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‘It’s using the likeness of my ancestors’: Indie game This Land Is My Land criticised for racial insensitivity

Ed Nightingale April 19, 2021
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This Land Is My Land

This Land Is My Land. (Game-Labs)

This Land Is My Land is an open world stealth game where you play as the leader of an Indigenous American tribe resisting settlers.

However, no Indigenous people were consulted in the making of the game, and the developers have attempted to shut down criticism by deleting messages on Discord – including comments from Indigenous gamers.

Currently in early access on Steam, the indie game is being developed by Game-Labs by a team of four based in Ukraine.

As one of the game’s trailers shows, the gameplay involves brutally murdering settlers with tomahawks and bows, which critics have said plays directly into the tired trope of “the Savage Indian”. The game’s lavish, detailed costume designs also include warpaint and headdresses.

As reported by Waypoint, the developers – in a now-deleted tweet – admitted to not having any Indigenous people in their team, but welcomed feedback from the community.

The writer of the Waypoint article, an Indigenous person named Baylee Giroux, criticised the game for its approach, saying:

“Indigenous are real. As in living, breathing and existing in the realm of reality with everyone else. We don’t exist as a toy box full of faceless dolls to project roleplay or LARP fantasies onto.

“Game-Labs meant to represent Native people in This Land. It’s all over the marketing. From the flute music in one trailer to the lovingly rendered warpaint and feather headdresses on the characters. The game isn’t using a fictional race of humanoids, it’s using the likeness of my ancestors.”

Another Indigenous person posted on Reddit about the game, saying: “I don’t like seeing our people being used as puppets to tell stories.”

However, when criticised in the game’s Discord server by players, the developers appear to be defensive, even accusing players of being racist against them.

The developer explained that This Land Is My Land “unfolds at a specific place that represents a time when the Native Americans were cornered in making a tough choice of assimilating with the foreign civilisation or perish into history.”

Many voices in the Discord expressed their concern at the lack of Indigenous people on the development team and their decision to combine different Indigenous tribes together as one.

They were repeatedly met with comments by an account, seemingly one of the developers, asking them to “keep the tone down” and describing a “holy war related to nationality of developers. Which feels a bit racist.”

The team in Discord also refer to their community as “the tribe” and certain users as “Chiefs”.

Many of the developer’s tweets and Discord messages have since been removed.

Discussing the deleted messages, Baylee Giroux said: “I’ve witnessed actual Indigenous people being silenced and bullied for speaking up and I have no doubt the same will happen to me. This Land might be a game about Indigenous resistance, but as a product it is by and for settler culture.”

The gameplay itself has also been criticised for its poor representation. A feature called “karma” punishes the player for attacking and killing settlers, despite the game’s trailer glorifying this violence. Instead the player is encouraged to stun enemies and attack non-lethally.

In this way, This Land Is My Land tasks you with defending your homeland yet punishes you for doing so.

Game-Labs have not yet responded to the
Waypoint story.

Related topics: gaming, indigenous, racism

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