UBC Lectures, Seminars, and Symposia

A German Board Game & the Need for New Stories Richter, Lars


In 2018, German board game manufacturer dlp games released Manitoba, a strategy game where players take the role of “different clans of the Cree Indians” (Pranzo and Conzadori 14). The representation of Cree culture in the game’s manual and artwork—replete with totem poles, canoes, axe-wielding warriors, and wise-looking spiritual leaders—raises serious concerns about misrepresentation, cultural appropriation, and racism. When faced with criticism of stereotyping the Cree in a CBC news article in September 2018, the game’s designer responded defensively by stating that, in fiction, it is “impossible not to simplify” and that his co-editor simply “liked the sound of the word ‘Manitoba’” (“A Totem Pole”). In line with the critique sketched out above, I propose an analysis of Manitoba as a cultural product indicative of German’s long-standing “Indianthusiasm”. Furthermore, the analysis will show that the game as a material object, when received on treaty territory, takes on a will of its own. Using Sara Ahmed’s notion of “willful objects” that do “not allow subjects to carry out their will” (42), I argue that playing the game Manitoba in Manitoba challenges and eludes the intention of its authors, thus opening up possibilities for more critical and thoughtful readings that do not merely sound good in name but instead consider the land on which we live, work, and play.

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