Hack the ROM: Students Create Games Inspired by Indigenous Knowledge

After a semester of digital learning at the Royal Ontario Museum, Coordinators, Indigenous Museum Educators (IME), students and Ubisoft mentors gathered for our first Hack the ROM virtual showcase — a feature of student-built games inspired by Indigenous history and ancestral objects. As part of our partnership with the ROM, Ubisoft mentors had the opportunity to work closely with students and their peers (Grades 4 – 10) to help build their very first games in Scratch!

Over the course of the semester, students were guided by Indigenous Museum Educators (IME) to learn about and find inspiration from Indigenous knowledge and ancestral objects. The program fosters learning of Indigenous history through storytelling and builds students’ digital literacy skills, including coding.

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

Making games isn’t easy. Breaking the mold is even harder.

Meagan Byrne, former Ubisoft Indie Series Finalist, is an Âpihtawikosisân (Cree for Métis) video game developer and owner of Achimostawinan Games. The company is dedicated to creating games for Indigenous audiences and empowering Indigenous artists and communities. After a friendly Mino Gizhep (good morning) by Hack the ROM lead Leslie McCue, Byrne kicked off the showcase by sharing her personal journey as a game developer as well as the earliest games she created (when she herself was still a student), and gave the audience a sneak peek at what she’s currently working on. To Byrne, the key to building Indigenous games is not to be explicit, but to express Indigenous peoples’ unique worldview. She reminded students that game developers wear multiple hats and making games is hard work! But in the end, the effort is always worthwhile.

“I put so much work into the game! It took me three months to make and the player is done in ten minutes. But that hard work is also what lets the player enjoy it… I can look back on it and say, I did that! I finished that! That’s really important,” Byrne said.

Check out these awesome games!

 

Ancestral Objects Collector

Playing as a spry orange cat, catch 30 apples to win! Race to collect golden fireballs and learn about Indigenous ancestral objects like the ball-headed club, baby charm, and the ulu, a rounded knife traditionally used by women for daily chores. The golden fireballs grant an extra life, but avoid the red! They deal damage.

Four image composite of female cartoon character with black hair sitting in Birchbark Canoe, standing in stream and forest. Text reads, "This Canoe was made from Birchbark", "This is a cradleboard. Anishinaabe women use it to protect and carry their babies", and, "Beavers are yet another important animal. They provide Indigenous people with oil and food. Their skin can also be used for mittens. They are a huge part of some Indigenous peoples' lives."

The Water Impact

Control your avatar to explore a scenic forest and learn about the importance of nature to Indigenous peoples! Begin by hopping into a birchbark canoe, and paddle downstream to find out facts about animals and objects, like the cradleboard for carrying babies.

Clean the Water

Help protect our waters! Collect the garbage to clean the lake – but be careful not to throw plants in the trash! Inspired by the Great Lakes Water Walk, learn how Ojibwe Grandmother, Josephine Mandamin- Baa, walked 200,000km around lakes and rivers in North America to raise awareness and save our waters from pollution.

Four image composite of animated characters in yard, forest, arctic, and a collage of Indigenous artifacts: canoe, Eskimo snowshoes, Wampum belt, Triumph of Mischief painting by Kent Monkman and Migration Artwork by Norval Morrisseau.

The Ancestors Adventure

The museum is missing artifacts! Play as four friends and overcome various obstacles to find the lost Indigenous ancestral objects. Stomp on snakes, gather apples, and quickly tap the colourful dots to gather the items. Complete the museum’s collection to learn about key art, snowshoes, the ceremonial wampum belt and more.

 

“We got to learn tons of different codes from ROM mentors, it was amazing. It brought our class together even more! Even if we had issues in the games we made, it really helped us [learn to] collaborate.” – Student, age 11.

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 ancestral objects.

Interested in bringing Hack the ROM to your classroom? Learn more about the program here. Or follow Ubisoft Toronto and the ROM on Twitter for updates.

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