Survivance: An Indigenous Social Impact Game

Date created: 
Ron Wakkary
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Indigenous, First Nations, Native American, games for change, social impact games, co-design

Social impact games are on the rise as a means of encouraging social change through gameplay. This dissertation describes the outcomes of playing Survivance (—an Indigenous social impact game that honors storytelling, art, and self-determination as pathways to healing from historical trauma caused by colonization in Turtle Island (North America). The research addresses a gap in studies that specifically explore the impact of social impact games while uniquely merging Indigenous and Game Studies scholarship.The study focuses on gameplay spread over one year involving ten core players and three validation players. The players are from the urban Indigenous community in Portland, Oregon in the United States of America, where Survivance was developed collaboratively with the non-profit organization Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. as an extension of its multimedia health and wellness curriculum Discovering Our Story. Thus, this research is positioned within Indigenous ways of knowing. It is informed by biskaabiiyang methodology, an Anishinaabe approach of “returning to ourselves.” The survivance framework involves looking at player experiences overall, including their incoming motivations, quest journeys, and “acts of survivance” (any form of self-expression, e.g. a painting, a beadwork medallion, an experimental animation). It leverages Indigenously-determined methods including written reflections, acts of survivance as symbol-based reflection, and conversations.Findings from the Survivance prototype show that intergenerational exchanges of traditions, stories, and art practices are pathways to wellbeing that influence the player’s self; various forms of community; and the greater world; while also fostering a reciprocal relationship with spirit. The study clearly shows that social impact games do make an impact, and goes on to describe this in ways that are relevant to Survivance players.

Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Document type: 
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