Hack the ROM: A Year of Indigenous History, Storytelling and Game Development for Ontario Students

This past year, we kicked off a new partnership with ROM and Hack the ROM — an innovative program for students in Ontario (Grades 4 –10) that fosters learning about Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing while also building critical skills to thrive in a digital age. Over the course of the 2021/22 school year, the program reached over 2,000 students. 

In addition to learning historical and contemporary Indigenous cultures through storytelling, Hack the ROM provides students a glimpse into how broad the world of game development is – whether it’s art, storytelling, level design or programming – and aims to inspire a new generation of game developers. 

As we enter National Indigenous History Month in June, we have an opportunity to educate ourselves on the histories, cultures, and Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous communities, so that we can build a better future rooted in Nation-to-Nation building. It also provides a timely backdrop for students to highlight what they’ve learned and created.  

Wrapping up another semester with Hack the ROM

Students joined the Hack the ROM virtual showcase this week to share their games with Indigenous Museum Educators (IMEs) as well as Ubisoft Toronto mentors. 

Throughout the year, Ubisoft Toronto team members had the opportunity to join IMEs in the classroom and mentor students as they developed some of their first games, touching on a range of topics from programming, storytelling and game design, to how making mistakes is an integral part of the game development process.  

Screenshot of Meagan Byrne with beaded earrings, brown hair and black sweater.
Meagan Byrne, Game Developer

The showcase was opened by Meagan Byrne, winner of Ubisoft Indie Series 2022 and founder of Achimostawinan Games, an Indigenous-led studio that creates games meant to empower Indigenous artists and communities.  

Byrne talked about her journey as an Indigenous video game developer and her current project, Hill Agency: PURITY & Decay, an Indigenous cyber-noir detective game. 

One of the things I like about games is that they let us talk about things that are difficult to talk about and they let you put people in a place where they need to be.

— Meagan Byrne, founder of Achimostawinan Games

Let’s take a look at the students’ games:  

Wolf Run

 

Play as a wolf and protect the rabbit from a predatory owl. Using the arrow buttons, chase off the owl to save the rabbit and earn points. Talk to the beaver for wisdom and knowledge about Indigenous communities and the bear for some courage and power to run across the river!

Beaver Teacher Teaches Canoes

 

Fix a canoe with the help of a beaver companion! Race against the clock to chop a birch bark tree, which is traditionally used by the Anishinaabe people for canoe-making. Collect all the wood and put it in the “canoe maker” to win!

Canoe Fishing 

 

Paddle your canoe and catch fish! Use your arrow keys to move left and right, and click to shoot arrows to catch fish. But be wary to avoid rocks or your canoe will sink and it’s game over!

Jingle Dresses

 

Aside from coding and game development, students also had the opportunity to work on digital projects such as designing presentations and graphics. A student’s presentation on the Jingle Dress, was much appreciated by the mentors. The student outlined the history of Jingle Dresses, its various types, and the materials used to make them.

 

Hack the ROM was really fun! What I liked the most about this program was being able to help people and learning so much about Scratch and its extensions!

— Student, age 10

Chi Miigwech! Baamaapii! (Thank you and see you later!) 

Hack the ROM is designed to equip Ontario Indigenous students and their peers with digital literacy skills, such as coding, technical thinking, and problem solving, and inspire creativity through education on Indigenous knowledge and ancestors. 

Interested in bringing Hack the ROM to your classroom? Learn more about the program here. 


Read more:Three image composite of student made games. Picture of female cartoon character with black hair in birchbark canoe, character standing in stream with can, plastic bag and plant, and an orange cartoon cat catching fireballs.

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