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“Skábma: Snowfall” is a big win for Aboriginal game makers


In the 20th century, state-sponsored Christian missionaries and biologists meticulously documented Sami customs and clothing, even as they sought to suppress them. The church and state even conspired to dig up and desecrate the sacred sites and tombs of the Sami, and measure their skulls and skeletons in search of evidence of an “uncivilized” primitive Aryan lineage.

Recently, Sami has been cast in huge movies like Klaus And frozen 2They are usually side characters who help the settlers in their missions. In these images, the Sami are often historical, in formal traditional dress, and Bedouin.

Sami’s actual identity is much more complicated. To start, their traditional lands are divided by four colonial powers (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia), nine living Aboriginal languages, and four non-indigenous languages. Forced assimilation programs in those countries led to further divisions between the nomadic reindeer herders and the sedentary “forest” or village Sami, who were forcefully stripped of their traditions.

By choosing a historical setting, Skábma: Snowfall Able to allude to these influences without fully portraying them – there is, for example, a sinister French naturalist who overstayed his welcome in the village of Áilu. But even portraying the historical sublime can be fraught with problems.

“Determining what is traditional and what is not also narrows the image of the sublime,” Outi Laiti, a Sammy researcher and game designer, wrote in an email to WIRED. Reindeer herding, traditional crafts and nature worship are all part of the Sami cultural heritage. But most Sami are Christians, many do not know traditional crafts, and few know much about what to do with a reindeer herd. Calling these things tradition might imply that these people are somehow less sublime.

This has left Sami artists like Oranen on a delicate task. “There is a fine line between negative stereotypes and desired stereotypes,” she said. “People know nothing about Sami culture. They do not know who we are. In this sense, stereotypes are at hand.”

“But … we fight those stereotypes at the same time we have them,” she said. “People expect us to be on this show at a museum, and they’re frustrated…because we’re not as weird as they want us to be.”

But one of the benefits of having Sámi people like Auranen lead the development of a game about Sámi is that the creators are free to shape the design based on their views. Auranen knows she’s not offering an exclusive version of Sáminess – instead, she’s offering her own interpretation, drawn from her own experience of growth and discovery.

Intensive course in cultural heritage

Courtesy of PID Games

Oranen said the main theme of Áilu’s trip is “loss and recovery,” a theme close to home. Oranien’s father was one of the “lost generation”, the Sami who grew up without access to their traditional language or culture. As a result, Oranien herself was deprived of this education. “All those little details,” she said, “never passed me by.”

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