'Skábma: Snowfall' is a huge win for indigenous game makers
Well into the 20th century, Christian missionaries and state-aided biologists described in detail Sámi customs and clothing, even while trying to subdue them. The church and the state even formed an alliance to excavate and destroy the sites and tombs of the Sámi saints, measuring the skull and skeleton in search of evidence for a "non-civilized" proto-Aryan race.
Sámi has recently been featured in major films such as Claus and Frozen 2, where they are usually side characters who help in settler quests. In these paintings, Sámi is almost always historical, in traditional formal attire, and mobile.
Sámi identity is much more complex. To begin with, their traditional area is divided by four colonial powers (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia,) nine living indigenous languages, and four non-indigenous languages. Forced affiliation programs in these countries led to further divisions, between reindeer herders and "forest" settlements or Sámi towns, which were more strongly removed from their traditions.
By choosing a historical setting, Scale: Snow able to describe these effects without showing them in full - for example, a sinister French naturalist continues to welcome the small town of Áilu. But even showing historical Sámi can be fraught with issues.
“Explaining what is traditional and what is not also diminishes the image of Sáminess,” Outi Lati, a Sámi game researcher and designer, wrote in an email to WIRED. Herding deer deer, traditional crafts, and nature worship are all part of the Sámi cultural heritage. But most Sami people are Christians, little is known about traditional crafts, and few would know what to do with a herd of deer. These traditional things could mean that these people are somehow less Sámi.
That has left Sámi artists like Auranen with fine workmanship. "There is a fine line between negative stereotypes and stereotypes that are needed," she said. "People don't know about Sami culture. They don't know who we are. And in that sense, the stereotyping is becoming Useful input. ”
"But… we are fighting these stereotypes at the same time as we own them," she said. "People expect us to be in this exhibition at the museum, and they're disappointed ... we're not as curious as they want us to be."
But one advantage that Sámi people like Auranen lead game development about Sámi is that the creators are free to shape the design based on their views. Auranen knows that she does not offer a particular version of Sáminess - instead, she offers her own interpretation, drawn from her own experience of growth and discovery.
Disaster Course in Cultural Heritage
The main theme of Áilu's trip is "loss and recovery," said Auranen, and it's a theme close to home. Auranen's father was one of the "lost generation," a Sámi who grew up without access to their traditional language or culture. As a result, Auranen himself was excluded from that education. "All those details, they never went to me," she said.