Documentary of the Skins project that produced Otsi:!.
Winner of the 2010 imagineNATIVE Best New Media Award
The students drew on several stories from the Kahnawake community to create the narrative for Otsì:! about an Iroquois hunter is on a mission to stop a monster, the Flying Head, from destroying his village. The students designed an entire multi-level game that took players from the Flying Head’s origin story through to his confrontation with the hunter.
The game was implemented as a mod on the Unreal first-person shooter engine. The player takes the role of the hunter, and sees the world from his eyes. The player begins outside of a village that has been razed to the ground. The sole survivor tells him about the Flying Head and its attack on the village, and warns the player that it is now heading towards Hunter’s village.
The player has to then fight his way across a landscape based on the countryside around Kahanwake. Creatures from other Mohawk stories including the Hoof Lady, the Monkey Dog, and the Tree People interrupt the journey. Each of these creatures tells its own story; some assist him, some hinder him. The journey ends at the hunter’s village, which the Flying Head is attacking. The hunter must fight him off, which requires him to use the information he gathered from characters along the way.
Otsì:! was developed within the Skins 1.0 Workshop. The workshop was created to teach Aboriginal youth a multitude of skills related to game production while at the same time encouraging them to develop game concepts, characters, and mechanics based out of their own cultural experience. Skins 1.0 was a collaboration between Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, Owisokon Lahache of the Kahnawake Survival School and Obx Labs.
The Skins curriculum contains several aspects that are uniquely oriented towards Aboriginal students. One is the emphasis on traditional stories and storytelling techniques, which serves to both encourage youth to reflect on how stories are transmitted in their community, as well as how they themselves can participate in the preservation, evolution, and future transmission of those stories. A second aspect is the inclusion of a community partner who plays a central role in mentoring the youth and ensuring that cultural elements, such as language and stories, are represented in ways that reflect the history and values of the community.
It is our hope that Skins provides a new venue through which elders can pass on their knowledge to the next generation, and an opportunity for youth to explore their culture via a new medium that is exciting to them. The curriculum aims to empower Native youth to be more than just consumers of these new technologies; it shows them how they themselves can be creators and builders—full participants in defining the future of cyberspace.