Changing how Native Americans are represented in video games

This indigenous game designer wants to immerse gamers in Native American culture — and put an end to stereotypes.

Who is Carl Petersen?

Carl Petersen wants to change the way Native Americans are represented in his favorite medium — video games. Peter grew up on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Formerly the Great Sioux Nation. As a member of the Oohe Nunpa (Two Kettles) band of the Lakota tribe and a computer science and computer game design graduate of Dakota State University, Petersen’s family was unable to afford the $2,000 internet bill for him to continue playing video games as a child. Petersen decided to put his passion for culture and video games together by designing his own game. He built his first game Tipi Kaga in 2017 and founded the gaming company Northern Plains Games in 2019.

“Even when you see representation, let's say, the Tauren in World of Warcraft, it's a caricature, it's offensive sometimes, like, especially the insinuation of lesser intelligence or that kind of thing. You know, I played Assassin's Creed III. Connor was a cool character, but he was still very much a whitewashed Indian...And even the parts of his story that had to do with his culture, even if they had, you know, a person from that tribe consulting, there was no one on that team who was from that tribe or native at all,” Petersen shares with Brut.

What is Tipi Kaga?

Petersen came up with the idea for this game back in 2014. Essentially, it is a game where the player constructs a traditional Lakota Tipi and will integrate the almost forgotten Lakota language within the gameplay. Today, there are less than three thousand fluent speakers and while Petersen can speak it, the last fluent speaker in his family died fourteen years before he was born. However, with the support of the company’s Patreon supporters, there should be more culturally sensitive games brought into the industry.