has become a hot-button issue again recently;
just last year, a Lac du Flambeau man was shot at while spearing.
"In the spearfishing level, players learn about the history of
spearfishing in the northern Wisconsin area," Falck said. "Players
learn about harvesting sustainably, which is a big point because,
during the spearfishing controversy, there was a lot of racism towards
Native peoples. Many white people were very upset with treaty re-affirmation.
Some believed that if tribes were able to exercise their treaty
rights and go out and spearfish, the environment would be damaged,
when really tribes are very careful. This is something that is really
pushed in that level."
As a descendant of the Oneida people whose father is a tribal member,
Falck was already familiar with some of the practices featured in
Growing Up Ojibwe: The Game. However, designing and developing the
game allowed Falck to "discover part of my identity."
"I had grown up learning about the culture a little bit. My family
would harvest wild rice and maple syrup," she said. "I actually
did put a lot of my own experience into the game. So I was already
introduced to some of the activities that are shown, but I actually
got more education about the culture during this internship."
As good reviews flood in, Falck added that she is both appreciative
and inspired by those who have played and enjoyed her game.
"I also got a letter from someone who wanted to show the game to
his son, someone who is also Native American and that was really
sweet," Falck said. "It really makes me happy [that] it's getting
a good response. Helping to educate people is one of the things
that I want to do with games. I want to make pretty stuff but I
also want to make content that has a deeper meaning, that people
can connect with and that inspires them.
"A commonality that I tend to go towards is making beautiful scenes
of nature in my work because I think the natural environment is
really undervalued and that contributes to issues like pollution
and climate change. I hope to make people appreciate nature more
through my art," Falck continued. "Although, it might be a little
shallow to make people appreciate nature through beauty all the
time, because it obviously has so many more reasons to be important."
In January 2020, Falck and GLIFWC staff went to Lac Courte Oreilles
Ojibwe School school in Hayward, WI, to teach children and introduce
them to the game. However, they weren't able to play due to the
school's wifi restrictions. Instead, Falck decided to show the students
how the game was made, and invited the students to use the same
game engine that she had used to program it.
"There's this one little girl I remember who was maybe like eight
or 10 and she was super excited about making games," Falck explained.
"She told me, 'I want my friends and I to work on this in the library
today later.' It made me so happy that I was able to inspire the
next generation. It's an amazing feeling.'"
Growing Up Ojibwe: The Game is available to play in browser
or download for windows here
or for Android on the Google