Games are sovereign when they are made primarily for ourselves and by ourselves.
Sovereign games are primarily for ourselves and may have different purposes. For example, the mobile/web arcade style game Invaders is for everyone and uses 8-bit alien invasion to spark conversations about colonization. In contrast, the board game The Gift of Food is to be played only by the communities who were involved in making the game because it passes on traditional food knowledge that needs to be protected. From games that are made to be played by just about anyone to games made with limited access to games made for community members only, every sovereign game is self-determined.
Sovereign games are primarily by ourselves because putting together the right team may mean working with people from all over. Truly sovereign games are led by Indigenous people and, regardless of who is involved, we must hold supreme power in a collaboration. Certainly, sovereign games involve as many Indigenous people as possible in the development process. Elders and knowledge carriers should be paid well for their work, which may include contributing language, stories, and teachings. Community members should be given meaningful opportunities to contribute creative content.
of game developers identified as Indigenous in the 2015 IGDA Diversity Report.
Community members interested in game development must be given opportunities to adapt their existing skill sets to games through contributions such as design, art, animations, music, and voiceovers. Right now, this means making space for people who are new to game development to build up their skills because we don’t yet have a wide range of game companies and creatives who aren’t already busy with their own work. For example, storyteller Roger Fernandes was directly mentored by a graphic designer as he made the art for the board game The Gift of Food. He was given space to draw and paint in his own style while being guided through the technical aspects of the process. This form of mentorship as well as youth game workshops such as Skins and Indigenous Routes build greater capacity for future games in the hopes of reinforcing sovereignty.