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Northern Plains Games

Petersen to debut “Tipi Kaga” at imagineNATIVE Festival

Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences

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Dakota State student Carl Petersen’s game “Tipi Kaga” will make its international premiere at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Oct. 22-27. “Tipi Kaga” is a 3D game about putting together a traditional Lakota Tipi using instructions in the Lakota language.

The imagineNATIVE Festival is the world’s largest festival showcasing film, video, audio, and digital interactive media made by Indigenous screen-content creators.

Petersen, a senior computer game design and computer science major with a minor in mathematics, was the recipient of a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant offered through Running Strong for American Indian Youth in March of 2019. Through the grant Petersen started Northern Plains Games that employs Native Americans to create games for Native Americans. 

“I was able to form a team with a few individuals both from DSU and back home on the reservation to help me build the game,” Petersen said.

Megan Zephier, a senior game design student from the Yankton Sioux Tribe, and James Sierra, a junior game design student from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, are assisting Petersen with 3D modeling and writing. Additionally, Petersen recruited friend and mentor Carl Buffalo, a fluent Lakota speaker, to complete the voice acting in the game.

“He helped me take my translations and make them into conversational Lakota,” Petersen said.

“Tipi Kaga” will be available to be played as part of the iNDigital Space in the TIFF Bell Lightbox Gallery for the entirety of the festival. While it won’t solve the problem of teaching the Lakota language, it’s something kids can interact with when they’re not around other fluent speakers, Petersen said.

In addition to “Tipi Kaga,” another game that Petersen contributed to as a writer will be featured at the festival as well. It is titled “When Rivers were Trails,” and is an educational adventure game that follows the impact of allotment acts on Indigenous communities. Petersen worked on the game with Dr. Beth LaPensée, a member of a Canadian Native American tribe. She is also an assistant professor at Michigan State University, and a game designer.

On Friday evening of the festival, Petersen will participate as a speaker for Night of the Indigenous Devs, where he’ll speak about his experience as one of the creators of “When Rivers were Trails.”

Additionally, he will give a talk during the festival called “Indigenous Learning Goes Interactive,” about his efforts to bring an educational game into Native K-12 schools.

Petersen plans to release “Tipi Kaga” at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. He hopes to make individual deals with schools through contacts he’s developed over the last year. He also plans to make it available for the public by releasing it on STEAM, a game-buying platform.

In the future Petersen wants to make a sequel with deeper vocabulary and continue to develop other Native games. To learn more about Petersen’s work and view the “Tipi Kaga” trailer visit his website.