You may have seen recent headlines about how a number of Native American actors and consultants walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie because the content was degrading and insulting to Native people. And yeah, if you read any of the articles, it was that bad – even for what you might expect from anAdam Sandler movie.
Reading the recaps via traditional and social media, the fact that the workers walked off the job wasn’t surprising. But what left us at 7 Generation Games slightly perplexed was why you would pay someone for their opinion and then completely ignore it.
We fully understand the sensitivities that come when working on any kind of cultural content, especially if that’s not your personal background. But we’ve worked really hard to remedy that by bringing on staff members who are reflective of that background. Because our game storylines center around Native American content, a third of our staff is Native American, including our entire culture team for those games. And we do that because we want our products to be accurate. As we’ve said before, there are more than enough games/movies/stories/pop culture that hit on Native culture with no desire to get it right. We didn’t want to be grouped among them.
So when our culture consultants offer feedback on how we should change elements of the game to make them correct, we do. When one of our Ojibwe consultants, Debbie, said that men wouldn’t wear earrings, we didn’t say, “Well, who’s going to notice?” We went through with our lead artist and we scrubbed all of the earrings out of the Ojibwe male characters. When it was pointed out that one of the girl character’s dresses was too short, we went in and lengthened it. We’ve sought to make sure that we’re as accurate as possible – whether it’s what herb they would have used or how they would have traveled. We listen to our culture consultants because, well, that’s the job we hired them to do.
And we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve gotten critiques and feedback not only from our staff, but from our supporters. When one user pointed out that our character from the time of Ojibwe migration should probably be darker, we thought about it, consulted with our culture team (who we on the business and development end defer to on matters of culture) and we agreed and made those changes.
After all, if we bring people on because of their expertise, when they advise on the basis of that expertise, we listen to them. And when it’s pointed out to us that we’re wrong about something, we fix it.
If fact you might say that’s our culture policy – not just when it comes to portray Native (or, in our fourth game, Hispanic) culture, but when it comes the company culture we have worked to create.
It might seem simplistic, but at least for us, it works. And to date, we haven’t had members of our staff walk out on us in protest, so we’ve got that going for us.